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Liam Lawson

Should Ricciardo be worried about Lawson threat?

The 21 year-old made his Formula 1 debut amid an interesting time for Red Bull's driver future.

Lawson Zandvoort
Analysis
To news overview © Red Bull Content Pool

Liam Lawson experienced every type of weather condition at Zandvoort and still put in a solid performance on his Formula 1 debut.

After being parachuted in as a replacement for the injured Daniel Riccaiardo, he had just an hour of practice on Saturday morning before tackling the tricky changing conditions in qualifying.

It was to be expected that he would qualify in last, but an opportunistic race in which he stayed out of trouble - and even attempted to un-lap himself by passing Max Verstappen - yielded a P13 finish ahead of experienced teammate Yuki Tsunoda.

The performance puts Ricciardo in a precarious position as he hands the keys over for the next couple of races to a younger, prospective talent, who Red Bull might be more inclined to invest in for the future.

Lawson impresses on debuts

Simply put, Lawson is the ‘exciting’ option for Red Bull. Their driver lineups are all about what grabs the headlines, which is why they initially wanted to get IndyCar driver Colton Herta in the AlphaTauri for this season.

Despite causing a big crash in Super Formula - which might make some question the optics of their decision - Lawson has held his own in the Japanese championship and become a title contender in his debut season.

The New Zealand-born driver also has a habit of great debut performances, having won his first race in Super Formula, DTM, and Formula 2. He’s a proven talent in the eyes of Marko, who deserves a shot on the biggest motorsport stage in the world.

We know Ricciardo will be out of action for Monza, but his recovery from surgery means Lawson faces the prospect of competing in one of the toughest races on the calendar: the two-hour Singapore Grand Prix.

This will be a real test of his endurance and what he has learned in such a small space of time, and could be a deciding factor over whether they commit to a future. The trouble for AlphaTauri is whether Lawson is necessarily the driver they need in the short term, as they look to close the gap in the Constructors’ Championship.

They are fighting over seventh place which is the difference between $10 million in prize money at the end of the season, and currently, AlphaTauri has had more drivers (4) than scored points (3) in 2023.

The next few tracks; Monza, Singapore and Japan present opportunities to close that gap to Williams, Alfa Romeo and Haas.

The team has also brought 41 updates to their car so far this year in an attempt to turn around one of the worst starts to a season. As they bring more in the second half, they require sound technical feedback.

This is something Nyck de Vries - who already did 10 races in the car - could have provided given that it was one of the strengths outgoing Team Principal Franz Tost praised him for when at the team.

Whether Lawson has provided similar feedback in Red Bull’s simulators is potentially a factor which also swayed their decision.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

A chance to influence Red Bull

Ricciardo has stated that he intends to finish his F1 career within the Red Bull family, but if he does return to the top team in 2025 he will be 36 years-old. By comparison, Lawson is 21 years-old and represents a more long term investment for the team.

It is well known how cut-throat the Red Bull junior driver programme can be, and this is perhaps the best opportunity yet for Lawson to convince the higher ups that he is the man for the job - especially if he follows it through with a Super Formula title at the end of October.

Given the speculation surrounding Sergio Perez’s future and Ricciardo’s position not a certainty, Lawson could provide an extra twist to Red Bull’s driver conundrum.

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