F1 Manager 2023 takes all the excitement of a race weekend and shifts the focus to behind the pit wall. If you’re a fan of the Codemasters F1 games, you know how stressful the tight turns on some of these street circuits are. I can’t tell you how many times a qualifying lap has been ruined by a “light touch” of the wall at Monaco. In F1 Manager, that’s not my problem; my only job is to tell the driver to watch their tires, fuel consumption, and about a dozen other metrics – on not just one F1 car, but two. F1 Manager 2023 fixes minor mistakes from the series debut last year and adds new ways to play, and it remains a compelling motorsports management simulation that’s committed to helping you grow both your knowledge and love of the sport.
Juggling multiple metrics and managing a pair of the most elite race cars on the planet may sound overwhelming on paper but, in practice, everything feels like an opportunity to learn. And to help you learn, F1 Manager 2023 adds a brand new scenario mode called Race Replay. Race Replay features both full race replays and team-specific objectives for each track. The first moment I tried was a moment at Silverstone that required me to push both McLaren cars up to the podium after a yellow flag restart. It was the very first thing I played, so I was still trying to get my bearings. Despite the text of the challenge telling me that Norris needed to pit, I waited for about half a lap for Norris to suggest the pit stop himself. This resulted in him taking longer to get into the pits, but there was also a pit stop error – which resulted in Norris dropping to 10th position and causing me to fail the challenge. When I restarted, this time I immediately told him to pit as soon as the game let me. On this occasion there was no pit stop error and Norris held track position in fourth, making it very easy for him to overtake and win the challenge.
It’s this ability to A-B test your own actions that makes me feel like F1 Manager 2023 genuinely wants to teach the value of confident decision making and how crucial that is to becoming a world champion constructor. This ethos is the thing that shines brightest in F1 Manager, and is so inviting that I often find myself wanting to play Race Replay more often than the flagship career mode. If any of this sounds interesting, the deluxe edition of F1 Manager 2023 includes 14 additional race moments, including a scenario at the brand-new Las Vegas Grand Prix if you’re itching to see how it drives without simming most of a career season.
That career mode allows you to take control of any of the ten teams on the grid and manage everything a team principal would. You have the ability to design car parts, build or upgrade team facilities, and manage the staff and drivers that work under you. You can even micromanage your pit crew and have them run drills as a unit to help cut down on errors and make them faster. All of these decisions end up producing confidence from your Board of Directors. Keep them happy, and you can manage your millions as you see fit – but if you’re unable to meet their demands, you may see yourself getting walking papers rather quickly.
Which team you decide to manage will determine a lot about how detail oriented you need to be. Red Bull is not only flush with cash, but regularly cleans up race after race; even if you automate an entire weekend, they will do fine. This means that they can afford to take a long-term approach and aim for a locked-up championship at the halfway point of the season. Meanwhile, at the other end of the paddock, you have a team like Alpha Tauri (which, despite having good drivers, just has an outright lousy car). This means that they need to scrap and claw every weekend just to make it out of the first qualifying session. It’s this wide spectrum of challenge that makes F1 Manager stand out.
Even if you manage to have a perfect relationship with your board and amass millions thanks to your sponsors, you’ll eventually run into the Cost Cap. The Cost Cap is a rule put in place so that teams can’t just dump billions into their teams. While it helps promote fairness, as each season has gotten longer and longer, even the top dogs like Red Bull and Mercedes have to be careful not to just burn through car parts. It means that in F1 Manager 2023, you always have to be making decisions. Sure, you can decide to save your money now and not upgrade your car parts, but that might cost you three races down the line.
F1 Manager 2023 also makes sure to keep its authenticity intact by adding the two new tracks that were added to the 2023 calendar, as well as the sprint weekend format for six race weekends. These two simple additions make the strategy layer of career mode entirely different from last year. Sprint weekends forgo a practice session in order to run a shorter-distance race on Saturday for a crack at more constructor points. While it’s caused heated debate among F1 fans, it’s a perfect example of what makes F1 Manager stand out: it’s an opportunity to collect data and feel comfortable.
F1 Manager also goes an additional step further than its Codemasters cousin by including not just F2 drivers but F3 as well. That said, drivers from these feeder categories were also available in F1 Manager 2022; I’d actually love to see this fleshed out more by letting you create custom drivers that you can sign and build from the ground up.
Once you’re ready for a race weekend, you have three main mechanics to push the pace of your cars on track. Asking your driver to increase the heat on your tires will cause them to speed up, at the cost of literally burning rubber. Run your tires too long and too hard and you’ll turn a two-stop race into a three-stop race and likely force your driver and team out of the points. Managing your tires throughout an entire weekend can be difficult if you aren’t careful. Certain tracks are harder on tires than others; if you use up most of your soft tires in practice or qualifying, you might get stuck starting the race on a worn set. It’s an authentic juggling act.
Fuel is a bit more straightforward. Ask the driver to keep his foot on the accelerator, and he’ll also have to hammer on the brake, thus burning more fuel. Because refueling is banned in F1, if you run out of fuel, you literally cannot finish a race.
The Energy Recovery System (ERS) is the internal battery of the car that charges the engine and is, for me, the toughest part of the on-track mechanics to master. While F1 Manager 2023 thankfully doesn’t let you shoot yourself in the foot by draining the battery completely and shutting down the car, it does force you to go back to 1x speed when you hit zero.
You can also give your individual drivers some very basic commands to shape their on-track behavior. While your AI drivers can do a decent enough job of overtaking and defending themselves, mastering when to issue these commands yourself can help you avoid getting stuck in the middle or back of the pack. However, it’s slightly disappointing that there’s no way to design full team plans, like telling your A driver to swap positions with the B driver because the B driver has better pace. Drivers don’t have a relationship with each other but are simply there to take instructions. It stands out because team orders are a divisive but common facet of F1 authenticity, and it’s something missing from F1 Manager 2023. I hope it’s something Frontier can improve on in future games.
Management games have always had a bit of difficulty deciding how to present themselves. Doubling down on intricate systems often means that developers can’t invest as much in stunning visual quality as their traditional sports game cousins. While it’s true that graphics aren’t necessarily at the forefront of Frontier’s focus, F1 Manager 2023 nonetheless looks pleasant in motion. That said, the studio’s level of achievements with this year’s audio is extremely commendable. Getting to hear real pit wall audio from the drivers is an absolute joy. Hearing my favorite driver, Yuki Tsunoda, swear at me after he dropped back to last place genuinely made me cackle – and took the sting out of a race weekend that was otherwise a failure.