Red Bull is understood to have promised Liam Lawson a 2025 F1 seat in exchange for the Kiwi’s services as reserve driver next year.
Red Bull is renowned for their ruthlessness when managing its second team, and they have again received scrutiny for their management of AlphaTauri. However, unlike in previous years, Red Bull are under fire for being too hesitant in promoting Liam Lawson. Having given the likes of Nyck de Vries full-time contracts rather freely, the hesitance to offer Liam Lawson a 2024 seat warrants analysis. After all, the 21-year-old is performing at a very high level already in Formula 1.
Despite a well-regarded junior career, a bizarre sequence of events earned Lawson an F1 debut. Red Bull chose to give De Vries, a 28-year-old unaffiliated with the Red Bull academy, a full-time contract for 2023 instead of Lawson. Even after his disappointing performances, 8-time race winner Daniel Ricciardo was selected as the Faenza outfit’s next driver.
However, following an untimely injury for the Australian, the Kiwi has wasted no time in leaving an impression. Fantastic adaptability in Zandvoort, points in Singapore and three top-11 finishes are among the highlights. Considering the struggles seen by most rookies in F1, Lawson distinguished himself alongside youngsters of Oscar Piastri’s caliber. Despite this, he finds himself without a drive for 2024.
Initially, the decision to have a Ricciardo & Tsunoda combination at AlphaTauri raises questions. After all, as a team designed to develop talented young drivers, Lawson’s inclusion by Red Bull would seem a given. However, a combination of factors has shaped their decision. First, the newly crowned Champions seem eager for Daniel Ricciardo to re-discover his best form. Given the consistent underperformance of Sergio Perez, it is clear that Christian Horner’s team wants an alternative. At least for now, it has been assessed that the 34-year-old is best suited to partner Verstappen once again.
Yuki Tsunoda deserves credit for a solid 2023 campaign. It cannot be forgotten that De Vries was anticipated to outperform the Japanese driver. With that said, Lawson’s performances seemed capable of jeopardizing Tsunoda’s position with Red Bull. After all, amidst all the chaos this season, Red Bull has shown little enthusiasm in promoting the 23-year-old to the main team. However, it is understood that Honda stepped in to protect his position.
The Japanese manufacturers have been an integral part of Red Bull’s success. This will remain unchanged for the next few seasons, and so – to maintain good relations with their supplier – Tsunoda was given an extension. It would be unfair to suggest that Honda was the only factor in this decision, but they certainly played a role.
Red Bull’s 2025 guarantee?
AlphaTauri is clearly aware of the public support for Lawson, as evidenced by the vagueness of their announcement in Suzuka. Furthermore, Christian Horner has made clear that Lawson is “the future” in spite of AlphaTauri’s 2024 decision.
remaining consistent in 2024 👊 we’re very happy to announce that Yuki, Daniel and Liam will continue with the team into next year 🙌 pic.twitter.com/qZ2NarlZIS
— Scuderia AlphaTauri (@AlphaTauriF1) September 23, 2023
The Red Bull team principal also recently dismissed suggestions that Williams could sign the 21-year-old. This is hardly surprising, given the Kiwi’s obvious value to the team. However, new information more clearly demonstrates the Milton Keynes team’s belief in Lawson.
According to paddock rumors, Lawson is guaranteed an F1 seat for 2025 by Red Bull. It is believed that he agreed to a reserve role in 2024 in exchange for a guaranteed seat after next season concludes. Whether this is AlphaTauri or Red Bull itself remains to be seen. This seems a reasonable deal for Red Bull to make. At least one of Ricciardo, Tsunoda or Perez will find themselves out of the set-up next year. This delay to Lawson’s development is still badly received, but this certainly provides some valuable context.
Although the Japanese GP provides insufficient evidence to make any conclusions about AlphaTauri’s current duo, it strengthens Lawson’s case to join F1.