New Zealand’s Liam Lawson was quickly moved to AlphaTauri‘s Faenza-based team when regular driver Daniel Ricciardo suffered an injury during a crash at Zandvoort last Friday. This sudden turn of events meant that Lawson was behind the wheel for the drenched FP3 session. This happened to be his first Formula 1 track experience in 2023 and his introduction to F1 intermediate tyres.
Despite a shaky run that involved a slight collision with the barricades, Lawson managed to complete the session. However, he did find himself placing last at 20th in the subsequent wet Q1 session, which inhibited his progression to the dry latter stages of qualifying. If Sunday’s race proceeds under dry conditions, it will mark Lawson’s first encounter with slick tyres in the 2023 AlphaTauri.
“Obviously tomorrow it’s looking potentially, if it’s dry, I’ve got to relearn everything again, because I haven’t driven in the dry,” Lawson revealed. Guided by his excitement yet well aware of the daunting road ahead, he knows there’s a lot to tackle. He further expressed a desire for a seamless race amidst trying conditions.
Adapting to the changeable conditions is set to be a “big learning curve”, according to Lawson. Having not conducted any long runs, understanding tyre performance remains a mystery to him. By the race’s end, however, he hopes to be far more at ease with the vehicle.
Lawson shared how the past few days rapidly unfolded after Ricciardo injured his hand in the FP2 session on Friday. “It was all very quick,” he stated. Upon witnessed the crash from the Red Bull garage, Lawson heartily felt for Ricciardo. Shortly after learning of Ricciardo’s injury, Lawson fully devoted himself to the drivers’ briefing.
The Kiwi driver already had previous experience driving on the Zandvoort track, courtesy of last year’s F2 race. That said, having been in Japan, Lawson missed out on the Red Bull and AlphaTauri joint preparatory session for Zandvoort at the Milton Keynes simulator, a routine activity for him at other racetracks.
“I was racing last weekend in Japan. So I flew straight here. Definitely would have loved to do more prep,” Lawson said about his preparation or lack thereof. At the same time, he viewed this opportunity as a long-awaited one and was determined to make the most of it.
Affirming the difficulty of adapting to the Formula 1 intermediate compound on his first day, Lawson said, “These conditions, getting the most out of the intermediate tyre – I haven’t driven the intermediate before so that was probably the most challenging part about today.” On further deliberation, he added, the performance of his first set of tyres in Q1 made him feel reasonably comfortable. That said, adapting to the changing weather conditions while managing the intermediate tyre left a lot to be desired.
Presently, Lawson is unsure about whether he will occupy the driver’s seat for the Italian GP next week, “I have no idea at this stage. Nothing is confirmed. Right now, I’m driving tomorrow. And that’s all I know.”