Liam Lawson admits he thought a points finish was “slipping away” when the recovering Red Bulls overtook him in the latter stages of Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix.
The Kiwi racer was embarking upon his third F1 outing for AlphaTauri in place of the sidelined Daniel Ricciardo, who will also miss this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.
Despite having never previously driven at the Marina Bay Circuit, Lawson excelled around the technical track to secure a first Q3 appearance at the expense of World Champion Max Verstappen by only 0.007s.
After being frustrated at not maximising his Q3 laps to wound up slowest in the top 10 shootout, the Red Bull-affiliated driver rued getting away sluggishly from the line in Sunday’s race, despite eventually clawing his way back to ninth at the chequered flag.
“For me, the start I need to get on top of because it’s now two weekends in a row that I’ve watched the start, basically, and lost a couple of positions,” he conceded.
“It’s just making our life more difficult, so that’s really the biggest loss of the race, and that’s on my part.
“For the rest, I think we extracted everything out of the car.
“We didn’t quite have the race pace to be honest, we kind of felt going into the race it was going to be a little bit difficult because we felt this on Friday as well, but we tried to correct it as much as we could, so I think we maximised.”
Having dropped to 12th and remained there until the first round of pit stops, Lawson was able to navigate his way up the order, taking advantage of other drivers’ misfortune.
Lawson recounts that he believed he could accrue a top-10 finish with one-thirds distance remaining but was wary of the opportunity getting away when both of the Red Bulls clawed their way past.
However, a tangle involving Sergio Perez and Alex Albon at Turn 13 took the Williams driver out of the running before George Russell’s last-lap crash enabled Lawson to gain an additional place to seize ninth.
Asked when a points position became a realistic possibility in his mind, Lawson said: “I think when maybe 20 laps to go before Max and the Red Bulls were coming back. At that point, I thought we had a chance, then I felt like it was slipping away again.
“I guess when Checo and Albon had their fight, and Albon went back, that was when I felt a bit more I guess comfortable that like we could at least score P10,” he added.
“Obviously it was a bonus – I mean, not a bonus to see somebody crash out for George, but for us obviously it means we get an extra point.”
AlphaTauri CEO Peter Bayer confirmed after the race that Lawson would remain in the AT04 in Japan, with Ricciardo potentially back in time for the Qatar Grand Prix.
Lawson says he intends to “maximise every race, every session” whilst he is called on.
“Today that was points, which is great,” he continued. “We’ll try and do even more hopefully in the future, if I get the chance to drive again.”