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Is Liam Lawson Ready for Formula One?

Written by Traber Burns, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

After Daniel Ricciardo was diagnosed with a broken left wrist following a crash in FP2, Liam Lawson was called up to replace him for this weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix. Lawson has come into F1 with a lot of hype, but is he truly ready for the pinnacle of motorsport?

Lawson has been on F1 teams’ radars ever since he stepped foot in a car. In his first ever Formula 4 season, he annihilated the field, winning 14 out of the 15 races. While results across other series weren’t always that dominant, his pace and aggressive racecraft have always stood out.

The Red Bull Junior won on his Formula 2 debut, but the rest of the season looked lackluster. The speedy Kiwi did improve in his sophomore season, finishing third in the standings, despite never capturing a feature race win in either season. After that season, Helmut Marko moved Lawson to Japan, a move consistent among other Red Bull juniors. If the goal was indeed to develop the Kiwi in a series closely resembling the nuances of Formula One, whilst letting him shine, mission accomplished. Having won three of the seven races, and shown stellar race pace, there is little doubt Liam is the man to beat on Sunday.

Image Credits: Clive Mason/Getty Images

Like many young drivers, Lawson does have a couple of flaws. As mentioned before, Lawson has an aggressive mentality when it comes to overtaking, but this has come back to bite him on some occasions.

In the most recent Super Formula round at Motegi, Lawson attempted to take the lead around the outside, but was shoved out to the exit kerb by Nojiri. It appears he tried to keep the throttle pinned, and spun the tires on the kerb, spinning across the track in front of the field, causing a massive accident, as drivers attempted to miss him.

While this is something that can be attributed to many young drivers, there is one flaw that can’t, and it’s the same thing that caught him out in F2: Qualifying. While he has a 43% winning percentage, he is yet to claim a pole position. His three wins have come from third, second, and second on the grid. On days he didn’t win, he started fourth, eighth, and sixth. This is the same exact trend we saw in F2, with the only difference being the Formula 2 format, which puts greater emphasis on qualifying, and one bad session almost tanks someone’s entire weekend.

But with longer races and more strategy options in Super Formula, Lawson can cover up a bad Saturday with his great race pace. With Lawson in Japan, it’s now slightly more challenging to evaluate him in comparison to his fellow Red Bull Junior academy compatriots racing in F2. One thing is for sure though. If Lawson qualifies well, he finishes well.

Image Credits: Dan Istitebne/Getty Images

You could say his race pace isn’t even the most exciting part about him. His ability to impress on debut has transferred throughout his career, no matter the series.

Could this stand-in for Ricciardo potentially impact Lawson’s Formula One chances? If anything, this would positively impact. It gives the Red Bull junior a look-in against fellow youngster Yuki Tsunoda, and assess Lawson’s performance for a full-time Alpha Tauri seat next season.

With Ricciardo suffering a metacarpal injury following his Friday Practice crash, and his arm in a shoulder sling,he could be out of action for more than just one race, which means Lawson could well and truly get an extended run with the Faenza outfit.

While one would wish a speedy recovery for Ricciardo, this presents a perfect opportunity for both team and driver to assess Lawson on different types of tracks, such as the Temple of Speed, Monza; Formula One’s toughest street race, physically and mentally, around Singapore; the fearsome Suzuka circuit, and finally, around the confines of Qatar, should Ricciardo be out of action for over six weeks. This would give an indication if Lawson was indeed worth the hype, and Formula One ready.

Since his first race in an F3 car, he’s won on debut in Asian F3, Euroformula, Toyota Racing Series (now Formula Regional Oceana), Formula 2, DTM, and most recently, Superformula. With experience in an array of different series and his trend of solid debuts, there may not be a rookie more equipped to handle this situation than Liam. If he can handle the pressure of the pinnacle of motorsport, watch for him to make a splash on the beaches of Holland this weekend.

1 comment

1 Comment

Aug 27, 2023

He is ready and appears to be going about things the right way, this weekend is probably the hardest race except maybe Monaco to debut at and the weather certainly hasn't helped. I hope that in the races he has he shows well and can give Yuki a good close run. He is exactly the kind of young driver Alpha Tauri and F1 need... I know everyone loves Daniel but he really isn't F1 future, he is F1 past. If Liam goes well I hope Daniel and the team do the right thing and keep him in. If he stays out of trouble today he should get good mileage and lots more knowledge making it a far more realistic prospe…

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