Like mentioned in the first article on the history of F1 management games, some games might be skipped and not looked at. Solely because some may not be possible to get your hands on these days, other may be very similar to already mentioned, or just a huge step back in a period with surprisingly many games. Formula One Challenge and Formula One Master on Amiga being such games. However, now it’s time to look at the start of the licensed manager-games, and some of the less known ones.
Last article ended with a look towards the licensed games, but first, it’s worth looking at another game called Grand Prix this one released in 1989, then with an update in 1991. It has nothing to do with the previous Grand Prix game in the management series, and has nothing to do with the 1992 Geoff Crammond Grand Prix racing game either. This Grand Prix v2 is a DOS-platform management game, text based and based on the 1991 season. With the addition of EuroBrun that went bust during 1990, and their own fantasy team, Wizard. The biggest challenge in the game is to become the wizard of F1 management, and take the Wizard team from the bottom to the top. I guess there is no surprise that the publisher is Wizard Games? This game didn’t have an official license, and was even released as a shareware game, where you had to buy it to play more than one season.
On the left: Single-car team Coloni. The last team in F1 history to just run one car
On the right: Qualifying results from the first race of the season. Note all the DNQ's!
What makes this game special and interesting, is that you can have a one car team, there is way more than 26 cars entered to each race, so there is quite a few cars not qualifying. Even though pre-qual and qual isn’t simulated in the realistic way, rather split into 4 groups of 10 cars. It has much more features akin to real life than other F1 management games of this era. Your team can have up to 6 cars at any time. Why 6 you may ask. Because each driver have one racecar and one spare car, while you have two cars for testing and development. Drivers can be injured, so it’s useful to have a test and reserve driver that have some speed in case of an injury on one of the race drivers.
You can buy parts for the car, or design in-house, both options have advantages and disadvantages. There are some areas of the game that is lacking in depth, driver and employee skills being one of the areas. You have one skill that shows how good/fast they are. And one skill that shows how loyal the employee are, or how safe pair of hands the driver are. However, there is nothing more that separates them. There is also not much to do economically in the game, you get prize money, bonuses and sponsorship money based on your results and standings. No negotiations with potential sponsors.
On the left: Results after the first race of the season.
On the right: Results after last race of the season. Note the lack of point scoring teams...
This game also have single season contracts with all drivers/employees. So you can sign a driver for the next season, but it will only be for that one season. Also, you cannot break any contracts, as the game manual says “how could we possibly encourage such flamboyant disregard of the law?”, a nice little nudge towards to how F1 contracts where honored, or not honored back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The game has the same issue as all F1 management games past and present. Except for the real life drivers being involved in the different teams at the start of the game, the rest of the game is filled with fantasy-names, instead of drivers from different formula-classes or junior-classes.
The game also suffers from the oh so usual F1 management game issue. After one season there is a lot of unrealistic driver changes, and here, as you can buy equipment, I ended up seeing Ferrari using a customer chassis from the second season. At least they kept their own engine, something that doesn’t always happen!
The game also lacks a bit in the season transitions, while you have some weeks off season, there is no real feedback in why your car is very good, or not so good anymore. Your rating might be great, but you still struggle, or opposite. Then again, the game implemented quite a bit of features that would show up in more mainstream games later on, which is an impressive feat for a shareware-game.
On the left: Very basic "newspapers", but it adds to the atmosphere anyway.
On the right: The typical F1 Manager game issue. Unknown/bad drivers/engines in top teams...
Time went by, and in 1996 ASCARON Entertainment/Ascon released Pole-Position: Formel 1 Teamchef, or as it is known outside Germany; Team F1. The game has a nice presentation, and uses a menu-system that wouldn’t be mainstream until Codemasters starting playing around with it in the PS2-game TOCA Racer Driver. Instead of buttons and arrows to navigate. You have an office you can “move” around in, and going to different rooms. A novelty, but really interesting thing in this game is the time-aspect. As opposed to every other management-game that will be covered here, where time progresses when you click on the “continue” or “next race” button. This game actually have a clock running at all times. And everything you do takes time. If you have developed a new revision of the suspension, you have to take apart the car to get the old suspension off. So you need to take off the bodywork, tires and other stuff that may keep you from getting off the suspension. Then you need to mount it all again. This all takes time. A work-day is 8 hours (unless you are making the days longer, which will impact morale, and can cause team-members to leave!), so when you have spent 8 hours. The game goes into “night” and fast-forwards until the next day. If that next day is when you leave for a race, then you must remember to depart in time, if not you won’t be able to arrive to the track in time, and you will miss the race(!).
