Liam Lawson was thrown in at the deep end at Zandvoort, after being handed his Grand Prix debut in place of the injured Daniel Ricciardo – with the New Zealander reflecting on a “very challenging” first ever qualifying session with AlphaTauri.
Lawson was announced as Ricciardo’s replacement on Friday night of the Dutch Grand Prix weekend, after Ricciardo – who only returned to the cockpit two races ago in Budapest – broke his hand in a Free Practice 2 crash.
With Lawson afforded just one wet practice session to get up to speed around the challenging Zandvoort track, it was unsurprising to see the New Zealand Super Formula racer out in Q1, with Lawson reflecting on his baptism-of-fire Saturday at the end of qualifying.
“It was very challenging!” he told the media after netting P20 on the grid. “Obviously, it’s very exciting. Firstly, I feel for Daniel, you never want to see something like this.
2023 Dutch GP FP3: Rookie Liam Lawson taps barrier after spin at Turn 13
“Obviously for me it’s a huge opportunity, so it’s very exciting, but it’s been a very challenging day. Especially with the conditions like this, trying to get used to the [intermediate tyre] as I hadn’t driven it before. To be honest, I was feeling pretty comfortable in the first part of quali, but when it rained again, we put that second set on and I didn’t quite extract all of it.”
With Lawson now set to become the 10th New Zealander to start a Grand Prix – and the first since Brendon Hartley at the same Toro Rosso/AlphaTauri squad in 2018 – Lawson admitted that keeping his nose clean was his sole focus ahead of his first F1 race.
“A clean race,” he replied, when asked what his target for Sunday was – with Lawson having brought out red flags in FP3 after a spin and brush with the wall. “If it’s going to be dry, I am going to have to relearn everything again with the dry tyre. I think a clean race is the team’s target – and my target.”
Qualifying Highlights: 2023 Dutch Grand Prix