“Liam Will Be Sidelined”: As Daniel Ricciardo Returns, Williams TP Predicts Red Bull’s Unjustness

Published 10/13/2023, 1:53 PM EDT

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Remember when Nico Hulkenberg played super-sub for Sergio Perez at the 70th Anniversary GP in 2020? He qualified in P3 in a Racing Point! Or do you remember when George Russell filled in for Lewis Hamilton at the 2020 Sakhir GP and was oh-so-close to winning his maiden race? Or even when Nyck de Vries was a substitute for Alexander Albon at the Italian GP last season? He scored points on his F1 debut in a Williams—albeit those were his only points in F1. The point is that super-subs in F1 have made it almost a norm to do well while acting as substitutes. That’s precisely what Liam Lawson has done, too.

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With his performance at the Italian GP, de Vries impressed Red Bull and earned himself a seat at AlphaTauri this season. But he didn’t deliver, and Daniel Ricciardo replaced him, not as a substitute but as a full-time driver. Even before he got into the groove, though, Ricciardo fractured his hand, and in came Liam Lawson. He came dressed to impress, did what he had to, and is leaving a hero—leaving being the keyword. Now that his tenure is up, will Lawson be sidelined just like Red Bull reject – de Vries?

Liam Lawson doesn’t deserve to be left hanging without an F1 seat

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After the summer break, Daniel Ricciardo was all dialed in to get back into the racing rhythm. Zandvoort, though, had different plans for him. During practice, Ricciardo fractured his left hand in a freak accident, writing himself off for the foreseeable future. That foreseeable future will end at the US GP next weekend. For the five race weekends he was recovering, Lawosn stepped in and did a brilliant job to help AlphaTauri. But more than anything, he helped strengthen his case for an F1 seat.

He started his stint with a commendable performance in the changing weather conditions at the Dutch GP. The following week, he impressed again at Monza. But the week that followed was his best as a sub. In the Singapore GP—his first time racing at Marina Bay—he outqualified every other Red Bull driver and secured AlphaTauri’s best result of the season with a P9. Capping off his first F1 stint at the Qatar GP, Lawson raised eyebrows up and down the paddock. But now that his time is up, Williams’ team principal, James Vowles, feels Red Bull’s treatment toward him won’t be different from that toward de Vries. 

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In an interview with F1, Vowles said, “I think we as a sport have a responsibility to perhaps relook at the rules and say, ‘How do we introduce rookie drivers to it?’ You can see Liam will be sidelined, but I think he’s absolutely deserving of a seat on this grid. It’s a reflection of these difficult Sprint race formats, followed by one-hour sessions, followed by a lack of opportunity to grow.” It’s true. The path into F1 is almost as difficult as sustaining in it. Lawson, though, made it look like he belonged here. But because there aren’t any seats for him with Red Bull at the moment, it could very well lead to the Milton-Keynes team leaving him hanging. 

Helmut Marko Revives Liam Lawson’s F1 Hopes Days After Extending Daniel Ricciardo’s AlphaTauri Stay

Lawson doesn’t have a seat in F1 for 2024. He knows that, and he’s accepted it. But that didn’t stop him from making his feelings known. And it also didn’t stop him from being self-critical of his performance on his last race weekend.

Lawson doesn’t want to sit on the sidelines in 2024

Two weekends after his scintillating Singapore showing, AlphaTauri decided on its 2024 lineup. At the Japanese GP, the team announced it’d retain Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda for 2024, writing off Lawson’s chances for a seat. When the rookie heard about it, he spoke to Motorsport about it. He said, “I wouldn’t be happy to go back to being reserve, but obviously, I know how hard it is to get into Formula 1. Obviously, I want to be in Formula 1. Now I have this chance. I’m trying to do everything I can to show I can be here.” While he did his best and is leaving after giving teams something to think about, he couldn’t help but beat himself up about his Qatar GP showing.

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Last weekend wasn’t how Lawson wanted to end his first F1 stint. The Sprint weekend started with a practice session followed by qualifying. He could only manage a P18. On Saturday, though, things looked better. But only in the Sprint Shootout, where he qualified in P14. His Sprint ended just as soon as it started as he spun out. Sunday didn’t go any better, especially after a first-lap collision, owing to which he finished last. After the race, Lawson said, “Obviously, you want to go out on a high, so this is pretty tough to finish. The races up until this point were going pretty well, but this definitely doesn’t help. I think it’s pretty disappointing to finish my run of races like this.”

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Watch This Story: Daniel Ricciardo faces Red Bull prodigy threat in F1 return

What did you think of the run Liam Lawson had in F1? Will Red Bull really sideline him?

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Written by:

Aditi Krishnan

757Articles

One take at a time

Aditi is an F1 writer at EssentiallySports and is essentially a sportsperson. She fell in love with F1 in 2020. It happened when her brother tuned into that first race weekend in Austria, and she knew right then and there that she had to learn everything she could about the sport.
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Edited by:

Akash Pandhare

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