On the left: Clean, nice menu, with some "giggle"-jokes included
On the right: Clearly a bit more freedom back then... Also note the different spelling of the team and surname.
If you haven’t had time to fix your car by the time you leave, you will have to spend Friday at the track mounting the car together in time for Q1. If you need to change a part at the track, remember that this takes time, and you guessed right. There is a clock that’s constantly ticking during race weekend as well. This game is proper stressful in terms of time-management.
The game is based on the 1995 F1 season, with some real life drivers that drove in F1 previously as free agents, and a lot of fantasy-drivers. You can choose between the 13 teams that started the 1995 season, or you can start up your own team. This causes two cars to DNQ every race, a nice little addition. You can also buy off the shelf products, either from the other teams (or even last years parts from some), or generic companies, think companies like LOLA, Dallara, Reynard etc. However, these generic companies are all fantasy based.
When you start your own team, you need to buy things off the shelf, as you have nothing at available. So either you buy stuff, or you won’t race, as you don’t have a car. It’s truly starting from scratch. No car, no employees. This game is a total-manager game. You need to order parts to have enough stored in case of issues, negotiate contracts with all kind of suppliers, sponsors, drivers, crew etc. In addition you have control over the facilities, development program and so on.
You can even protest other drivers and teams. And get fined if you have no reasons to. Red Bull apparently gave you wings back in 1995 as well.
The game is hugely ambitious, with lots of new features in F1 management titles. This game sees pay drivers making an impact, you have some basic stats being saved for each driver and a top-list of wins, poles and points scored. You also have an overview of the top three in the World Championship from 1950-1994. The only disappointment in this, is that the stats is just based on the drivers that you can find in the game, so no Senna, Emerson Fittipaldi, Jackie Stewart and the stars of the past. They are all mentioned in the WDC-overview though. The game also features injuries and illnesses. PR-work, testing, fitness-regime for the drivers, and personnel-management on a detailed level. The game also has a newspaper with news. Though, the news reads more like a gossip-blog than anything related to F1.
It's all quite impressive really. Until you go to the track – as long as you have remembered to depart in time, have remembered to assemble at least two cars, have two drivers and don’t forget to enter practice/qual/race until the always ticking clock passes the start… There is feedback on driver setup. You do get a proper overview of downforce, grip, speed, laptimes and more. However, there is not easy to know what to do with it, and not easy to know why one of your drivers suddenly are way faster than the other with the same setup and a worse car. Also, while it is based on 1995, and the teams, at least by looking at the car/team stats should have the right order of competitiveness, the order feels rather random at times. There is also no good way to know why the order is like it is. This is a common theme in these lesser known management-games. It feels like you get very little feedback on why things are like they are. They just… are!
On the left: Attempt on"3d", but the game plays best in 2d!
On the right: Season ended. It lacks a bit in the realism when it comes to what teams and drivers that are fast.
Team F1 is a deep and highly ambitious management-game, which I feel had a proper base to build a small franchise on, there are many enjoyable things is in the game, even though it does lack a bit in the userfriendly-department. However, the game was a victim of not being the most popular, or even second most popular F1 management game released in 1996(!) in addition, it wasn’t the most popular management-game based on the 1995 season either, so Ascaron moved away from F1, and kept making simulation/strategy games in other genres until 2008.
F1 Manager 96 (Or just F1 Manager) and it’s unlicensed successor F1 Manager Pro, might be one the most complex F1 Manager games ever made. That is often seen as one of the strengths of the two games, but it’s also the biggest drawback. Even after reading a 70 page manual (Yes, old games had proper manuals), there are aspects of the games that’s not explained at all. It makes the game extremely rewarding for people with a deep knowledge of everything F1, and not user friendly at all.
