Liam Lawson’s incredible Formula 1 debut reached another high in Singapore overnight when he claimed his first world championship points to become just the sixth New Zealand driver in history to do so.
In only his third-ever Formula 1 start Lawson began the weekend with an outstanding qualifying session that saw him place his Scuderia AlphaTauri car tenth on the starting grid having survived the cut-throat elimination sessions to not only make Q3 but also out-qualify Red Bull’s current world champion Max Verstappen.
A slow getaway saw Lawson drop two places at the start but as the race wore on he edged his way back towards the top-ten points scoring places and moved up as high as eighth before taking the chequered flag in ninth to claim two championship points.
“I would have liked a few more Grands Prix to prepare for this one, but obviously when you get the opportunity, you have to take it with both hands. Honestly that’s what I’m trying to do, and today was fantastic,” said Lawson at the finish of the most physically demanding race on the calendar, held in extremely hot and humid conditions on the Marina Bay Street Circuit.
“I’m happy with the race, and I definitely gave it everything because I think we maximised the car’s performance. I need to look at the start because it’s been two weekends in a row that I lost positions, so it makes our lives harder.”
In one of the most intensely fought races so far this season, and on a track that is difficult to pass, on the 21-year-old Kiwi was the only AlphaTauri car to reach the end of the 62 lap race after his team-mate Yuki Tsunoda made an early exit with a punctured tyre after contact at the start of the race.
“We stayed out of trouble for the rest of the race and kept it clean. It’s hard when you’re struggling for pace, trying to maximise your tools and get everything out of it, so the race was physically demanding. At the end of the day, I’m really happy to have scored two points.”
Of the four drivers to race this season for the Italian-based team, only Tsunoda had scored points in the 16 rounds so far with three to his name. Lawson now has two points after three races while both the injured Daniel Ricciardo and sacked Dutchman Nyck de Vries have failed to score.
It looks likely that Lawson will continue in the car at next weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka while Ricciardo continues to recover from his accident at the Dutch GP which resulted in multiple fractures to his hand.
Scuderia AlphaTauri’s technical director Jody Egginton was impressed with Lawson’s drive and the upgrades the team introduced at Singapore to improve the AT04’s performance.
“Liam did a fantastic job of managing his tyres, making moves where possible and returning consistent lap time,” said Egginton.
“He was defending against several cars and performed some strong moves to keep in the points and bring the car home for very well-deserved first F1 points. Everyone at Faenza and Bicester has been working flat out to deliver this update, and tonight’s points-scoring result is a good reward for the big efforts made by the factory, trackside and drivers. It’s been a very busy weekend, but we’re all looking forward to Japan and taking the next step in extracting performance from this update and the aero parts which will follow.”
The other five New Zealanders to score world championship points are Bruce McLaren (188.5), Chris Amon (83), Denny Hulme (248), Howden Ganley (10) and Brendon Hartley (4).
Formula 1 GP, Singapore 2023 Results – Top six + Lawson
- Carlos Sainz Jr )Ferrari)
- Lando Norris (McLaren) +0.812s
- Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +1.269s
- Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +21.177s
- Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +21.441
- Pierre Gasly (Alpine) +38.441s
- Liam Lawson (AlphaTauri) +65.918s