Liam Lawson, AlphaTauri, Suzuka, 2023

Lawson ‘will be a grand prix driver but may have to wait’ – Horner

Formula 1

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Liam Lawson’s performances as a substitute for AlphaTauri may earn him a full-time seat in the future, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has said.

However it may not result in a full-time seat for the start of next season at Red Bull’s junior team.

Lawson made his F1 debut in the Dutch Grand Prix in place of Daniel Ricciardo, who broke his wrist during Friday practice. Horner said Lawson has “done an outstanding job” since getting the call-up at short notice.

“He was dropped in, in the rain, in Zandvoort, that was a bit of an eye-opener for him, but I thought he did pretty well there,” said Horner. “And then a week later in Monza he was unlucky to miss out on a point.”

In his third start at Marina Bay last weekend, a track he had not previously raced on, Lawson achieved AlphaTauri’s best result of the season to date with ninth place.

“Seeing Singapore for the first time and scoring a couple of points, he’s a gritty racer, we know that about him and I think he’s grabbed this opportunity in Formula 1,” said Horner.

The 21-year-old will make his fourth start at Suzuka this weekend. He finished the opening practice session ninth, four tenths of a second slower than team mate Yuki Tsunoda, but the team identified an engine braking problem which was costing Lawson time.

Horner said Lawson’s performances so far have put him in consideration for a full-time drive.

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“Very seldom do drivers get a chance to demonstrate their talent,” he said. “I think he’s done a tremendous job and certainly has put himself firmly on the radar and cemented the feeling that we had about him. He’s made a good start to this weekend and we’ll see how that continues.”

Ricciardo only started two races as a replacement for Nyck de Vries before injury forced him out. He is expected to return to the team before the end of the season and continue driving alongside Tsunoda next year.

Lawson may therefore have to be patient for his chance to gain a full-time seat, said Horner.

“We’ve got a luxury problem. We’ve got three into two in that team, obviously it’s an AlphaTauri issue. But it’s three great drivers and it’s a nice headache to have.

“He will be a grand prix driver. He already is a grand prix driver. At some stage, whether he has to wait a little for that or not, then I think he’s demonstrating that he is a talent for the future.”

Prior to his call-up Lawson was serving as Red Bull’s reserve driver and racing in Japan’s Super Formula series, a championship he can win in next month’s double-header season finale at Suzuka. Horner did not rule out the possibility of loaning Lawson to a rival team, though there are few potential vacancies on the grid for the 2024 F1 season.

“He’s in the Red Bull family. If there was a seat, I think there’s only one seat left available, we’ve done that in the past when, for example, Carlos Sainz went on loan to the previous Renault team.

“But if he’s not sitting in a grand prix car next year, then he’s going to have plenty on his plate with other stuff to do.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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16 comments on “Lawson ‘will be a grand prix driver but may have to wait’ – Horner”

  1. Wait until he does the Liam & wipes out half the field in a corner because he can’t stay calm in the car.

    1. Lol, he doesn’t seem anything like that type of driver.

  2. Referring to Sainz is rather pointless because that approach in F1 is generally a past thing, & if he doesn’t get a full-time drive for next season, the possible side-effect could be not getting that even later because other Red Bull drivers, such as Iwasa & co., being more ready for F1 in 2025.

  3. Sounds like Lawson won’t be in AT for 2024. Tsunoda is kept afloat with Honda money, but why Ricciardo? It defeats the purpose of a junior team to prefer a senior in his midcareer crisis. Was he already signed for next season or is he of bigger monetary value?

    1. Because Danny has impressed them in tests and sims.

    2. Since Ricciardo is a very popular driver and charismatic personality – I bet a new title sponsor might be very keen on having him on the team. Also next years car will be heavily influenced by this years Red Bull. So they are probably expecting to be closer to the front. Adding all these factors up – I think Red Bull will divert from seeing it as just a B team for juniors but rather sell it as an opportunity for a sponsor to have a top team to slap some stickers on.

  4. I would have thought RB would drop Tsunoda as soon as Ricciardo is fit again and keep Lawson in the other seat. Tsunoda hasn’t shown much emotional control in the 3 years he’s been with the team. And he’s crashed a lot. And do RB really need Honda’s money?

    1. I am surprised as well that Tsunoda will be kept. His attitude is horrible, though improved a little over these years. I wouldn’t call him fast, maybe suitable for midfield team. In 3 years he hasn’t shown any flashes of talent and he got up to speed very slowly. Really strange, why RB needs Honda money, especially considering they will have Ford engines in the back of their cars in 2,5 years time.

      1. Honda technology is very important….

    2. He’s shown a lot this season.

    3. The contract seems pretty tight considering the twists and turns Red Bull go through to justify keeping Tsunoda on.

  5. If he isn’t in the AT, then perhaps he might go for a faster car, like the Williams?

    1. I agree, if he can’t get a drive with AlphaTauri then he should try to get the last remaining seat, regardless of where it is. Scoring points attracts the attention of Team Principals. I’m not sure why AT decided to confirm their official lineup for next year, I think they should have delayed making an announcement until Liam had been given more chance to develop and Daniel’s injuries have healed. Currently Liam has the highest place finish of any of their drivers this season.

  6. If it wasn’t for the financial backing and nationality of Logan Sargeant, I’m pretty sure he’d be gone by the end of the season. Lawson has show far more potential in 3 races thrown in at the deep end than Sargeant has all year with full pre-season.
    I think Ricciardo has been promised a seat and his performances don’t really matter.

    1. @lejimster82 agreed, politics, geography and commercial deals all work against drivers from NZ. Small market for anyone without much wealth to bankroll drivers. My understanding is Mitch Evans would have made it into F1 as well if he had the finances behind him. Liam has done everything within his power so now we can only hope.

  7. Lawson looks to have a steadier pair of hands than Perez. Too bad he doesn’t have Carlos Slim money.

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