Golden Lap is a Fun, Retro Alternative to F1 Manager

Golden Lap map screen

Golden Lap map screen

F1 Manager 2024 is almost here. Featuring a long-awaited Create a Team mode, a livery editor, and a new driver mentality system, this year's F1 Manager is set to take the series to new heights.

But it’s not the only F1 management game out this year. If you’re looking for a more accessible, retro-styled alternative, there’s also Golden Lap.

If you missed the initial announcement, Golden Lap is a new minimalist strategy game from Funselektor’s Dune Casu, creator of the irresistible indie hits Absolute Drift and Art of Rally. As part of Steam Next Fest, aspiring team principals can try a free demo of Golden Lap for a limited time.

A love letter to one of F1’s greatest eras

Played from a top-down perspective, the Golden Lap is a love letter to one of F1’s greatest eras: the 1970s. This decade of course spawned one of the sport's most iconic rivalries between James Hunt and Nikki Lauda in the infamous 1976 championship.

In a surprising departure from Funselektor's last two games, you don't do any driving in Golden Lap. This is an old-school racing management sim inspired by the likes of Motorsport Manager.

The demo lets you try two modes. Quick Race sees you select a pre-built team for a single session, while Career Mode provides the full team management experience with you hiring crew members, managing budgets, and making strategic decisions in a mini four-race championship.

Golden Lap screenshot
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Naturally, none of the teams are officially licensed. Instead, you’ll be managing fictional parodies of the real teams such as Ezzolini and Chapman, named after Ferrari and Lotus’s founders respectively. Each team has its own history and is immediately recognizable thanks to the parody logos and racing colors. The demo only lets you manage LeBrahn, Golden Lap’s equivalent of McLaren.

Once you’ve selected a team, you need to hire two drivers, an engineer, and a crew chief. Each staff member has different hiring costs, speed, and focus levels. Unique personality traits also add an element of unpredictability.

Golden Lap driver screen
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Drivers who are fast and aggressive will earn bonus points for overtaking but are more likely to crash and lose a race. Meanwhile, drivers with a high focus rate are less likely to crash but may not be as quick around the track. More personable drivers can also form close relationships with engineers to improve the car’s reliability. Like most racing strategy games, it’s a careful balance between utilizing each staff’s best attributes without going over budget.

Races are presented in an overhead view of the track with Funselektor’s signature minimalist style. Unlike Absolute Rally and Art of Rally, cars are represented as simple numbered dots zooming around the track, with options to increase the time speed up to x8. It’s a shame there’s no option to switch to car models, but it adds to the charm of the minimalist presentation.

A more accessible F1 Manager alternative

With so many mechanics to learn and endless menus to navigate, management games are often overwhelming for newcomers, but Golden Lap is refreshingly easy to pick up and play for a quick session yet addictive enough to sit through several races in one session. Everything is clearly explained, and the UI is clean and easy to navigate.

Tuning cars during qualifying sessions doesn’t require a degree in engineering either. You can either spend money upgrading the existing engine, chassis, and handling parts to improve their reliability or spend more on building new parts for a bigger performance gain.

Before a race, you can also customize each driver’s race strategy to suit the track and weather conditions, from fitting the right tyres, to setting their driving aggression level, and prioritizing whether to save fuel or push harder.

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Golden Lap race screen
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During races, your drivers make requests in speech boxes, such as pitting in for a new set of tyres or swapping positions with their slower teammate. How you respond to these scenarios can affect the outcome of the race.

In one race, our lead driver turned up hungover after a late-night party session, impairing their racing ability. Just to remind you how dangerous this era of motorsport was, your driver can even die in an accident, raising the stakes.

With its simple yet addictive gameplay and charming presentation, Golden Lap is shaping up to be a fun retro-style alternative to F1 Manager 2024 for motorsport fans. Whether it has enough depth to hook you for multiple seasons remains to be seen. Perhaps it will pave the way for a proper single-seater racer from Funselektor.

You can have a go at being the team boss in a free Steam demo available until June 17. Golden Lap is set to arrive later this year on PC, but the final release date is yet to be confirmed.

Have you tried Golden Lap's free demo yet? Let us know in the comments below.

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