Former racing driver Johnny Herbert is of the opinion that AlphaTauri made the wrong move by keeping Daniel Ricciardo instead of reserve driver Liam Lawson who displayed an impressive F1 debut performance in the last few Grand Prix.
Lawson took control of the AT-04’s wheel after Riccardo suffered an injury to his left hand during the Dutch GP qualifying. Since then, the New Zealander scored his first points on a tricky track like the Marina Bay Street Circuit in Singapore. Despite the points finish and impressive qualifying, Red Bull extended the contracts of Yuki Tsunoda and Ricciardo for 2024. Once the latter is back on the grid after his recovery, Lawson will get back to resuming reserve driver duties for AlphaTauri and the Milton Keynes outfit. Just recently, Lawson revealed that he was a ‘Red Bull driver’ when asked if he would be willing to take on a Williams seat. But, the 21-year-old might have to wait for a year or more for his full-time F1 entry.
Herbert, who is also a former Sky F1 Pundit, believes that Red Bull made the wrong choice by not handing the seat alongside Tsunoda to Lawson. He wrote in Motor Sport Magazine:
“Team-mate Yuki Tsunoda has done a good job too – but I feel Liam already has taken control at AlphaTauri. For me, he earned a seat for 2024.
“I don’t agree with the decision of AlphaTauri to bring Daniel Ricciardo back for next year. Is he the future? No, Liam is the future.
“I understand that Daniel didn’t get a proper go at it before breaking his [hand] at Zandvoort, but in the time he had on his return there was no ‘wow factor.’
“I’d say there has been with Liam. He has something that looks pretty special.
“I think it should have been a Lawson/Tsunoda line-up at AlphaTauri next year. After all, it’s a junior team that exists to [nurture] young talent.”
What impressed Herbert the most was the way Lawson entered the grid and got onto his business with immediate effect. He added:
“I’m impressed with what I’ve seen from Liam Lawson because in a very short space of time, he has been able to adjust to the bubble of Formula 1.
“What I like is that ability to jump in and do the job straight away. It’s actually a rare thing when someone gets a hold of a car and does what we actually expect of them.
“Lawson has shown speed when there’s pressure because he’s been racing to prove he’s worthy of keeping the drive. He hasn’t had the luxury of time to settle in.
“In Singapore, at what most drivers say is the most difficult track on the calendar both physically and mentally, he was very impressive and scored his first points in his third grand prix.”
Herbert also pointed out that Lawson’s performance at Marina Bay was not a one-off. “He didn’t just get lucky on a chaotic day. He consistently showed his speed and racecraft throughout the weekend. AlphaTauri had a gem on their hands, and in my view, they should have secured him for a full-time seat next year.”
The former F1 driver acknowledged that Daniel Ricciardo’s experience and reputation played a role in Red Bull’s decision, but he argued that the sport should also prioritize nurturing young talents. “We can’t just stick to the same old faces. Formula 1 thrives on new blood and fresh talent. Liam Lawson is the kind of talent that can inject excitement into the sport. He’s got the potential to be the next big thing.”
Herbert concluded by saying that while Ricciardo is undoubtedly a great driver, it’s crucial to think about the future. “Daniel has had his time in F1, and he’s undoubtedly a talented driver. But the sport evolves, and so should the teams. Red Bull missed an opportunity to make a bold move that could have shaken up the grid. In my book, Liam Lawson should have been in that AlphaTauri for the long haul.”