19 Nov 2022

Lawson's Formula One drive praised by Verstappen

7:11 am on 19 November 2022

Double world champion Max Verstappen has hailed the contribution of New Zealand driver Liam Lawson after putting Red Bull at the top of the time sheets in the final Formula One Friday practice of the year at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Liam Lawson.

Liam Lawson. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Dutchman, who had handed his car to Red Bull reserve Liam Lawson during the afternoon's opening hour of running, lapped the 5.2-km long Yas Marina track in one minute 25.146 seconds.

Lawson received a boost this week when told he drive for the heavyweight team in the first practice session of this week.

The opportunity was another sign of how highly regarded the Pukekohe racer was within the Red Bull ranks, despite the team handing Dutch driver Nyck de Vries the vacant seat at sister team Alpha Tauri for 2023.

Abu Dhabi is 20-year-old Lawson's third practice session in the top tier this season, after turning out for Alpha Tauri in Mexico and Belgium.

He was fifth-fastest in the first session and his solid drive received praise from Verstappen.

"I think the car was in a good window. Liam did a very good job in FP1, just calm and steady, so that's all what we want, right?," Verstappen told Formula1.com.

"Then FP2, no real problems, the car was in a good window, we tried a few things and in the long run also the car was working quite well, so I'm pretty happy with that."

Lawson said the session was one to remember.

"Obviously, a cool experience for me. First time officially in the Red Bull, so I was a little bit nervous, honestly, before the session, but the car was really, really good," he said.

"I would love to have another go after what I found is a big jump from hards to softs in terms of lap time, so getting ready for that was a bit tough, but overall, I think it was a good session."

Red Bull motorsport advisor Dr Helmut Marko confirmed this week that Lawson would leave Formula 2 and race in the Japan-based Super Formula series next year.

Meanwhile, George Russell, who took his maiden Formula One win ahead of team mate Lewis Hamilton in a Mercedes one-two last week in Brazil, was second 0.341 seconds behind Verstappen, with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc third.

Verstappen, who wrapped up a second title with four races to spare at the Japanese Grand Prix last month, heads into the weekend hunting for a record-extending 15th victory of the season at the track where he clinched his first title with a controversial win last year.

- RNZ/Reuters