AlphaTauri’s Peter Bayer has explained why there is no seat for Liam Lawson at the Faenza-based outfit in 2024.
Surviving his baptism of fire at Zandvoort, where he was called in on the Saturday morning to replace the injured Daniel Ricciardo, the young kiwi has since gone on to impress with a string of strong performances.
Claiming his first points in the heat of Singapore – where he also made it into Q3 for the first time – many tipped Lawson for a possible seat with the team next season, however just days later the Red Bull owned outfit confirmed that Yuko Tsunoda would continue alongside Daniel Ricciardo.
Asked if Lawson was ever considered for a full-time drive, the team’s new boss, Peter Bayer explained that it was no longer feasible to run two youngsters.
“We had lots of discussions about the future of the team and our shareholders said, ‘we want you to continue and educate young drivers, but we also want you to be successful’.
“I think, ultimately, you can’t have both,” he continued. “You can’t have two young – inverted commas – drivers in the team. And we were looking at what do we need to deliver that purpose and we finally came to the conclusion that, first of all, we only have two seats and Daniel is offering a lot of expertise, especially when it comes down to the set-up of the car, which is something that we were struggling with.
“Yuki, over the years has grown and is now coming to the pinnacle of his performance curve. So we thought that those two make the right team.
“On top of that, I think it’s also good to have somebody like Liam just behind them to keep the fire warm under their seats and to make sure that we progress as a team.”
Asked if this marks a change of philosophy for AlphaTauri since it was always seen as a proving ground for future Red Bull drivers, Bayer said: “It is, but not absolutely.
“I think the reality today is if you’re looking at the grid, it’s so competitive, it’s so tight, that every tenth of a second is being fought for, and we came to the conclusion that in order to be contenders for the top midfield, we need one experienced driver but we’ll continue to grow young talent that ultimately shall end up in Red Bull Racing.”
Nonetheless, Bayer admits that, thus far, Lawson has been impressive.
“I think everybody will agree that,” he said. “You know, his baptism in Zandvoort was incredibly challenging. And with, you know, the rain and the track being a difficult track and he mastered it, and he kept performing.
“He’s done an excellent job working with the engineers. You can hear him… Well, actually, you don’t hear him because he’s listening. And then he’s improving lap by lap. He’s a very quick learner.
“He’s fighting. And I really have to say, I admire what he did in Singapore. His car seemed to be double as wide as the others. And I called him Liam the Lion afterwards, because I thought that was an impressive performance. And he keeps delivering, so very happy to have him on board as part of the family.”
Meanwhile, at ‘sister’ outfit Red Bull, Helmut Marko has used the example of AlphaTauri’s three drivers as a stick with which to beat the under-performing Sergio Perez.
“Now it becomes critical when two such strong drivers are in the McLaren,” the Austrian told ORF in relation to the danger of the Mexican not securing the runner up spot to his teammate in the standings.
“I hope we can save second place,” he added. “It looked quite comfortable for a while, but now the lead is melting.
“Checo has to deliver now,” he warned. “We have three drivers in the AlphaTauri team, and Lawson is a reserve driver for four cars. So a lot can happen.”
Admitting that it is “simply a logical consequence that Lawson will sooner or later be consistently in Formula 1”, when asked about Perez’s performance in Qatar, replied: “In between there were fast laps, but it doesn’t help if you get 10-second penalties.