As Liam Lawson competed in only seven grands prix through the 2023 season, his ranking takes his reduced participation into account
Where do Red Bull continue to find these talented young drivers from?
After two seasons in Formula 2, 21-year-old Liam Lawson was shipped off to compete in the fastest single-seater category with the highest levels of downforce outside of Formula 1 – Japan’s Super Formula series.
Lawson sensationally won the opening race of the season at Fuji and sat second in the championship just eight points behind Ritomo Miyata after the penultimate round in Motegi in late August. Then, he got on a plane and flew back to Europe, ready for another weekend on the pit wall as Red Bull’s reserve driver for the following weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix.
That Friday night, Lawson was given the biggest news of his racing career when Red Bull informed him that Daniel Ricciardo had broken his hand in his second practice crash and he would be taking over his AlphaTauri for the remainder of the weekend and make a surprise grand prix debut. While he openly admitted his nerves at heading into his grand prix debut with just an hour of practice, Lawson made a strong impression over the rest of the weekend.
There was zero shame in being eliminated as the slowest driver in Q1 given the circumstances. On race day, the racing gods were not feeling charitable and chose to test the sport’s newest driver with rain as he completed his first formation lap. Lawson pitted at the end of his first grand prix lap for intermediate tyres, then kept his head calm and his car on the track to reach the chequered flag in one piece and even be classified ahead of team mate Yuki Tsunoda following his post-race penalty.
Lawson’s commendable debut under immense pressure had made a powerful first impression. With Ricciardo’s recovery lasting two months, Lawson had four further weekends to both gain vital experience and show more of what he could do.
At Monza, his first full weekend, Lawson narrowly missed out on a point in 11th place after again gaining positions after the finish due to penalties – securing a better result than Nyck de Vries had managed throughout his 10 rounds in the car. But Lawson really shone in Singapore. Not only did he famously knock out world champion Max Verstappen in qualifying by reaching Q3 for the first time, he drove a mature race over the longest and most mentally taxing grand prix of the season to finish ninth and secure his first career points in Formula 1.
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He was close to taking more points at Suzuka, a circuit he had prior experience with from his time in Super Formula, once again delivering a clean weekend where he avoided any major mistakes and again missed out on a point by finishing ahead of Tsunoda. By now, such was the strong impression the rookie was making, many fans were beginning to question not just whether Lawson should be offered a race seat at Red Bull’s second team in 2024, but if AlphaTauri should forgo bringing Ricciardo back once healthy.
Unfortunately for Lawson, he left the paddock with his weakest performance of his short stint in Qatar. Over a suffocatingly hot sprint race weekend in Losail – his first experience with the format – Lawson struggled with the balance of his car from Friday and was eliminated behind Tsunoda in Q1. He spun out of the sprint race after just two corners of the opening lap – his first major blunder of his grand prix career – and on Sunday, he simply lacked pace. Lawson ran at the back for the majority of the race and while he largely matched Tsunoda, he faded over the final stint to finish almost 20 seconds behind his team mate as the last driver running.
But aside from a difficult final weekend behind the wheel, Lawson had every reason to be incredibly proud of how he acquitted himself in his first five rounds in a Formula 1 car. With Formula 2 champions like Felipe Drugovich and Theo Pourchaire understandably ruing the fact the door of opportunity has yet to swing open for them into Formula 1, Lawson now has his foot inside that same door. Hopefully this will not be the last time he gets to compete on the grand prix grid.
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