Liam Lawson admitted he was nervous when he pulled out of the garage for the first time during the Young Drivers’ Test at the Yas Marina Circuit on Tuesday, but the New Zealander said it was an ‘amazing day’ behind the wheel of the AT-02.
The Red Bull Junior Team member and FIA Formula 2 race winner was given the opportunity to test with Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda in Abu Dhabi, and Lawson finished second fastest overall having completed one hundred and twenty-five laps.
Lawson had experienced the car in the simulator but was taken aback by its pace, power and downforce levels when he got out on track, with all of these significantly more than he had been used to in junior formulae.
“What an amazing day, it’s incredible how unbelievably fast these cars are,” said Lawson. “I’ve obviously driven in the simulator before and when I’m there I always think that there’s no way that the car can actually be that quick in real life, but it really is.
“I want to say a huge thank you to Red Bull, Dr Marko and everyone that has made it possible to be here driving for Scuderia AlphaTauri today. This has been something that I’ve been dreaming about since I was a kid so it’s just incredible and I’m really, really happy.
“I was definitely nervous pulling out of the garage for the first time, I tried not to show it, but I definitely felt it. It took me a little while to get to full throttle but when I did I thought ‘holy moly that’s a lot of power!’ The biggest difference is just the downforce, there’s significantly more than anything I’m used to.”
Lawson said was good to work through different programmes on Tuesday, with the Kiwi being tasked with short and long run plans, while he was also able to rely on the feedback of his former Formula 3 team-mate Yuki Tsunoda, who raced for AlphaTauri throughout 2021.
“We worked on a lot of different things in the run plan today, both short and long runs with different tyres and one thing that was really cool and new to me was the live data,” he said. “The ability to have the team update me as I’m out on track was really interesting, although you couldn’t make a mistake without them knowing!
“Getting feedback from Yuki too was also really great, we’ve been team-mates before, so it was good to get his understandings and learnings and it was nice to be back driving with him again. I really didn’t want to get out of the car today, it’s been amazing to get my first taste of F1.”
“He gave us good feedback throughout the day” – Franz Tost
Team Principal Franz Tost said Lawson did a ‘very good job’ behind the wheel of the AT-02, and he showed himself to be competitive and reliable throughout the day.
Tost said Lawson was able to give a lot of positive feedback about the car, and although there will be an all-new machine for 2022 due to the change of regulations, he feels the data collected will still help the team heading into next year.
“Liam Lawson drove for us today in the Young Driver test and I must say he did a very good job, finishing 125 laps without any issues and his lap time was very competitive,” said Tost. “He gave us good feedback throughout the day, we ran a lot of different set-ups with him and have gathered lots of really strong data.
“This will help us further with the general understanding of the car, whilst we have a new car next year, all the data collected today will nevertheless help us in 2022. Liam did a really great job today.”