In the fast-paced world of Formula One, New Zealand’s up-and-coming talent Liam Lawson has impressed one of the biggest names in the sport.
The 21-year-old stands on the cusp of a promising career despite missing out on a fulltime seat for the 2024 season with his recent stint at Alpha Tauri showcasing both his potential and room for growth according to Helmut Marko, the director overseeing Red Bull Racing and Alpha Tauri.
“He just has to be patient and his time will come,” Marko told Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB. “We already have a contract with Sergio Pérez, Yuki Tsunoda and also with Daniel Ricciardo which goes till the end of 2024.”
In September, Lawson was announced as the reserve driver for Alpha Tauri and Red Bull next season. In late August, he was called up to make his F1 debut after Ricciardo injured his hand during a practice session ahead of the Dutch Grand Prix. He contested five Grand Prix races as well as a sprint, and the majority of what he showed on track saw his stocks rise in the field.
While the F1 grid remains occupied for the coming season, the promising young Kiwi appears poised for a remarkable trajectory when his moment arrives. Marko emphasised Lawson’s ongoing learning curve, noting improvements in qualifying and race pace. He said Lawson’s exposure simulator work across both Red Bull and Alpha Tauri would fortify his understanding and provide diverse perspectives crucial for his F1 journey.
“If I look at the first three races, there was a steady improvement. It was much quicker [than] in the beginning … I would say his qualifying also improved but still a lot to learn, but he will learn a lot on the simulator.
“How he was dropped in, it [couldn’t have been] more difficult than it was – it was raining as far as I remember.”
Last month, Lawson told the Herald his time in the hot seat was “a crazy experience”.
“To be honest I don’t even know how long it’s been. The last couple of months have just flown by in a complete blur; I can’t believe we’re well into October. It’s something that consumes your world and that’s why, for me, the last couple of months have gone by so quickly, because it’s just been completely consumed by being in F1.”
Meanwhile, Marko also highlighted the exceptional performance of their crown jewel, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
“Max is setting new standards in F1,” he said, praising the 26-year-old’s consistent and stellar deliveries on the track. “He’s a class of his own … he’s delivering every weekend, doesn’t matter if it’s raining sunshine or, or cold, he delivers every session. He’s more patient. He can read the race very well and he’s nursing his tyres and still being by far the fastest driver.”
The conversation delved into the challenges faced by Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Pérez alongside his dominance. Marko acknowledged Pérez’s resilience against the Dutchman’s formidable skill but emphasised the unparalleled performance of the championship winner.
The discussion then shifted to the fluctuating landscape of the season, where teams like Aston Martin and McLaren showcased intermittent bursts of competitiveness, yet Red Bull’s sustained superiority prevailed. Marko attributed this to the complexity of ground-effect cars and the strategic nuances of tyre management.
Luke Kirkness is an Online Sports Editor for the NZ Herald. He previously covered consumer affairs for the Herald and was an assistant news director in the Bay of Plenty. He won Student Journalist of the Year in 2019.