After missing out on a seat at AlphaTauri, Red Bull Junior Liam Lawson is expected to be Red Bull’s reserve driver for 2023.
The New Zealand driver was passed up for Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri seat over Mercedes reserve driver Nyck de Vries. But Lawson’s path to F1 appears far from over. In an interview with Auto Motor Sport, a German media outlet, Red Bull commander Helmut Marko clarified Lawson’s status for next year.
“Hadjar drives Formula 2. Crawford is still there. Iwasa too. We also have a couple of new riders, but we’ll be announcing them later. Lawson was very quick in his F1 test. He will be driving in Japan next year and will be one of our reserve drivers for Formula 1.”
Liam Lawson’s Formula 2 career
At 20, Liam Lawson has already raced two seasons at the Formula 2 level. Last year, he ran for Hi-Tech Gran Prix in his rookie year at Formula 2. He won the Sprint Race in Bahrain while also placing third in the Feature Race, but struggled to find continued success throughout the rest of the season.
This year, Lawson moved over to Carlin. Though a Feature Race win still eludes him, he won the Sprint Race at Spa, Paul Ricard, and Jeddah. 2022 has been much more consistent from Lawson, with eight podium visits in total, going to toe with his Carlin teammate Logan Sargeant.
Liam is only 12 points off Sargeant heading into the season finale in Abu Dhabi later this month. Sargeant is in line for a seat at Williams, pending his finishing position in the F2 Championship.
— Formula 2 (@Formula2) August 27, 2022
Free Practice sessions
As a member of Red Bull’s Junior Program, Lawson has run several F1 Free Practice sessions for both Red Bull and AlphaTauri. This year, he has stepped in for both Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda. His first run came in Belgium, driving Gasly’s car and finishing 19th in that session. Later in the year, he came in for Yuki Tsunoda in Mexico, where his brakes caught on fire during the session, and he was forced to retire.
Where does Lawson go from here?
As previously mentioned, Lawson missed out on jumping to Formula 1 when AlphaTauri decided to look away from Red Bull’s junior program and sign outsider Nyck de Vries. The move came as a result of Marko’s lack of belief in the current group of juniors. When Auto Motor Sport asked about the state of the junior program, Marko acknowledged that singing Nyck indicated where they feel the juniors are.
“That’s why we signed De Vries.”
With a clear message from the higher-ups, Lawson is in a tricky position. He is in limbo as his Formula 1 prospects are up in the air. Still, Lawson will not be content as a reserve driver. He remains optimistic about his future and looks forward to what comes next. In an interview with Newshub, Lawson highlighted how little of an impact the announcement of de Vries to Alphatauri affected him.
“Because of the announcement this year and the way things played out, a lot of people are feeling like that dream is over. I’m happy to say that it’s not and I’ve got an exciting year planned.”
According to Jaime Klien of Motorsport.com, Lawson’s plan for next year includes racing in the Super Formula series. He will join team Mugen next year to further impress the bosses at Red Bull.
Considering next season will be Yuki Tsunoda‘s third season, there could be an opening at AlphaTauri in 2024 if either he or de Vries fails to deliver. At this point in his career, Lawson can only control his performance. In the interview with Newshub, Lawson reassured he would learn from this experience rather than sulk from the results.
“As much as I feel ready now, I’ll learn even more in the next 12 months and by the end of next year, I’ll be in an even better position.”
His F1 Reserve Driver duties will include time in the simulator and time around the Formula 1 paddock throughout the season. There is experience to be gained in that role. And we’ve seen that pay off for both Alex Albon and de Vries recently. Along with his Super Formula debut, Liam Lawson will have plenty of opportunities to show Red Bull why he remains a future F1 contender.