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Nine things you need to know about Red Bull Racing reserve driver Liam Lawson

Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing dominated at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix - but there was a hint of change in the air.

Oliver Bearman stepped in for Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz after being diagnosed with appendicitis, creating an opportunity for a rookie driver.

The 18-year-old Brit sparked conversation about the talent of young drivers who are keen to get a seat on the grid for 2025, such as Liam Lawson.

Bearman has a similar story to Lawson who drove for Alpha Tauri last year, replacing Daniel Ricciardo during his recovery from a hand injury.

Here, Planet Sport’s Ayla Vaughan picks out nine things you need to know about the latest Kiwi driver who hopes to break onto the F1 grid full-time sooner rather than later.

The reserve driver

Liam Lawson is the reserve driver for Red Bull Racing and Visa CashApp RB. He has had this role since 2022, allowing him to garner experience on the sidelines. However, Lawson joined the Red Bull Junior Team all the way back in February 2019. 

He made his first free practice debut at the 2022 Belgian Grand Prix, and proceeded to have many more in the following years, such as in Mexico and Abu Dhabi. This shows that he has had many chances to drive a F1 car before he had his stint driving for Alpha Tauri last year.

Despite not having a drive this year, Lawson will be crucial in his role as reserve driver in case he is needed to step in for either team should something happen to one of the four Red Bull affiliated drivers. 

Another important role of a reserve driver is the simulation work they do to test the car on every track and see where they could improve, which F1 drivers don’t have as much time for as reserve and test drivers do.

Lawson’s time in Formula 3 

He raced two years in F3 where he finished 11th in the 2019 season and fifth in the 2020 season. Whilst not achieving the best results as some other drivers, he got to experience what it was like to be a Red Bull junior driver who raced at the same tracks, on the same weekend as F1.

Lawson had many difficulties as a rookie in 2019 as the jump up to this category from Formula 4 can be quite challenging. Nonetheless, Lawson was the highest-scoring driver for his team, MP Motorsport, and scored all two of the team's podiums in 2019. 

He moved to race with the British team, Hitech Grand Prix, in 2020 where he had a much better season despite the effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He got his maiden victory in this series at the first race weekend in Austria. 

Lawson continued to show his talent as he scored six podiums and achieved three wins, a massive improvement from the year before. Yet again he finished higher than his team-mates, showing an emerging trend.

The step up to Formula 2

Similarly, he raced another two years in F2 before moving on to another racing series. Lawson continued to drive for Hitech Grand Prix as he was promoted to F2 in 2021. 

He finished ninth in the 2021 F2 season and third in the 2022 F2 season, a scenario that also occurred in F3 where he undoubtedly did better in his second year in the series.

Lawson had some more difficulties as a rookie in 2021 as the jump up to this next category is also not easy. Nonetheless, Lawson managed to get three podiums and achieved just one win. 

His results became more consistent as he scored points at almost every race except for three (besides his four retirements and one disqualification).

He moved to race with another British team, Carlin, in 2022 where he had a much better season. Lawson had his best season to date as he scored six podiums and achieved four wins. 

The championship was much tighter this year for the Kiwi as he finished just one point ahead of the current F1 driver for Williams, Logan Sargeant. 

As this part of his chapter closed, Lawson scored five wins in a total of 52 F2 races, matching the number of wins with current F1 driver for Stake F1/Sauber Zhou Guanyu. 

Despite not winning the championship in either F2 or F3, he improved every year and learned valuable lessons he would take with him in the future.

Moving to Super Formula

In 2023, Red Bull decided that Lawson should move to drive in Japan and compete in Super Formula. F1 driver for Alpine and former Red Bull junior, Pierre Gasly, also drove in Japan for a year before his F1 debut, showing that Red Bull always has a plan for its junior drivers. 

The team is also making the most of its final years of their engines being supplied by the Japanese Honda before they switch to the American Ford in 2026, in time for the newest set of regulations.

Lawson continued to improve himself as a racing driver, placing second in the 2023 Super Formula season as a rookie. Despite it being a much shorter season with nine races, compared to F2, Lawson had to learn completely new tracks as he had never raced in Japan before.

The aspect that shocked me most was that he won his first ever race in the championship, showing his raw talent no matter the track. He left his name on the record board and became the first driver to win on debut in Super Formula history.

He got another win later in the season and one second-place finish at the last race. Lawson became extremely consistent, an important skill, only finishing outside of the points on one occasion. He was also always consistent in qualifying which is essential to a good result in the race.

A promised seat on the grid 

Helmut Marko, head of Red Bull's driver development programme, has previously stated that the Kiwi driver will get a seat on the grid for the 2025 F1 season. Therefore, it shouldn’t be long before he can call himself an F1 driver. 

This means that Lawson only has to wait until next year for a seat at either Red Bull or the newly-named Visa CashApp RB. He is likely to first drive for the junior team as most have before being promoted to the big team, such as Verstappen, Alex Albon and Gasly. 

If he can perform to the high standards in F1 and Red Bull, then he could be promoted - but if he fails to compete with Verstappen, as Albon and Gasly did, then it won’t look good for his future.

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Red Bull Junior Team attitude

The Red Bull team is notoriously tough on its drivers as shown by the mid season switch in drivers, booting Nyck De Vries in favour of Ricciardo. Ricciardo’s poor performance at the start of this season could invite Lawson to similarly replace a driver mid season if the Australian’s results don’t improve.

Lawson is familiar with the pressure put onto a driver by Red Bull as since signing with them he has been on the top of his game. Being affiliated with a F1 team provides financial help as well as other forms of support to become the best driver possible, such as physical and mental training.

Therefore, Lawson understands the team’s expectations of him and is unlikely to be negatively impacted by this. He has been a team player and his loyalty to the team was further proven when he didn’t get a seat on the F1 grid this year as he wished, but still chose to continue to be a reserve driver for them.

Lawson’s brief time in F1

Lawson debuted at the Dutch Grand Prix in 2023, having only had one practice session before going into qualifying, as was the case for Bearman. This shorthand notice can help alleviate a rookie driver’s doubts about stepping into F1 as they have little time to think of much else, or question how they will perform.

In his three races for Alpha Tauri, he impressed many by finishing 13th in the Netherlands, 11th in Italy, ninth in Singapore, 11th in Japan and 17th in Qatar. These consistent results proved to Red Bull that he can perform well and be close to his team-mate, who at the time was Yuki Tsunoda, whomst also was his room-mate back in Milton Keynes (Red Bull HQ).

A stunning drive in Singapore

Lawson’s standout race driving for Alpha Tauri in F1 last year was the Singapore Grand Prix. Lawson was the only Red Bull driver to make it into Q3 for qualifying, and it is also where he scored his first points. 

Considering Singapore is one of the toughest races physically and to overtake, Lawson should be highly commended on his performance at his third ever F1 race. Singapore also became the only race a non-Red Bull driver won, showing how he was an anomaly with his fantastic result.

Lawson finished higher than his team-mate Tsunoda at every race he drove, except for the Qatar Grand Prix, showing he got up to speed with the car very quickly. 

Singapore particularly impressed me as a fan because he didn’t make any major mistakes at this tight and twisty street circuit, where Lance Stroll crashed in qualifying despite it being his seventh season driving in F1.

The social media generation

Furthermore, Lawson has his own YouTube channel, as many F1 and feeder series drivers do nowadays. It is relatively new, with his first video being posted just three months ago. 

So far he has mainly posted longer vlog-style videos, which are popular amongst younger drivers and fans.

He has an ongoing series with a car, the 2000 Subaru Forester S/tb, which he bought and tries to improve over various videos, to eventually transform it into a rally style car. 

In the first video, he says the finished car will eventually be auctioned off to charity. Fans also get an insight to his travels around the world, whether it be California, USA or Queenstown, New Zealand, whilst also showcasing his personality.

This brand he has started to create helps him shape his own image and gain more fans through social media. Since he is not competing in a championship this year, it is important for him to stay relevant and remain in people’s minds as a future F1 driver in the coming years.

READ MORE: Helmut Marko: RB driver Daniel Ricciardo needs to show improvement

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