In October 2000, EA Sports published F1 Manager, a racing simulator in which players took on the management of a real Formula One team. 22 years later, it finally has a follow-up. And it’s fantastic.
The outstanding Netflix docuseries Drive to Survive has led to a massive rise in popularity for F1, especially in the United States. It’s one of the fastest growing sports in the country, and there’s another new game hoping to capitalize on the wave of interest. F1 Manager 22, the new simulator from Frontier Developments (best known for the Planet Coaster and Planet Zoo series) brings the complex, detail-rich world of Formula 1 to life with tons of data, beautiful presentation, and a user-friendly interface that welcomes players of all experience and familiarity levels.
In F1 Manager 22, players run any of the 10 F1 teams. As team principal, you control the team’s race strategy and preparation, improve personnel (through development or new hires), upgrade the team’s car and facilities, make deals with sponsors, and much more. Since this is a management sim, you won’t be doing any of the driving yourself — but you still have a lot of control over the driver’s in-race performance by setting their strategy, giving them the right car setup, and even micromanaging their usage of tires, fuel, and energy.
In the time between the original F1 Manager and the new release, enthusiasts of motorsport management sims made do with Motorsport Manager. Initially a mobile game, Motorsport Manager did not have the rights to the real-life drivers, teams, or tracks from F1, instead existing in a fictional version of the F1 World. The game eventually received a PC version, and it has an active modding community that regularly adds the drivers and teams (but not the race tracks) from real life F1 into the game. Despite those best efforts, there has always been a gap between what the game had to offer and the level of immersion fans desired.
That’s one of the many areas in which F1 Manager 22 thrives. In addition to securing the rights to the names and likenesses of the teams and drivers, the game also has real-life engineers and team personnel. Their inclusion is a boon in its own right, especially in the attachment you form while improving their stats over time. The drivers may get the glory, but F1 is a team sport at heart. And the game’s use of audio pushes that connection even further.
The pleasant hum of a race car is an integral part of any racing game, but F1 Manager 22 adds another layer of realism: real team radio exchanges between drivers and engineers. Whenever you give your driver an instruction (such as “lift off the pedal some more” or “push for a position here”), you will hear your (real) team’s (real) engineer’s voice giving that instruction, and the (real) driver’s (real) voice responding. It’s one of the many little flourishes that combine to absolutely envelop you in what’s basically a role-playing fantasy. (If the chatter gets on your nerves, you can always tinker with your audio settings.)
The game doesn’t just sound like the real deal, though — it looks better than any sports management sims have to date. With a heavy emphasis on stats and data, most games in the sports management sim genre tend to look like, well, spreadsheets. But F1 Manager 22’s racing sequences are nearly indistinguishable from EA Sports’ F1 22 racing game. The cars and tracks pop to life with stunning visual clarity, making the races pleasant to watch as you’re trying to chart your path to victory.
The presence of the real tracks goes a long way toward this visual immersion. All the quirks and sights from some of the world’s most famous race tracks are in the game, from the Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco to the rolling hills of Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.
Data-heavy management simulators can be overwhelming for new players, and one of the most commendable parts of F1 Manager 22 is just how tailorable the experience is. The game boasts all the nitty gritty details F1 obsessives will want to dive into, but nearly everything in the game has some degree of automation available for people who just want to dabble. Just want to set tire strategy? You can do that. Want to micromanage every sector of every lap? You can do that, too.
Perhaps F1 Manager 22’s crowning achievement is in how approachable it is to so many camps, from management veterans to F1 devotees to the swaths of new fans the sport has garnered in recent years. The management sim genre can be overwhelming for new players, and F1 Manager 22 addresses this from the jump. The opening team selection screen gives you a rundown of strengths, weaknesses, and goals for each of the potential teams you could play with. When you hover over each team, a voice-over plays from F1 commentator David Croft that tells you more about the team’s current status and how it got there. As you set up your first playthrough, the game will teach you just as much about its own systems as it does the overarching rules of F1 racing.
It’s been a long, long time since F1 fans have had a licensed management sim that lived up to the dramatic highs of the real thing. The recent explosion of interest paved the way for the perfect timing for a return to this style of F1 game. But even more impressive than its timing is its execution, which leaves extremely little to be desired. It’s been more than a two-decade wait — but it was more than worth it.
F1 Manager 22 was released on Aug. 30 on Windows PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. The game was reviewed on PC using a pre-release download code provided by Frontier Developments. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.