Lawson admits “bad start” cost him a chance of points at F1 Italian GP

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Liam Lawson’s second-ever Formula 1 grand prix as a stand-in for the injured Daniel Ricciardo proved to be a very impressive one, as he finished in 11th place at the 2023 Italian GP and just missed out on a points finish – but he believes more would have been possible without a “bad start” in which he lost ground off the line and ending up behind Nico Hülkenberg.

Photo Credit: Scuderia AlphaTauri

The New Zealander qualified in an impressive 12th place – and gained one place off the line already after his team-mate Yuki Tsunoda had to retire his AT04 on the formation lap with an issue on his RBPT power unit – but lost places to Nico Hulkenberg and Valtteri Bottas as the lights went out, and from there onwards had to battle his way in what he described as a “bad start” which cost him a better shot at points in only his second F1 start.

Speaking to selected media after the race in Italy last week, Lawson admitted he was “disappointed” to miss out on scoring points and pointed to his poor start as the main reason he “lost the chance” of a better finish:

“[I felt] more comfortable [in the car], but just a little bit disappointed with the race, I think we maybe had the pace for points – I’m not sure, we’ll have to look into it – but I had a bad start, that’s where I think we really lost the chance. But yeah, a bit disappointed to be so close.”

Whilst his start performance didn’t live up to his own expectations, he drove a very intelligent race to keep himself right in the fringes of the points-paying positions throughout the race, and even fended off a charging Oscar Piastri in the later stages of the race after the Australian had to pit for repairs following his clash with Lewis Hamilton.

“Obviously he came in with fresh tyres and it was a lot faster,” Lawson said of the charging McLaren driver that he held off to finish 11th. “But they didn’t have very good straight-line speed, so it sort of protected me a bit.”

Despite being disappointed with the final race result, the 21-year-old is certain that the longer build-up time with simulator work and the three practice sessions compared to the one he got at the Dutch GP meant he was “much better prepared” for his second F1 grand prix outing:

“[I was] much, much more prepared, to be honest,” he said of his Italian GP weekend compared to his debut at Zandvoort. “But unfortunately not enough to fight for points today, so yeah, it definitely helped with all the work we did leading up, I feel much more comfortable in the car.”

When asked about the specific challenges of F1, he explained that the physical aspect is tougher compared to his Japanese Super Formula outings due to longer races, and how the very complex steering “takes time” to learn:

“It was warm, it was very, very warm,” he said. “These races are longer than I’m used to as well, so definitely adjusting, but yeah, I feel good in the car.

“It’s also something I’ve been working towards for a while obviously,” he explained of the physicality of longer races. “So for Singapore obviously I have no idea what’s going to happen right now, so I’ll prepare like normal, but we’ll wait and see.

“[With] procedures, there’s a lot to do behind the wheel of the car, and it’s obviously better if you don’t have to look down at what you’re doing, and that’s something that takes a little bit of time.”

Since this interview, Lawson has been all-but-confirmed on the AlphaTauri for the next race in Singapore at least, with team principal Christian Horner telling selected media that it would be “optimistic” to think Daniel Ricciardo will be back for the Japanese GP in late September, and the Kiwi driver was already confirmed to keep the seat until Ricciardo is fit to race:

“Singapore, I don’t think there’s any chance we’ll be ready for then,” Horner said. “I think it will be optimistic for Japan, but I think his recovery is going well, he’s got obviously mobility of the hand he’s into rehabilitation now.”