Liam Lawson reflects on ‘frustrating’ Charles Leclerc battle in ‘eventful’ F1 debut

Jamie Woodhouse
Liam Lawson, AlphaTauri, in the paddock. Netherlands, August 2023.

AlphaTauri driver Liam Lawson in the paddock at Zandvoort. Netherlands, August 2023.

Liam Lawson found himself in a ding-dong battle with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc on debut at the Dutch Grand Prix, a race which exposed him to almost every situation imaginable.

Drafted into the AlphaTauri line-up after Daniel Ricciardo sustained a hand injury in an FP2 crash, the rain already made for a tough qualifying debut for Lawson at Zandvoort, though on race day the challenges only intensified.

A fresh downpour arrived at the start to soak the track, forcing drivers to ditch the slick tyres after initially roughing it out, Lawson losing time in that exchange after AlphaTauri double-stacked him and team-mate Yuki Tsunoda in the pits, before then receiving a 10-second time penalty as he was judged while waiting to have impeded Kevin Magnussen.

Additional reporting by Sam Cooper

Liam Lawson felt more comfortable than day before

Despite all of that though, Lawson flourished as the race went on, ultimately scoring a P13 finish as he crossed the line three places up the road from Tsunoda.

Asked by media, including PlanetF1.com, to sum up his debut race, Lawson said: “It was a little bit sketchy. Conditions obviously were all over the place. Rolling up to the grid it started raining, definitely wasn’t the best feeling.

“But throughout the race, I mean, I was obviously learning a huge amount, so the first part wasn’t the best, we lost a lot of time with the stacking in the pit stop and in the penalty. That’s all part of it obviously.

“But the second half, I think I started to get a bit of feeling on the softs in the clean air and then on the inters as well, I felt a lot more comfortable than yesterday, that’s for sure.”

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Liam Lawson accepts ‘frustrating’ Charles Leclerc battle good experience

The Kiwi likely would not have expected to be fighting a Ferrari during the Dutch GP, but that is exactly what he did in a multi-lap battle where he traded positions with Leclerc, ultimately getting the better of the Monegasque driver after suffering a couple of re-passes.

Leclerc would later retire with floor damage, that of course contributing heavily to that drop in performance, though Lawson made it to the chequered flag, an achievement in itself considering everything that was thrown at him.

“Yeah, that was quite eventful to be fair,” he said of the Leclerc scrap.

“I think he was struggling a lot on the softs and every time I passed him, he just passed me back down the straight. So it was a little bit frustrating, but obviously it’s good to get experience.

“I feel like I had experience of every situation in that race with multiple pit stops, wheel-to-wheel racing, rain, dry. So it was a good learning experience.”

While not yet confirmed, it is highly likely Lawson will be back in the AlphaTauri AT04 for next weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, with Ricciardo now recovering from surgery which he underwent on Dutch GP race day.

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