In the words of Martine McCutcheon, “This is my moment, this is my perfect moment”.
Now is the perfect moment to take control of a Formula 1 team thanks to Frontier Developments’ recently released F1 Manager 2022 game. F1 Manager allows players to take control of any of 2022’s official Formula 1 teams, controlling recruitment, race strategy, car development and the future of F1’s ruleset.
And just like the former pop songstress’ late nineties glory days, my aim is to bring the good times back to Ferrari. Under the stewardship of Ross Brawn and Jean Todt, Ferrari were F1 Constructor’s champions six times between 1999 and 2004, with Michael Schumacher claiming five Driver’s titles.
Lately, however, Ferrari’s Maranello headquarters has become less of an F1 powerhouse and more of a meme factory, thanks to its frequent strategical dithering and bizarre in-race decisions.
Between Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz’s driving errors and strategy blunders in the British, Hungarian and Monaco Grand Prix, Scuderia Ferrari has endured a torrid 2022. What must really sting is the fact Ferrari had the quickest car in the early stages of the season. Ouch.
It’s clear what I must do: I have to take Ferrari out of the strategic doldrums and make them an agile winning machine once again – more Prancing Horse than knackered nag.
Be more Ross (Brawn)
So, out goes Mattia Binotto and in comes Ross McGregor, a man with zero motorsport experience, middle-age spread and terrible dress sense. I imagine the Ferrari board of directors are unimpressed by my appointment and lack of experience – their hands tied by invisible videogame rules. But I aim to turn the good ship Scuderia around in double quick fashion.
I grimace as the directors explain all their 296 GTB company cars have been taken, so only Luca Badoer’s clapped-out Fiat Panda 4×4 is left. I grab the keys grudgingly and leave.
The board sets me the short-term goal of becoming Teams’ champion in 2022. My long-term goal is also to become Teams’ champion.
Wait! My short-term and long-term goals are exactly the same? Mamma mia! The pressure is on immediately.
I imagine settling into my new office at Ferrari HQ: placing my inspiring signed photo of World Champion snooker player Dennis Taylor on my desk; analysing our 2022 budget while figuring out F1 Manager’s network of menus and stats.
I then look at my team’s key staff members to determine who I’m going to blame when things go wrong.
Insert motivational phrase here
On the driving front, I have Leclerc and Sainz, rated at 88 and 87 respectively. It’s undoubtedly a strong line-up. Antonio Giovinazzi is the reserve driver, but at the age of 28, I feel a younger pilot will be more beneficial in the long run. That’s a task for later in the season though.
It’s my first playthrough of the game, so I’ve elected to be guided through my first days on the job by team engineer Audrey Mensah. Her instructions are helpful at first but finish quite abruptly. I didn’t even get a chance to ask her where my Panda’s spare key is.
Before she departed though, I managed to launch my first design project: new suspension. Racing cars need suspension, right?
Smug at identifying a car part successfully, I feel like I’m off to a flier already. I consider messing around with the autoclave a bit more but decide to head towards Round 1 at the Bahrain International Circuit instead.
Since I’m not quite up-to-speed with how the game works, I simulate all three practice sessions, allowing Race Engineers Xavier Marcos Padros and Riccardo Adami (aiding Leclerc and Sainz respectively) to take control of setting the cars up.
Pace-wise, we’re in the ballpark. Red Bull is our main competitor, with Mercedes a clear third fastest. So far, so realistic. Qualifying will show where we really stand, however.
I send both drivers out early in Q1 while traffic is minimal. Banker laps are set and I’m happy we have enough of an advantage over P16 to do only one run. For Q2, I do the same, and again the bottom half of the top ten doesn’t have the pace to compete with the top three teams. My drivers finish first and third in both sessions.
Next up is Q3. I again instruct the drivers to perform banker laps, but manually switch the tyres to used softs (to save a new set for the race), and it’s enough for Leclerc to go provisional P1. Sainz encounters traffic and is nearly seven seconds off the pace.
Their second flying laps are therefore crucial. On a clear track and new soft tyres, Leclerc fails to better his lap. Disappointing. Sainz then bangs in a time just three thousandths off the Monegasque, with Verstappen only twelve-hundredths further back. Tight!
Pumped that I’ve grabbed pole on my debut as Team Manager, I now need to figure out a race strategy for my two drivers. The game creates three strategies for you automatically, A, B and C – you can even create a ‘Plan D’ if you feel like it. I ignore the temptation to ‘do a Ferrari’ and create Plans E, F, G and H too.
So, I opt for my engineers’ recommendation and plump for Plan A, seeing as it’s the fastest (in theory). The opening stint will be on Softs, with a longer middle stint on Mediums, before finishing off with a sprint stint on Softs again.
I vow to be strong and decisive with my strategy calls, hopeful the virtual Tifosi will at least respect my quick thinking, if not the end result. Tellingly, my drivers aren’t super-confident in their set-ups, so I vow to pay more attention to this in Round 2 by taking more control of the Free Practice sessions.
Go, go, gone
“It’s lights out and away we go!” I doubt I’ll ever get tired of hearing David Croft’s signature slogan at the start of F1 Manager’s races.
I let my drivers race against each other freely in the opening laps: Leclerc makes a good start and leads into Turn 1, with Sainz jumping Verstappen into second. It’s the perfect start for the team, and I’m already thinking about adding some deluxe wheel trims to the Panda with my win bonus.
After a few laps, Sainz benefits from being in DRS range of Leclerc. He makes a move stick and pulls out a gap of two seconds. I watch through my fingers, certain the Ferrari curse will strike soon. Strangely, Leclerc’s tyres are in better condition, and despite Sainz having less confidence in his set-up he’s performing so much better than Leclerc in terms of race pace.
Verstappen catches Leclerc and takes P2, while Sainz continues to control the pace out front. I decide now is the time to make my first pit stop in F1 Manager, so I bring Leclerc in for another set of Softs, thinking the early-stint grip advantage will jump me back ahead of Verstappen. Yes, I’m going against my pre-determined strategy and thinking on my feet. Very un-Ferrari.
It worked! Verstappen emerges behind Leclerc, and Sainz still leads. The Ferrari train thunders onwards, pulling a gap of around three seconds on Red Bull Racing’s flying Dutchman, before both of my drivers box for Pirelli’s Medium compound tyres to close out the race.
The gap to Verstappen increases again – we’ve got this race sewn up – so I tell Leclerc “Don’t fight your team-mate”. He obliges and maintains a still-frightening tenth of a second gap behind the Spaniard. It stays this way until the chequered flag, Leclerc looking the pacier of the two by the race’s conclusion.
This is my perfect moment right here.
My snap decision to change strategy and initiate team orders does the trick. Back at Maranello, they’re already preparing a party in my honour, with my Panda receiving a full detail and valet ready for my return. Dennis Taylor would be proud.
So, that’s a one-two result in my first F1 Manager race. It can’t get any better than that, can it? Surely this result is an indicator of great things to come for Ferrari and its controversially competent new team leader in 2022?
Find out how the season progresses with Part 2 of our ‘Making Ferrari great again’ series, coming soon!