On the left: Welcome menu looks like an upgraded version of Team F1 (not the same devs)
On the rigth: The game looks nice. But looks can be decieving...
Just like with Team F1, you are able to buy parts from every other team or stock parts from the generic companies like LOLA etc. This is where I hit the first little hurdle. I started some new designs for my Williams-car, to see if I were able to improve. I started that, and went on to do sponsorship deals, sign engine, tyre, fuel and manufacturing deals and so on. Knowing that the more I moved between the different menu-screens, the faster the days went. As opposed to Team F1, while the menu-layout were similar, there was no ticking clock. However, time passed when you change menu-screen. Time went on, and I were ready to ship the cars to Australia. However… I never got there, the cars weren’t assembled. Even with my Williams, I only had half a car made. I genuinely didn’t know, and there was no pointers towards it either. It caused me to miss the second race as well, while I tried to figure out the quirks of the game that wasn’t explained too good in the manual. Even with the Renault works deal, where Renault were supplying engines to Williams, I had to manually go and buy the engines. How and why, I don’t know. I did in the end manage to get an almost 5-star car shipped to Buenos Aires for the third round of the 1996 F1 World Championship. A top car, two good drivers, and an optimistic team boss!
Then I hit the most embarrassing part of my playthrough. I had read about the Race Weekend with Free Practice, Qualifying, Warm-Up and so on, but had completely skipped the vital part on how to proceed to those sessions. After spending almost 20 minutes clicking around, I had to consult the manual again.
On the left: Not just the drivers that have real names in this game! A major plus in those days!
On the rigth: Lots of real sponsors. That always gives an authentic feel to a game!
I had to click “appointments” to get into a race session screen where I could start the sessions.
Into FP1 I went, and I realized I get no feedback from the drivers at all. Granted, even in modern games like Motorsport Manager, the text feedback from the drivers are not really useful. However, I had no feedback at all. Should I add downforce? Remove downforce? Why were my 5-star Williams-Renault cars 19th and 21st during free practice? I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Even the race strategy made me mess up. I chose starting fuel and what laps to pit in. However, after doing FP and Qualifying, I started with the fuel I ended the last session with. That was a bit confusing. I found myself even more confused when I realized that I had to manually choose how much fuel for each stop, that it wasn’t calculated. But also that it was only shown in liters. I should’ve taken notes of fuel usage earlier, and had it ready so I could plot it into a calculator during the race. That’s next level to put it mildly.
After doing a couple of races, I realized that this game really takes dedication. There are so much complexity to the game, that never gets explained properly. You would need to spend time, fail, spend more time, fail some more and then finally have some control. I also realized why there is a literal notepad within the game, where you can write down notes for all kind of subcategories like drivers, engineers, sponsorships, engines, contracts and a lot more. You genuinely need to do it to be able to remember everything.
This game, just like Team F1, features quite a few real life drivers that’s not employed by any teams already. This is quite unique within these games, and something I really enjoy. The game was probably released quite early in 1996, seeing how drivers like Giancarlo Fisichella and Luca Badoer is free agents, while Taki Inoue and Franck Lagorce are driving for Minardi and Forti. That’s not how the 1996 season panned out, but it looked to be that way for a little while.
On the left: Karl Wendlinger, one of surprisingly many non F1-racers inlcuded in the game!
On the right: Quite basic race monitor, but lots of information below.
The negotation-bit of the game had a quirky design as well, but worked fine once you got used to it.
F1 Manager, just like Team F1 also features driver stats, with races, wins and so on carefully logged. Something that gives people who like statistics in these games great pleasure! There are also rule changes between seasons, and parts can be banned/outlawed, making the game somewhat dynamic.
F1 Manager and its successor F1 Manager Professional, might still be the most complex F1 management games to-date(2022). It’s user interface and lack of guidance makes it hard to pick up for some half-quick fun, and you really need to spend time with the game to understand it properly. F1 Manager Professional still has a small, but loyal and devout following, and you can get up-to-date season mods for the game if you want to try the game, but want to bring Alpha Tauri to their first title! However, there were other games from the same 2d-era that had a much bigger following, got more famous, and also have an active modding-scene today. We will take a look at those games in the next article about the history of F1 Manager games.