Kiwi Liam Lawson set to make F1 weekend debut
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Liam Lawson appears set to take his next step towards Formula 1 racing.
After being announced earlier in the season as the rookie test driver for AlphaTauri, the Kiwi driver could be behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car at the Belgian Grand Prix when the series returns from its summer break later this month.
Lawson is set to benefit from the introduction of the rookie test driver programme in which each Formula 1 team must give the opportunity for an up-and-coming driver to man one of the team's two cars for a practice session at a Grand Prix. The team must provide two such opportunities throughout the season.
After last weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix, AlphaTauri team boss Franz Tost said their plan was to give Lawson his first run at a practice session when the teams resume racing at the Spa-Francorchamps Circuit in east Belgium.
It won't be the first time Lawson has been able to drive a Formula 1 car. Late last year, he completed 125 laps of the Abu Dhabi circuit in a test session for AlphaTauri.
However, it is an interesting choice of venue to be giving Lawson his first run behind the wheel, given the stop is known for its unpredictable weather, which could indicate the team's interest in seeing how Lawson handles the step up in testing conditions.
In 2021, rain heavily impacted racing at the Belgian Grand Prix to the point where the feature race was suspended for hours before the drivers were able to complete two laps – both under a safety car – before the race was suspended once more and ultimately called off.
AlphaTauri run as a sister team to Red Bull Racing and with Lawson a part of the Red Bull junior programme, it's a partnership that makes plenty of sense. As it stands, Lawson is the reserve driver for both Red Bull and AlphaTauri – meaning if any one of Max Verstappen (Red Bull), Sergio Perez (Red Bull), Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) or Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) are unable to compete in an event, Lawson would likely be the one to drive in their place.
AlphaTauri have yet to confirm their driver line-up for 2023. While Gasly is locked in for another season, Tsunoda is yet to be re-signed beyond this season. He is one of a number of seats still available in the 2023 season, with Alpine, Alfa Romeo, Haas and Williams all still with a seat to fill in their line-ups, with plenty of young talent pressing their claims in Formula 2 for a shot at the top level.
Lawson is among those drivers, currently sitting eighth in the standings after 10 of 14 rounds. The 20-year-old has had a mixed campaign in 2022. Starting the year with three podium finishes in as many races – including a sprint race win in Jeddah – Lawson has consistently been in the points throughout the campaign.
However, he's had his share of poor luck as he has been forced to retire four times – three of those being in feature races where there are more points on offer – while a poor pit saw him fall out of the points during the feature race in Baku.
Across the last two events, in France and Hungary, Lawson has been back to where he would like to be with a race win and three top-seven finishes.
The season resumes in Belgium from August 27.
- NZ Herald