Disappointed Lawson preparing for final F1 outing

Liam Lawson is preparing for what is likely his last F1 appearance of 2023. Image: Moy/XPB Images

Liam Lawson is preparing for what is likely his last F1 appearance of 2023. Image: Moy/XPB Images

A disappointed Liam Lawson is preparing for what will likely be his final F1 appearance of 2023 at this weekend’s Qatar Grand Prix.

The New Zealander will remain in the Scuderia AlphaTauri in place of the still-recovering Daniel Ricciardo.

It marks his fifth event for the Italian team since being thrust into action midway through the Dutch Grand Prix in late August.

Despite a string of impressive performances, including a maiden points finish in Singapore, Lawson has learned he will not be on the F1 grid for 2024.

Instead, he faces a year on the sidelines ahead of a likely call-up for 2025.

“Obviously, my goal is to be in Formula 1 full-time, so as much as it’s disappointing, it’s still my goal, and it’s now about trying to make sure that I can make that happen in the future,” Lawson said.

“Right now, I’ve still got this opportunity to keep trying to show something, and I’ll try to make the most of it.”

Scuderia AlphaTauri introduced aerodynamic upgrades for the Singapore Grand Prix, designed to offer drivers greater stability.

Thus far, that upgrade has had a limited impact on the team’s fortunes.

The configuration of Marina Bay meant the upgrades had little influence there while at Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix Lawson admitted he struggled through the opening, high-speed part of the lap.

“I’m not sure how we’ll get on there or how the upgrades will work. I think it’s hard to say because where we struggled in Japan was mainly in the high speed, in Sector 1,” he explained.

“We still have more to learn about our new package, and I’m not so sure that Qatar is the type of circuit that will suit our car.

“Learning takes time, and we’ve got more opportunities in Qatar to try and get the most out of it.

“However, it’s also a Sprint weekend, so at the same time, that makes it quite tricky, especially in my situation.

“I’ve never driven here, so going into the sprint weekend will be extra tough.”

The 22-year-old has prepared for the event on Scuderia AlphaTauri’s simulator, giving him a feel for the Lusail International Circuit.

Formula 1 has visited the venue only once before, in 2021.

Since then, construction of an all-new pit and paddock complex has been completed, shifting the lane to the outside of the circuit.

“It’s very fast, a very high-speed circuit and quite unique, and I’ve not seen many tracks like it, as there’s only one low-speed corner in the whole track,” Lawson said of the layout.

“The rest is just fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh gear, so I think it’s going to be exciting to drive.

“With only one Free Practice session, we drivers will have to know where to improve because it’ll get faster at night when it’s much cooler, and we need to know exactly how to extract everything out of the car.

“I’m expecting it to be tougher than the races we’ve just done.”

A two-week break follows the Qatar Grand Prix, with Ricciardo expected to be confirmed for the United States GP which follows.

From there, Lawson will shift his focus from F1 to Super Formula in Japan, where the Kiwi sits second in the championship with one weekend of racing left.

“For now, as long as this lasts, I’ll focus on it, and then once I step back from F1, it’ll be full focus on preparing for the final round of the Super Formula championship at Suzuka on the weekend of the Mexican Grand Prix,” he said.

“It’ll be very different adjusting back to the car, but it’s certainly been useful having driven so many laps at Suzuka throughout the Grand Prix weekend.”

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