Liam Lawson confirmed for Grand Prix weekend debut at Spa

Thomas Maher
Liam Lawson at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Budapest, July 2022.

Red Bull's Liam Lawson at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Budapest, July 2022.

Red Bull junior Liam Lawson will take to the track during a Formula 1 Grand Prix for the first time this weekend.

The Kiwi racer, who drives for Carlin in Formula 2, is a Red Bull junior driver and is being given the session as every team is required to give two first practice sessions to junior drivers (regarded as drivers who have taken part in two Grands Prix or fewer).

Red Bull Racing have already given a practice session to Juri Vips, who took part in first practice at the Spanish Grand Prix back in May. This means they are still required to hand out another session between now and the end of the year.

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Liam Lawson has his seat fitting

Lawson took part in the Young Driver Test at the Yas Marina circuit at the end of the 2021 season, driving AlphaTauri’s AT02. With his Grand Prix weekend participation confirmed, the 20-year-old was thrilled to be able to say he’s getting back in an F1 car for the first time in 2022.

“[I’m] super excited to say I’ll be doing my first FP1 this weekend at Spa,” he said, in a video posted to AlphaTauri’s social media.

“I honestly couldn’t think of a better place to do it, there’s going to be a very exciting feeling. [It’s an] historic track and a place that I’ve always enjoyed driving. So in a Formula 1 car is gonna be incredible.

“I’ve been doing a lot of sim work over the year as well, leading up to this, so I think the prep was really really good and, obviously, I had my first outing last year in December. Since then, honestly, I’ve been dying to get back in the car.”

Red Bull junior Liam Lawson runs in F2. Sochi September 2021.
Liam Lawson runs in Formula 2 in the Red Bull-liveried Hitech GP car. Sochi September 2021.

Lawson explained that he had done a fresh seat fitting, having “messed up” the one he did with the team last December.

“So I’m really, really excited – I did my seat [fitting] today,” he said.

“[I] nailed it first try, which is not normal for me, honestly, so just excited to get going!

“The last time I did the seat fit, at the end of last year, I messed up. The first one wasn’t quite perfect, we had to change a few things.

“So normally, I’m quite a perfectionist when it comes to seats. I have a bit of OCD on how symmetrical it needs to be. Today, for the first time ever, it was perfectly symmetrical, and really, really nice to sit in. So that was definitely a success!”

Lawson now Red Bull’s junior priority?

With Red Bull having run Juri Vips in the RB18 earlier this season, the team are still required to place another unproven driver in the car at some point over the final nine race weekends of the season.

It’s not quite clear whether Vips remains part of the Red Bull junior programme, although the team have dropped him as their official reserve and development driver. The Estonian became the focus of an internal investigation after a video emerged of him using a racial slur while gaming online with Lawson.

While it initially appeared as though Red Bull had severed ties with Vips, team boss Christian Horner said Vips would continue to receive help in the form of “mental health and education” backing, although programme leader Helmut Marko has said Vips has been completely cut off.

Either way, it’s not likely that Vips will get the call to run Red Bull’s second junior practice session – meaning Lawson could get that chance.

However, Red Bull do have plenty of current Formula 2 racers who could take part in the required sessions – for either RBR or AlphaTauri. Dennis Hauger, Ayumu Iwasa, and Jehan Daruvala are all currently racing in F2 – Daruvala is currently the highest placed, running in fifth in the championship.