Qatar GP disappointment was tough way to finish AlphaTauri F1 stint – Lawson

Formula 1

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Liam Lawson said he was disappointed with the way his spell in AlphaTauri’s F1 team ended in Qatar last weekend.

The Red Bull junior racer has impressed during his time as Daniel Ricciardo’s substitute, taking his team’s best result of the season so far in Singapore. However his first races at the Losail International Circuit proved unrewarding.

The AlphaTauri racer failed to reach Q2 in qualifying on Friday. He qualified an improved 14th for the sprint race but made an unforced error on the opening lap of the race and spun into retirement.

He banged wheels with Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll at the start of the grand prix and spent almost half of that race in last place.

He eventually finished a lapped 17th in what is set to be his last outing with AlphaTauri this year. Ricciardo is expected to return to the team at next week’s United States Grand Prix.

Lawson said it was a disappointing end to his first stint in F1. “It was very tricky, but I think in general we just had no real speed,” he said. “That was the main issue, not the strategy so much.

“We tried something with the car and it just didn’t work out. I really, really struggled throughout the race. So I guess something we need to look into.”

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The first-lap contact with Stroll caught Lawson by surprise. “We had a good start. I was next to Stroll and, I don’t know, he just didn’t really see me so swiped across in front of me.

“Then I lost two more spots so it was pretty frustrating there. But even if we made those spots, really we didn’t have the speed. So it was a tricky one.”

“There’s definitely things that we’ll look into that I could probably improve on as well, which I’d like to find out,” Lawson added.

This was Lawson’s first experience of F1’s sprint race format, which meant he only had a single practice session on the unfamiliar circuit. That “made it extra tough,” he admitted.

The Qatar weekend produced Lawson’s worst two results yet from his brief F1 career, having finished 13th on his debut and followed that up with two 11th places and two points for ninth place at the Singapore Grand Prix in the races before Qatar.

“Obviously you want to go out on a high, so this is pretty tough to finish off on,” he said. “It’s just something we need to look into. The first couple of races went really good, we were building up, and then this weekend I think we just struggled.

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“The races up until this point were going pretty well, but this definitely doesn’t help that. I think it’s pretty disappointing to finish my run of races like this.”

Lawson will be at the US Grand Prix as Red Bull’s reserve driver. He will then fly to Japan for the double-header finale of the Super Formula season where he will be one of five drivers fighting for the title in the F1-level series.

Winning the title is “very, very important for me” said Lawson. “I think it can help make a huge impact on my career, especially with how this weekend’s gone.”

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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17 comments on “Qatar GP disappointment was tough way to finish AlphaTauri F1 stint – Lawson”

  1. I think he did great as a mid season sub for Dan. He was up to speed quicker than expected, and he put in a couple of strong finishes. Either Lawson is a bit of an underrated talent, or Yuki and Dan aren’t quite up to the mark.

    Honestly, I think Lawson deserves a seat on the grid more than Yuki and Dan do

    1. Perhaps he was a bit underrated, perhaps not, but I’m not sure that he’d do better than Tsunoda, even after a full season or two. Maybe? Who knows… Tsunoda took time to develop, but at the same time some drivers never develop much further. He most certainly didn’t show a spectacular performance and many have impressed as reserves (because we applaud them easily, thinking it’s so hard to get used to those cars etc., but they all manage pretty well thanks to simulators I guess, as well as F2 or Indy experience). I’d like to see Lawson in the car instead of Tsunoda, but only because of curiosity. As a team owner, I’m not sure I’d see any reason to do the swap; it’s too easy to discard drivers this way. And if we lost Tsunoda, we’d lose the only benchmark for Lawson we have. Ricciardo, on the other hand, is a mystery. But it’s safe to say that he was a bigger talent back in the day than Lawson is now. If they can bring him back to life than he is a better choice, especially considering the PR. The thing is – Lawson is not the next best thing. A team like RB (and RB B squad) can afford to skip him, they can find another Lawson almost any day.

      1. Coventry Climax
        12th October 2023, 12:52

        With the same ease you accuse others of applauding him, you wipe him under the carpet.
        Some drivers never develop much further you say. Well, I think that after three seasons, it’s quite safe to say Tsunoda is one of those, if he ever developed at all. I don’t really recall – and maybe that’s a sign – but how did Tsunoda do in his first couple of F1 races? And were they under equally tough circumstances? (Take into account Lawson’s last minute Zandvoort, and the unfamiliar and exhaustive Qatar.) Although Lawson wasn’t a particularly outstanding driver in F2, neither was Tsunoda. Lawson at least has shown there might be more to him than meets the eye, and could develop further. He’s shown he has the cool for it.
        I commented before that there will come a time he’ll make his rookie mistakes, like they all do and are entitled to. And I’m not sure even the mistakes he made in Qatar, were all that big. I think inexperience played a bigger role than downright mistakes here.
        If I were a team principle, I’d give him more benefit of the doubt than he’s received now. By either you or Red Bull.

