With Ricciardo out for Zandvoort, Liam Lawson has stepped up to become Alpha Tauri’s fourth driver of the season.
Formula 1 returned to Zandvoort following the summer break and before any competitive running could start, Alpha Tauri faced a surprise that immediately ruled one of their drivers out of the weekend. Ricciardo’s shock injury in FP2 saw him suffer a metacarpal break. Leaving him no other option but to withdraw from the Dutch Grand Prix as reserve driver, Liam Lawson made his Formula 1 debut.
What happened in FP2?
The second practice session at Zandvoort saw a relatively inconspicuous crash result in a much more severe result for Ricciardo. The Alpha Tauri driver sustained a race-ending injury in an attempt to avoid crashing into his fellow Australian driver, Oscar Piastri, who went into the wall at turn 3 just ahead of Ricciardo this past Friday.
The unfortunate incident provided Liam Lawson with a rare opportunity to showcase his talent and prove why he is deserving of a full-time race seat as he took to the circuit in what was one of the most difficult races of the season so far.
Lawson v Tsunoda
As well as jumping into the Alpha Tauri with a day’s notice, Lawson would have to go up against Yuki Tsunoda who is in the midst of having his best F1 season to date. Tsunoda has exceeded expectations in 2023, the Japanese driver has solidified his role as the team leader of Alpha Tauri and has gone from strength to strength as the season has progressed.
The Dutch Grand Prix proved to be a considerable challenge for even the most experienced drivers as the weather changed from a completely dry track to a torrential downpour and everything in between. Considering the circumstances, there was not much expectation on Lawson heading into the Grand Prix but the New Zealander brought the Alpha Tauri home in a respectable P13, two positions ahead of his teammate in P15.
How does Lawson stack up against the remaining rookies?
Piastri and Sargeant are the two rookies who remain on the grid following the departure of Nyck De Vries earlier in the year. When looking at their performances relative to Lawson, it’s fair to say that Piastri is firmly out in front, however, Sargeant’s lackluster season could call into question whether he deserves to remain on the grid come 2024.
The difference between Lawson and Sargeant come race day was not as big as you would expect considering that before the race Lawson had one practice session, whereas the only American driver on the grid had 13 races to acclimatise himself to the world of F1.
So, is Lawson ready for Formula 1?
It will always be difficult to judge whether a driver is ready for Formula 1 based on one race weekend, however, his ability to handle everything that was thrown at him throughout the weekend has to be commended.
Alpha Tauri will face a bigger issue upon Ricciardo’s return as they will have 3 drivers vying for 2 F1 seats in 2024.
Following the announcement that Lawson will continue to stand in for Ricciardo, we will have to see how the next race plays out to determine whether Liam Lawson has done enough to put himself in the running for a Formula 1 seat in the future.