Not since EA sports released F1 Manager have we seen a purchasable Formula One management game and for fans who enjoy the thrill of being a Ross Brawn or Christian Horner in controlling your own F1 team.
But some clever whiz kids have come up with Grand Prix Racing Oneline, which Ben Waterworth – our features writer and host of The Qualifying Lap radio show – reviews in his first-ever article for RichardsF1.com…
With some hope on the horizon with the yet to be released Codemasters online game looking to bridge this gap, it brings hope that this genre may see the light of day on our PC’s, Playstations and X-Boxes in the future.
But for those with a burning desire to be an F1 team boss, there are a wide bevy of online games that allow you to run your own Formula 1 team and the grand daddy of them all is Grand Prix Racing Online, or as it is collectively known, ‘GPRO’. With close to 300,000 active online managers racing in a division format, the game is addictive, time-consuming and an overall challenge to get used to. But is it worth giving up your time to master it and attempt to manage a World Championship-winning team?
Firstly, the great news is the game is 100% free. You do need to initially sign up for the site and be put on a ‘waiting list’, but generally you will be accepted within a day or two of entering your particulars. There are extra features you can pay for by becoming a supporter, but we’ll get to them later.
Let’s start with the basics and what the game is all about…
Essentially the point of the game is to hire a driver for your team and manage your team over a 17-race season that, on average, lasts close two months of gameplay. There are two races a week (Wednesday and Saturday mornings, Australian time) and in between races you have the ability to upgrade your car, conduct testing and improve your racing facilities.
You are given a set budget each season of $30 million to which you have to hire a driver and pay them an initial sign-on contract, before setting out how many races you wish to hire them for and how much they receive for bonuses (such as a win, podium or points finish). Add to this the allure of spending your budget on upgrading your car to more expensive parts that improve the car’s performance and building your team’s facilities into the next McLaren Technology Centre, it can soon become quite difficult in staying in the green and keeping a positive bank account.
The good news with your money is the better you perform, the more money you will get after each race. You will also be able to sign up sponsors and negotiate with them over the season. The bad news with your money is that it costs plenty to pretty much do everything, from testing to even the amount of practice laps you do. Essentially the key point of the game is managing your finances and doing the best with it that you can, and this can be extremely frustrating though if you are a perfectionist with a competitive edge and want to be the best!
Of course, the real reason for playing the game is the racing. After you have your driver and facilities set up to begin with, you then need to practice and qualify for the race. You get eight practice laps to iron out your race setup before being given two qualifying laps which then are put together to form an aggregate time for the grid (your second qualifying lap is done with a race fuel load).
After setting out your race strategy, you can sit back and watch the race replay to see how you went and – let me tell you – it is a very satisfying feeling watching your driver score a victory or podium after a long battle. The top eight finishers score points (how very pre-2010!) and at the end of the season the champion is declared in the same way it is in the real F1 World Championship. It’s a disappointment not to see some of the real-world F1 rules be updated along the way and it would add to an overall realistic experience if this was implemented.
As a newbie you start off in the ‘Rookie’ league, and if you succeed in being in the top-four (with a positive money balance) at the end of the season, you are promoted to the next tiers: ‘Amateur’, ‘Pro’, and ‘Master’. The ultimate goal to reach is ‘Elite’, with only forty spots available every season.
An added twist at the other end of the spectrum is relegation, and if you are among the bottom-ranked managers at the end of a season in the championship, you are soon punted back down to the tier below. While it might sound easy enough to get higher and higher in the rankings, but let me assure you it is hard. For somebody who has been playing this for close to two years and has done 29 seasons, I have only managed to break out of ‘Rookie’ four times and every time I make it to amateur, I’m soon punted down again. Now whether or not this is down to the fact that I really do suck at this game, or that it is really hard will all be dependent on the individual. But it involves a lot of commitment, a lot of research and a lot of getting used to to really master this game.
And that’s the beauty of GPRO. You are always learning new stuff and there is always so much going on. I have only scratched the surface when it comes to the features of the game. On top of the general hiring a driver, racing, managing your budget and attempting to climb up the ladder, there are a myriad of other features including starting your own team and recruiting other drivers, the cup system, the trophy system and the extremely complex formula involved in wet racing. You will start off playing this game feeling like you know nothing, but within a few weeks you will soon become addicted and wanting to know every little detail it takes to improve your performance.
For newbie’s there is the ‘newbie’s guide’ to help you out, as well as the extremely handy ‘FAQ’ section. There is also an active forum (and I do mean active) for you to meet other managers and get to know them in order to ask for help and get assistance.
You also have the opportunity to pay money and become a ‘supporter’ which gives you added benefits such as custom livery should you run your own team, more features in the statistics side of things (and if you love statistics like me then you will love this feature) as well as the ability to really search out the best driver for you for each season. There really is no way that you can know everything about this game and you will always discover new things.
The Pros: It’s free, extremely addictive and a great chance to manage your own F1 driver on the road to championship glory.
The Cons: It’s a bit of a difficult learning curve and can be frustrating being in the lower ranks season after season and feeling as though you never improve
Why Play It? For the pure thrill of being in control of a driver in F1 and managing your own team and feeling like you are Ross Brawn or Christian Horner
And using the ‘Chequered Flag’ ratings unique to RichardsF1.com, GPRO is awarded:
OUT OF A POSSIBLE FIVE
To play GPRO, simply visit GPRO.net and click on ‘Register Now’. If you would like to join my team and get some help along the way, please search for ‘Ben Waterworth’ or find the ‘Safari F1’ team in the team’s section!
Ben Waterworth is a professional journalist and radio broadcaster with ‘The Qualifying Lap’, Australia’s only F1 radio show which he co-hosts with Samuel McCrossen. To listen to Ben and Richard each week on the show, click on the banner to download the latest podcast: