Liam Lawson’s F1 Chance Approaches As Pressure Builds on Ricciardo

New Zealand driver Liam Lawson is poised to secure a permanent spot in Formula One as early as May, with Red Bull reportedly considering a change involving Daniel Ricciardo, who currently drives for their subsidiary team, Racing Bulls.

According to sources, Red Bull’s head of driver development, Dr. Helmut Marko, an admirer of Lawson, has issued an ultimatum to Ricciardo. If Ricciardo fails to demonstrate improvement in the next two Grand Prix races in Japan and China, Red Bull is prepared to make a swap.

This move would likely see Lawson taking Ricciardo’s seat at Racing Bulls for the Miami Grand Prix and continuing with the team for the remainder of the season.

Internally, Lawson is viewed as Red Bull’s top choice to partner with reigning world champion Max Verstappen in the long term. This consideration is particularly significant as Sergio Perez’s contract with the team is set to expire at the conclusion of the 2024 season.

Despite being only 22 years old, Lawson made a strong impression during his limited appearances in Formula One last year. However, he was overlooked by Red Bull’s decision-makers for a seat at Racing Bulls, as the junior team opted to retain Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda as its driver lineup.

Since 2022, Lawson has served as Red Bull’s reserve driver for both of its Formula One teams. However, Ricciardo’s underwhelming performance at the start of this season has intensified pressure on him to retain his seat as Red Bull looks ahead to the future.

Tsunoda’s position appears secure, given his ties to Honda, Red Bull’s engine supplier through 2025.

Perez, currently second in the driver’s championship behind Verstappen, is also likely to stay with Red Bull for the remainder of the season. Meanwhile, Ricciardo has yet to score any points after the first three races of the season.

He has also been outperformed by Tsunoda in qualifying sessions in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Australia, where he failed to advance to the second round of qualifying for the first time in his career at Melbourne’s Albert Park.

Lawson’s stock rose significantly after Ricciardo suffered a broken hand during the 2023 Dutch Grand Prix.

In subsequent races with then-AlphaTauri, Lawson delivered impressive performances, including knocking Verstappen out of qualifying in Singapore and finishing ninth in the race, marking AlphaTauri’s best result of the season.

Despite not being retained for the 2024 season, Lawson remained focused and prepared to step into the Red Bull car whenever called upon, as he shared with the Herald earlier this year.

“In terms of what I’ll be driving and when I’ll be driving, that’s still to be set out,” he stated.

“I’d love to be behind the wheel of a Formula One car and we’re all working towards trying to make that happen – whether it’s testing or racing – but right now nothing is confirmed.”

Red Bull has earned a reputation for its uncompromising approach to managing its drivers, spanning both its primary and junior squads.

In the 2022 season, Nyck de Vries was chosen ahead of Lawson for the second seat at AlphaTauri. However, de Vries was dismissed midway through the following season, creating an opportunity for Ricciardo to make his comeback.