F1 Manager 2023's new scenario modes have me trying and failing to rewrite the season's greatest heartbreaks

Pit crew working on an F1 car.
(Image credit: Frontier)

Anyone with a passing interest in F1 surely knows the broad strokes of Frontier’s F1 Manager series by now—you take control of a real team, you build and design new parts for your car, and then you take that car to race weekends and oversee the events in pleasingly granular detail. That’s just as true of this year’s sophomore release as it was of the debut, except that in F1 Manager 2023 you also have the option of getting stuck straight into races. 

‘Race moments’ and ‘starting grid’ scenarios effectively strip away the long game, all the interstitial material between races, and allow you to jump into the fun bit immediately. In the case of race moments, that means reliving a real moment from the 2023 season and trying to change the course of history by righting one of those heartbreaking stories—Lando’s 2021 Sochi grand prix is the obvious example, although the race moments in this game are from 2023 only. Starting grid scenarios, meanwhile, don’t have any historical context—they’re essentially the quick race mode equivalent for a management sim.

(Image credit: Frontier)

And that’s how I found myself spending a Friday morning trying to get Fernando Alonso a Monaco win in the pouring rain. Given that Fernando Alonso neither drives a Red Bull nor is called ‘Max Verstappen’, that was always going to be difficult. 

In reality, Alonso finished almost 28 seconds adrift of Verstappen in extremely challenging wet conditions, having teased F1 fans with the possibility of a romantic return to the top step almost exactly a decade after his last win by going extremely well in quali. But the fastest drinks company in motorsport wasn’t having any of it. In the end, it didn’t look like Alonso ever had a chance of challenging Max for the win.

It’s quite daunting, then, to jump into the Sunday at two thirds race distance and somehow beat a Red Bull. Only five times in the last 30 races has that happened. Not once this season. The mean average distance between the winning Red Bull and P2 so far in 2023 is 10.9 seconds. Best of luck Fernando, mate. 

As the scenario begins, we’re all still out on worn dry tires. Max is about four seconds ahead of us. The boss’s son is also in the race and technically I can mastermind a glorious P11 for him too, but I feel like I’ve got enough on my plate with Fernando’s mission. And what are they going to do if Lance doesn’t finish in the points, sack him?

(Image credit: Frontier)

It feels at this stage as though pitting at the exact right moment, onto either intermediates or wets, is going to be the key to beating Max. I toy with the idea of leaving Fernando out on dry tires and seeing if he can hold the gap until the end of the race—pit stops at Monaco take about 20 seconds under normal racing conditions, but under a VSC or safety car you only lose about 12 seconds due to the pack’s reduced pace. 

So if Max pits in, I can leave Fernando out and gain an instant 20 second lead. From here, we can hope that gap’s enough to last him the remaining 20-odd laps, or we can hope for a safety car and get Fernando onto new tires for a lesser net time loss. But both feel like pretty risky strategies, don’t they? 

We pass the pits once and neither Red Bull nor my Aston Martin team service their drivers. In truth, although it’s raining, and that rain’s expected to get stronger, the track isn’t actually wet enough for inters yet. They’d probably overheat if we put Nando on them this lap, affecting their performance and durability for the remaining race. 

I keep an eye on what’s happening further down the pack. Most of the others have stayed out too, but George Russell’s gone all in and opted for the full wet tire. That’s extremely useful data for me—the Merc’s pace is comparable to the Aston Martin, so if it looks like George is going quicker than the rest of the pack once they all go on inters, I’ll know it’s time to clad Nando on full wets too.

(Image credit: Frontier)

Except George isn’t going very fast. He’s slower than those who went for inters early, on this first lap of the scenario, and he’s slower than Max and Fernando at the front. So our strategy to stay out this lap was sound. The only trouble is, it doesn’t give us any advantage over Max because he did it too.

I’m left feeling like I missed something. There was a golden opportunity in there, somewhere.

I decide to simply cover off Max. Whenever he pits, I’ll pit Fernando too. The track’s much wetter one lap later, and the weather forecast suggests he’d never hold a 20-second lead on dry tires with this much rain coming down. Maybe there’s an opportunity here to go for whichever tire Max doesn’t opt for, but obviously I can’t see that until it’s happened and that would mean pitting one lap later, spending an extra minute and a half losing time to him on dry tires. 

There’s nothing to do but pit for inters on the exact same lap as Max, entering four seconds behind him and leaving the pits four seconds behind him. George’s full wets still aren’t lapping faster than those of us on inters, and given that we’d now need an additional pit stop to put Fernando on them, he’d have to be about three seconds a lap quicker than everyone else to make that worth it.

(Image credit: Frontier)

What’s happened here is exactly what happens in the real sport. It’s an impressive testament to the simulation Frontier has built, but it doesn’t make for an especially scintillating scenario. All the variables and forces that strong-arm the real race strategists into conservative calls are present here, and as much as I wanted to do something wild and inspired that put Fernando into P1, such a strategy simply wasn’t viable. I spend 20 laps chipping away at Max, get within a second of him, and then fail to pass him by the end of the race, because it’s Monaco. 

I’m left feeling like I missed something. There was a golden opportunity in there, somewhere, but I’d need to play that scenario several times to uncover it. And the thing is, I can actually see myself doing that when F1 Manager 2023 releases. These new scenario modes aren’t dramatic set-pieces that tee you up for glory, but puzzles to be solved by careful calculation and, ultimately, trial and error. They’re a worthwhile addition to an already robust management sim, but they’re not the quick burst of enjoyment and gratification I was expecting.

Phil Iwaniuk

Phil 'the face' Iwaniuk used to work in magazines. Now he wanders the earth, stopping passers-by to tell them about PC games he remembers from 1998 until their polite smiles turn cold. He also makes ads. Veteran hardware smasher and game botherer of PC Format, Official PlayStation Magazine, PCGamesN, Guardian, Eurogamer, IGN, VG247, and What Gramophone? He won an award once, but he doesn't like to go on about it.

You can get rid of 'the face' bit if you like.

No -Ed.