I’d settled into my imaginary office at Maranello, traversing F1 Manager’s maze of menus and stats to dabble in car development and set-up, managing to bag a glorious one-two result for the Tifosi in Bahrain. This is easy.
My imaginary company car, a Fiat Panda 4×4, has been lovingly valeted and washed by a jubilant squad, ready for my return. Luca Badoer took it down to Toni Auto for a stage three service and wheel alignment, assuring me it runs better than ever.
Poor Luca: his contract ran out in 2010 but he still turns up at the factory every day…
Charles Leclerc was clearly the faster Ferrari driver the conclusion of our first race, so I had to issue some classic Schumacher-era Ferrari team orders, guaranteeing us crucial team points and a Carlos Sainz victory. This is the kind of tough, heat-of-the-moment decision-making Ferrari has craved in the real world – I feel like I’ve changed the gaffe-prone culture of the team already.
We hold a commanding 17-point lead over Red Bull Racing in the Teams championship after Round 1, which compared to real-world events in the same race is a huge gain for Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez in the championship battle. So, it’s still all to play for.
If you build it, they will come
Before I head to the second race, however, I decide to investigate the state of my team’s facilities. F1 Manager 2022 lets you upgrade all facets of your organisation: Car Development Facilities, Staff Facilities and Operations Facilities.
Car Development Facilities cover the designing and building of new car parts to help make your car faster. Staff Facilities include the Team Hub (a staff room, essentially), the Scouting Department and the Race Simulator. Operations Facilities include the likes of the Board Room, Memorabilia Room and the full gamut of Hospitality requirements to schmooze special guests (and get them drunk enough to sign a huge sponsorship contract).
I feel like this is a good opportunity to start upgrading my HQ, so I spend $10,000,000 on improving the CFD (computational fluid dynamics) Simulator. This will take Ferrari’s creaky old CFD Sim up to level 2 (from 5), hopefully creating better quality car parts and quicker lap times. It also makes Ferrari a more attractive prospect for incoming staff.
I once read that to gain a tenth of a second of lap time in Formula 1 you need to spend $1 million. With a starting budget of $141,200,000, I’m looking forward to being 14s a lap faster by the end of the season. That sounds about right. The Ferrari board do not share my sunny outlook.
Round 2 from Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah Corniche Circuit is up next, and it’s a slightly different challenge to Bahrain thanks to its spate of high-speed corners in a tight street circuit configuration. Sure enough, Red Bull Racing rallies, with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez both on the pace.
However, in qualifying Leclerc snatched pole position by just four-hundredths of a second from Verstappen, with Sainz down in seventh, nearly a second off the pace. The reason for Sainz’s miserable performance is down to me mistiming his release into traffic in Q3. Whoops. I’m sure that’s the only face-palming mistake I’ll make this season…
From the start, Leclerc leads, but Verstappen is on his tail. I ask Leclerc to push as hard as he can and use as much fuel as possible, but Verstappen breezes past easily, and pits for hard compound tyres on lap 17. He’s one-stopping, so I try to make my mediums last as long as possible to give the car more performance at the end of the race.
Meantime, Perez is closing in, with Sainz having an excellent race on his way up to third. I try to keep Sainz out for as long as possible to try and hold a charging Verstappen up, and it works! Leclerc boxes and emerges in first position! “Excellent stuff, guys”, I shout out loud. My wife jogs upstairs to check if I’m ok, a hint of concern in her voice.
I’m really getting into F1 Manager. The official licence allows accurate driver likenesses (infinitely better than F1 22’s), logos and even the use of real radio chatter between the drivers and their engineers. Hearing Sainz say “copy” after I give him an instruction is a slight thrill in the early stages of the game. Yes, I’m sad.
However, I crave a bit more interaction with the drivers – and media and fans for that matter. Taking a leaf out of the Football Manager series, by offering a chance to increase morale by saying the right thing at the right time, would add an extra layer of immersion.
Blaming a poor performance on your catering department rather than your drivers may endear you to Leclerc and Sainz, but don’t be surprised if the chef serves you a suspiciously garnished lasagne in future…
Mainly, I just want the opportunity to ask Carlos about his dad’s rallying career…
No matter, Verstappen flies past Leclerc as if he wasn’t there and eases to victory on the final lap. “Oh, for Ferrari’s sake” I shout again, as my wife sighs audibly downstairs.
Perez takes third ahead of Sainz and my perfect start to the season is over. Even worse, Verstappen leads the championship, four points ahead of Sainz and Leclerc.
The final fly-away race in the opening part of the season comes from Albert Park in Melbourne, Australia’s Grand Prix venue of choice since 1996. In preparation for the future, I’ve indulged in F1 Manager’s Scouting game mechanic, requesting a full report on Australia’s next single-seater world championship contender,
Daniel Ricciardo Oscar Piastri Jack Doohan.
With high potential for growth and an overall rating of 72, I earmark Doohan as my protege, replacing the decidedly average Antonio Giovinazzi. I’ll make my move later in the season.
Qualifying for Melbourne goes well as we lockout the front row by a tenth from Verstappen, and the race looks like it’s going to be a Ferrari demonstration. However, I encounter my first experience of inclement weather in F1 Manager, and it throws a massive Dutch spanner in the works.
With a comfortable lead, the rain gets heavier and heavier. I consider boxing but forget to pause the game and miss the opportunity. Naturally, Verstappen pits for wet tyres and I call Leclerc in the following lap. Leclerc emerges 10s behind Verstappen…
Sainz takes third, with rain master Lewis Hamilton snatching fourth ahead of Perez, so our lead in the Constructors championship is four points. Small mercies.
After the race I get my first chance to have a say in next season’s regulations. The two choices are to ‘vote for low-speed wing changes’ or ‘vote for high-speed wing changes’.
Eh? What exactly does that mean? Since it looks like my high-speed cornering stats are worse than low-speed, I opt for high-speed wing changes. I hope I got that right, but there’s nothing to indicate otherwise.
I’m disappointed by F1 Manager’s political simulation of F1. In the pre-release hype, I was hoping to exert Ferrari’s influence over the rest of the grid using its infamous power of veto (as stipulated in the Concorde agreement).
Also, the fact that Ferrari supply engines to both the Haas and Alfa Romeo would’ve been an ideal opportunity to ‘persuade’ them to vote in my favour on more important matters (using discount engines as a bargaining tool).
I imagine myself as the F1 paddock bully, threatening to wedgie Frédéric Vasseur and steal Guenther Steiner’s lunch money unless they did as they were told.
The reality is much different, however. There’s no pre-amble on the minutiae of the regulations and very little chance of figuring out how they will affect your team in future.
AND WHERE’S MY VETO?!
Can I recover from two gaffe-laden performances as the European leg of the 2022 season begins at Imola? Find out soon, in part 3 of our ‘Making Ferrari great again’ series.