Christian Horner says Liam Lawson has firmly put himself on the F1 seat radar after his solid performances with AlphaTauri.
With no F1 seat available in 2023, Red Bull sent Lawson to compete in Super Formula where he has put himself in title contention in his rookie season. But after Nyck de Vries was dropped by AlphaTauri, they called in Daniel Ricciardo to drive the car.
The Australian did couple of rounds and injured himself at Zandvoort which opened up the road for Lawson. In the three races so far, the Kiwi already has two points under his name, not just impressing the masses but also the Red Bull management.
Horner believes Lawson has put himself firmly on the radar for a F1 seat and that he is already a grand prix driver. “I think he’s done an outstanding job,” he said. “I mean, dropped in in the rain in Zandvoort. You know, that was a bit of an eye opener for him, but I thought he did well there and then a week later in Monza, he was unlucky to miss out on a point.
“And then 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 that very seldom drivers get – a chance to demonstrate his talent. And 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 and, you know, he’s made a good start to this weekend and we’ll see how that continues.
“W’ve got a luxury problem, where we’ve got three into two into that team. Obviously, it’s an AlphaTauri issue, but you know, there are 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, you know, at some stage. Whether he has to wait a little for that or not, then, you know, I think he’s demonstrating that that he is a talent for the future,” summed up Horner.
With AlphaTauri more or less certain to retain Yuki Tsunoda and Ricciardo for the 2024 F1 season, Lawson will mostly be a reserve driver at Red Bull to start with. There is still an outside chance to replace Logan Sargeant at Williams, but it is not so firm yet.
Horner says they will be open to loan him but it needs proper discussions. “He’s in the Red Bull family,” he said. “If there was a seat – I think there’s only one seat left available… You know, we’ve done that in the past when, for example – Carlos Sainz went on loan to the previous Renault team – but no, I think 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.”
Having had three races under his belt and fourth ongoing with fifth also mostly the case in Qatar, Lawson is already feeling like a proper F1 driver. Even though the Kiwi will have to settle for a reserve role, it is something he doesn’t want naturally as his first priority.
I wouldn’t be happy to go back to being reserve, but obviously, I know how hard it is to get into Formula 1,” Lawson said. “And I understand that that can be really difficult sometimes. So obviously, what will happen, will happen, but these things I just haven’t really thought about too much. I’m just trying to make the most of this.
“To be honest, there hasn’t been a huge amount of time to discuss the future. On what’s happened so far, it’s been pretty positive, But I guess the message for me has just been to keep my head down now and try and keep delivering until obviously things clear up, until this opportunity I have ends when Daniel comes back.
“So, it’s basically just doing a good job but keep doing the same thing. Obviously, I want to be in Formula 1. Now I have this chance, I’m trying to do everything I can to show that I can be here. But in terms of all those discussions, those will happen after this weekend,” summed up Lawson.
For Tsunoda, he is happy with either Ricciardo or Lawson in the car for 2024 as he feels both have their own sets of pros and cons. “I think both perspective have positives,” he said. “Daniel brings definitely more experience. And he showed a lot of feedback, comparison, he’s got really good kind of… Yeah, he definitely can tell more details about the how the car is behaving. So I think it helps a lot for the engineers.
“And I think engineers like it, especially how he talks and how he helped the development side. So if the team wants to develop the car more to be competitive, maybe Daniel. But at the same time, Liam, I think he showed in the first three races that immediately he showed the good performance. And probably he’s still progressing. So on the performance side… Obviously I’ve just done, with Daniel, two races, and it was not really probably the best time for AlphaTauri as well.
“And in the last two when Liam actually came into the Formula 1, the car was pretty good – Monza and Singapore – so actually, he had a good time as well. But at the same time he definitely perform well. So yeah, I think AlphaTauri itself, we know it’s like a junior team. So yeah, I think there is a bit more risk [in that] if we think about the results in general, so… Yeah, depends on what they are thinking.
“You know, if they want more results. probably Daniel would probably be more easier. He has more experience, especially, maybe, he can extract that results maybe, but also Liam, you know… I don’t know. I probably… It’s hard. I’m scared to say,” summed up Tsunoda.
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