At the hands of every great driver is a great machine, and its that machine New Zealander Liam Lawson will get to drive as he takes the wheel of 2022 world champion Max Verstappen’s Red Bull in FP1 of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The drive comes as a surprise to few following widespread reports of it earlier in the week but only now has it been confirmed.
Despite the Constructors Championship team not announcing which car Lawson will drive, teams are required to make both drivers sit out at least one practice session per season in place of a rookie driver.
Sergio Perez sat out of FP1 in Spain for former reserve driver Juri Vips whilst Verstappen is yet to miss his session, all but confirming the Kiwi’s car for tonight.
Verstappen has driven the car to unprecedented heights this season, claiming a record 14 wins in arguably the most successful ever Formula 1 season to date.
Lawson, meanwhile, has had his own successes this year, winning three F2 Sprint Races and featuring on the podium a further four times.
The 20-year-old has featured in practice sessions twice already with FP1 runs in Belgium and Mexico earlier in the season. The Kiwi drove cleanly both instances and was the top placed rookie driver out of the five that ran at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez.
Both of those runs were for AlphaTauri, Red Bull’s feeder team. This weekend’s run is a major step up to a world-renowned team with a much faster car.
There’ll also be several other rookies in the session tonight, Robert Schwartzman replacing Carlos Sainz at Ferrari, Patricio O’Ward stepping in for Lando Norris at McLaren, Mick Doohan for Fernando Alonso at Alpine, Felipe Drugovich for Lance Stroll at Aston Martin, Logan Sargeant in an unconfirmed Williams and Enzo Fittipaldi for Mick Schumacher at Haas.
Robert Kubica will also return in practice, replacing Guanyu Zhou at Alfa Romeo.
The drive comes as reassurance of the outfit’s faith in the Kiwi despite overlooking him for the more experienced Nyck de Vries for a full-time AlphaTauri drive next season.
Whilst there’s no confirmation as to what 2023 brings for Lawson, comments made by Red Bull junior team boss Helmut Marko indicated a year in Japan is on the cards in Super Formula.
Tonight’s practice session will be a great opportunity to see how Lawson matches up against the best of the best ahead of that.
There’s no doubt we’ll see Lawson back in a Formula 1 car sooner rather than later as his career continues to build.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix FP1 coverage gets underway at 10:30PM tonight live on Spark Sport.