Williams’ James Vowles has spoken about the possibility of his team signing Liam Lawson, as AlphaTauri’s driver struggle continues.
Lawson has become a hot prospect on the driver market in recent weeks, thanks to his impressively strong three races so far as a stand-in for the injured Daniel Ricciardo.
Scoring his first points last time out in Singapore as he finished ninth, the Kiwi driver has made it clear he wants a full-time seat for 2024 – but all the indications are that AlphaTauri are set to confirm Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda for next season.
Could Liam Lawson be a Williams prospect?
AlphaTauri may even confirm Tsunoda at this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, his home race, meaning that Lawson’s options for 2024 are very slim. One possibility is a move to Williams, in place of the unconfirmed Logan Sargeant as the American driver struggles to find the form necessary to secure another year.
Williams are understood to have evaluated Mick Schumacher already in their simulator, while Lawson is the latest candidate to replace Sargeant. Pressed on the matter, Williams’ team boss James Vowles said he’s waiting to see what Red Bull do in regards to their driver line-up before making any decisions.
“He’s been impressive in his few races,” Vowles told Sky F1, when asked about Lawson.
“Obviously, if we wind back a bit, Logan and him were teammates back in F2 and both finished nigh-on together in the F2 Championship. So we have a direct comparison of the two of them in that environment.
“What we don’t have at the moment is that it’s different cars, different situations. It’s knowing how it really compares between an AlphaTauri and a Williams at this stage. Nonetheless, to keep his head in Singapore was a strong job.
“What will be interesting is just simply Red Bull have a number of drivers with just two seats. It’ll be interesting to see where they go with their decision-making now.”
With Lawson having been very impressive during his three Grand Prix weekends so far, Vowles said immediate performance is only one facet of what makes a driver strong.
“The main things you are looking for is this – the performance is what I think everyone can probably see on TV – that’s lap times,” he said.
“But the question of how they can cope with the continued and ever-increasing pressure that comes with being monitored as a Formula 1 driver is actually worth looking at as much as anything else.
“What you’re looking for is the distinct improvement from the beginning of the season to where they are now or when they started racing to now.”
Christian Horner: Liam Lawson ‘will be a Grand Prix driver’
Faced with the prospect of Lawson trying to strike out on his own if Red Bull aren’t able to find him a race seat, Christian Horner was effusive in praise for the Kiwi during Friday’s press conference at Suzuka.
“I think he’s done an outstanding job,” he said.
“I mean, dropped in in the rain in Zandvoort – that was a bit of an eye-opener for him, but I thought he did well there.
“Then a week later in Monza, he was unlucky to miss out on a point. Then seeing Singapore for the first time and scoring a couple of points, he’s a gritty racer. We know that about him and I think he’s grabbed this opportunity in Formula 1 that very seldom do drivers get a chance to demonstrate their talent.
“I think he’s done a tremendous job and certainly has put himself firmly on the radar and cemented the feeling that we had about him and he’s made a good start to this weekend. We’ll see how that continues.”
Pressed on whether Lawson is deserving of a full-time seat in F1, perhaps with a team under Red Bull control, Horner re-iterated Helmut Marko’s assertion that they have a ‘luxury problem’ with too many drivers and too few seats.
“Three into two in that team obviously is an AlphaTauri issue, but it’s three great drivers and it’s a nice headache to have,” he said.
“He will be a Grand Prix driver. He already is a Grand Prix driver. At some stage, whether he has to wait a little for that or not, I think he’s demonstrating that he is a talent for the future.”
Might Red Bull be amenable to a loan situation for Lawson to join Williams?
“He’s in the Red Bull family,” Horner said.
“I mean, if there was a seat, I think there’s only one seat left available. We’ve done that in the past when, for example, Carlos Sainz went on loan to the previous Renault team.
“But no, I think if he’s not sitting in a Grand Prix car next year, then he’s gonna have plenty on his plate with other stuff to do.”