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'I sucked at it': Lawson reflects on vital lesson on journey toward F1

Christopher Reive,
Publish Date
Thu, 2 May 2024, 2:29pm

'I sucked at it': Lawson reflects on vital lesson on journey toward F1

Christopher Reive,
Publish Date
Thu, 2 May 2024, 2:29pm

Liam Lawson has had to learn some valuable lessons.

As he sits in the Red Bull Racing and Visa Cash App RB [VCARB] Formula One teams as the reserve driver, in an admittedly frustrating position on the fringe of the sport’s pinnacle, the 22-year-old has reflected on one thing that has consistently proven to be true.

Not everything is going to be in the Kiwi driver’s control.

It’s a lesson Lawson has been learning and reminding himself of throughout his time in the sport, with the help of performance coach Enzo Mucci, who has been guiding him throughout his journey on the circuit.

It has been a particularly important relationship for Lawson as he has navigated the stresses and pressure of being a driver in the Red Bull Academy, a position which allowed him to pursue his dream.

“When I became a Red Bull driver, you’re trying to give the best result and show that you’re good enough to stay in the programme, but a lot of the time stuff would happen in the races that are out of my control and I would feel that potential my contract was slipping away, that I was being judged - in that first season especially,” Lawson told Red Bull’s Mind Set Win podcast.

“I was racing in FIA Formula 3. There were a couple of other Red Bull drivers in the championship but they weren’t in the same team as me and quite often we would be struggling as a team to qualify in the top 15, it was a real struggle. But then there were other RB drivers qualifying in the top five and having good results in other teams and that was something that I really struggled with. It was out of my control, but on paper I was getting annihilated by these other guys so that’s something Enzo and I worked on; focusing on stuff I could control and putting aside the stuff I couldn’t. Ultimately that just makes you drive better.”

Reflecting on his time in the early stages of his career on the F1 circuit, Lawson was critical of his performances, but noted just how big an impact the external factors would ultimately prove to be when he got on to the track.

“I sucked at it when I first started, especially in that first year. I made a lot of mistakes as a driver because of the pressure and stress I put on myself; unnecessary crashes, I was very emotional as well so after a result I felt wasn’t fair or was out of my control, I was very emotional about it. Especially towards Enzo; luckily he was good at dealing with all of that. The difference then, being a lot younger and new to all of that, to now, I’d like to say that I’m able to deal with that pressure and put aside those things that I can’t really control. When you’re making decisions at extreme speeds, it’s very split-second decisions and the strain that you’re putting on your mind, if you’re overthinking situations, you’re going to make mistakes, and I made a lot more mistakes then than I do now.”

Liam Lawson will be at the Miami Grand Prix this weekend as the reserve driver for Visa Cash App RB and Red Bull Racing. Photo / Getty Images
Liam Lawson will be at the Miami Grand Prix this weekend as the reserve driver for Visa Cash App RB and Red Bull Racing. Photo / Getty Images

Lawson’s relationship with Mucci has continued throughout his career, with the performance coach not only helping to mentor Lawson through the mental side of the sport, but also providing a sounding board for the young Kiwi.

Lawson said that in 2023, while in the Netherlands in his role as a reserve, he called Mucci to vent that he felt like his Formula 1 opportunity was “slipping away” and ask what he could do to avoid that happening.

He had to call Mucci back later that day after getting the call that he would be replacing Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who was injured during a practice session.

From that moment, Lawson knew he would be judged on his performances in the F1 car by the Red Bull brass as to whether he had a future in the sport, and what he had done in the past would hold little stock in comparison.

He went on to put together an impressive string of races, which saw him pick up his first F1 points and beat his AlphaTauri [now VCARB] teammate Yuki Tsunoda in three of the five Grand Prix he raced in.

While Ricciardo and Tsunoda were again signed as the VCARB drivers, there were plenty of calls for Lawson to get a fulltime seat and it is expected he will have one no later than the 2025 season, after again being signed as a reserve for 2024.

“At times it’s very frustrating and it’s not enjoyable as well at certain times, but it’s something that, knowing the opportunity that I have - especially being from New Zealand and how rare and hard it is to be on the edge of f1 - it’s just reminding myself that it’s a crazy opportunity I have,” Lawson said of his position.

“I have a different perspective having raced last year versus having never raced before, you never really know what it’s like. You imagine what it’s like to be in F1 but now that I’ve done it, it’s a different perspective. It’s a different perspective, so maybe it’s good and bad at the same time.”

Christopher Reive joined the Herald sports team in 2017, bringing the same versatility to his coverage as he does to his sports viewing habits.

This article was originally published on the NZ Herald here.

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