Johnny Herbert has voiced doubts over the AlphaTauri decision to keep Daniel Ricciardo for 2024 and not promote Liam Lawson to a race seat.
Lawson has been deputising for Ricciardo since the Dutch Grand Prix, where the Australian broke his hand in a practice crash, and has earned much praise for his efforts.
His four finishes so far are 13th, 11th, 9th and 11th, with his first Grand Prix points secured in Singapore - the first time he had ever driven the track.
New Zealander Lawson is set to continue in the seat alongside Yuki Tsunoda for the Qatar Grand Prix, but will make way for Ricciardo when he is fit and for the 2024 season, with Tsunoda-Ricciardo being confirmed as the driver pairing for next season on the eve of the Japanese GP.
It leaves the second Williams seat as Lawson's only potential route onto the full-time 2024 grid with Logan Sargeant's future uncertain, with three-time Grand Prix winner and Le Mans 24 Hours winner Herbert not sure Ricciardo is the right fit.
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Lawson decision questioned by Herbert
"I’m impressed with what I’ve seen from Liam Lawson, because in a very short space of time he has been able to adjust to the bubble of Formula 1," Herbert wrote for Motor Sport magazine.
"What I like is that ability to jump in and do the job straight away. It’s actually a rare thing when someone gets a hold of a car and does what we actually expect of them.
"Lawson has shown speed when there’s pressure because he’s been racing to prove he’s worthy of keeping the drive. He hasn’t had the luxury of time to settle in.
"In Singapore, at what most drivers say is the most difficult track on the calendar both physically and mentally, he was very impressive and scored his first points in his third grand prix.
"Team-mate Yuki Tsunoda has done a good job too – but I feel Liam already has taken control at AlphaTauri. For me, he earned a seat for 2024.
"I don’t agree with the decision of AlphaTauri to bring Daniel Ricciardo back for next year.
“Is he the future? No, Liam is the future.
"I understand that Daniel didn’t get a proper go at it before breaking his [hand] at Zandvoort, but in the time he had on his return there was no 'wow factor.'
"I’d say there has been with Liam. He has something that looks pretty special.
"I think it should have been a Lawson/Tsunoda line-up at AlphaTauri next year. After all, it’s a junior team that exists to bring [through] young talent."