        1. I think Dex has some really good points there. Seems you forgot Yuki had a great first race in F1 immediately scoring points and above all had some stellar races in F2 that showed he was a rough diamond and some fine race craft – Lawson didn’t really have those stand-out moments in F2, however he did almost become DTM champion as a rookie (beating Albon). As much as I think Lawson is a very capable driver and a nice guy – I think Tsunoda has the edge over him, of course only a full season as team mates could really give us a clear picture.

          1. Coventry Climax
            13th October 2023, 0:59

            Well, you’re entitled to an opinion ofcourse. But I’m not sure Dex’s points are really good points.
            I remember thinking of Tsunoda that he deserved a chance in F1, back when he was driving in F2, and he got it.
            Indeed I do not remember specific achievements over his first season. My bad maybe, but apparently I wasn’t all that impressed. Equally, I’m not impressed by the amount of progress he made over the course of three seasons. Red Bull have ditched better drivers earlier. F1’s a tough world for drivers, but I feel Red Bull have spent enough time on him. Time to move on and have the next driver giving it a try.

        2. I notice all your replies become bitter and personal.

          1. BTW, that was for Coventry.

          2. Coventry Climax
            13th October 2023, 18:09

            You may have a point. I’m increasingly disappointed with the direction F1 is going. For the most part, it’s not meant personal, although there’s some… ;-)

        3. He had some chaotic races, but a season finale 4th, almost 3rd at Abu Dhabi, 6th at a crazy Hungary race and 7th at Baku were highlights. He took a while to grab some consistency, but you fail to realise the AT has significantly declined in performance over the last 3 years

    2. He’s been guaranteed a seat for 2025. So, he’s gotten his reward whether he has to wait a season or not.

  2. There’s definitely things that we’ll look into that I could probably improve on as well

    I read somewhere Liam had done just one session in the AlphaTauri or Red Bull simulator for this race. That just seems inadequate to me, but I don’t know how long the session was for or what feedback Liam was given. Nevertheless, I think Liam should have been given more time in the simulator. If a normal Grand Prix gives a driver 3 practice sessions, then surely one would expect Liam to have done the equivalent time in a simulator.
    Anyway, AlphaTauri and Red Bull Racing will be happy now Daniel is able to return to racing.

    1. Coventry Climax
      12th October 2023, 12:59

      And we have yet to see how long they will stay happy.
      It would be nice to see him succeed, but I’m not yet convinced Ricciardo really will succeed.
      On the other hand, even if he proves to be only mediocre, that’s still at least half way further up the scale from what Perez achieves.

  3. Qatar was a messy weekend for most drivers, tough conditions all round. I think Liam did an excellent job overall given his unfamiliarity with several tracks and the car. Generally rookies take half a season to understand the car and find those 10ths – Piastri has just hit that level and looks insanely good. I’d love to see what Liam can do when he gets to the same point. Hopefully we get to find out sooner or later.

  4. Shame he stands no chance. Honda still keping Yuki in the seat despite them ‘leaving’ F1, we all know they’ve got a huge influence still & in the future with tech transfer etc. Danny Ric is undroppable due to marketing alone with Hugo Boss or Addias rumoured to be the new sponsors. Wouldn’t be surprised if they kept Perez as RB new management have made it clear AT/Torro Rosso must make it’s own money & do better, Danny Ric is key part of that. Sad for Liam

    1. He’s already been GUARANTEED a seat for 2025. He’s living his dreams and people feel sad he MIGHT have to wait a season to be in F1.

      1. Coventry Climax
        13th October 2023, 18:11

        I hope they stick to that promise then. I remember a certain Giedo van der Garde who was promised a seat and it never happened.

  5. It’s a shame he didn’t finish on a high as F1 has a short memory. But if we’re all being honest, he’s done much better than was expected at the previous races and if he was going to struggle it would be in a sprint weekend with limited time to dial the car in. By the sounds of it they chose a setup direction for his car that was wrong and he suffered the entire weekend because of it.

    I will be following Liam’s last 2 races in Super Formula @ Suzuka and I hope he can fight for wins and the title. He really deserves to finish the year on a high and although I think he’s already earned a slot in F1 for 2025, it’s good to reinforce that as much as possible. Especially if he’s not racing and reserve only next year.

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