How it compares to decisive Ricciardo run –


Liam Lawson is set to make his first test of Red Bull’s 2024 Formula 1 car on Thursday, drawing comparisons to Daniel Ricciardo’s dramatic run last year, amid the possibility of another mid-season driver change.

Ricciardo earned his call-up to Red Bull’s second team 12 months ago, replacing Nyck de Vries after a successful test in the 2023 Red Bull RB19 car confirmed his return.

This time around, Red Bull Racing could be in for a shock change, with underperforming Sergio Perez facing increasing pressure to keep his seat.

While Perez has two races before the summer break to end a poor run of results, Lawson has a big chance to prove himself at this round with Red Bull and another test at the end of the month in the 2022 car with Red Bull.

That makes this a crucial month for Red Bull and its drivers – but Lawson’s tests will be very different in what they will involve, and none of them will be like Ricciardo’s a year ago.

Red Bull Lawson Test

Lawson will get a limited chance to run in the 2024 Red Bull car on Thursday at Silverstone as it is a promotional event – often referred to in Formula 1 as a film day.

This is one of the few ways to test a modern Formula 1 car during the year outside of pre-season and post-season testing.

While such events are technically defined as “used for purely marketing or promotional purposes,” they are often used for teams to evaluate various things. Early in the year, for example, they are used to test new cars.

In this case, Red Bull says it’s a long-planned “aerodynamic test” of Lawson’s car.

Red Bull are trying to downplay the significance of the test, and it’s true that there are limits to what can be learned from it. It’s limited to just 200km of running, using Pirelli’s ‘Academy’ tyres – a different, lower-performance specification than those used on race weekends.

Since so much information about the test must be provided to the FIA ​​and all competing teams in advance – and observers from these parties are also allowed to attend if they wish – Red Bull cannot afford to ignore the restrictions to make this a more important test than the rules allow.

At Silverstone, the mileage limit means 34 laps of the Grand Prix circuit or 67 laps of the less useful International Circuit, which is sometimes used for filming days. Lawson’s lap will likely be on the Grand Prix circuit, and for reference, 34 laps is about 1.5 times the amount completed in a Friday practice session (based on this year’s British Grand Prix weekend).

It’s not a huge amount of mileage but with a proper programme and a good idea of ​​the gap between the academy tyres and the compounds used last weekend, Red Bull should get a reasonable idea of ​​Lawson’s performance.

Perhaps equally important is that he can judge how he has handled the situation first-hand in the first team to add to the existing close data on Lawson from the five weekends he spent with Red Bull last year as replacement for the injured Ricciardo, the first free practice runs with both Red Bull teams in 2023, and individual test days with each in 2022 (Red Bull) and 2021 (Red Bull, then AlphaTauri) as well.

What was different for Ricardo?

This is not the same as the test Ricciardo conducted last year, when Red Bull used a different part of the regulations for testing current cars – by using it to test Pirelli tyres.

The rules allow for tests organised by the FIA ​​and Pirelli to test current and development vehicles. This is more useful for evaluating drivers than anything else for the team itself, as the car must only use components and software used on the test or race weekend of that season or the previous year, and no test parts or component changes that provide “any kind of information” to the team other than tyre testing are permitted.

The rules state that “changes to mechanical settings and driver control are only permitted if they are necessary for correct tyre evaluation or to complete a tyre test, and these changes must be agreed in advance with the tyre supplier.”

This made Ricciardo’s test even more relevant to Pirelli as he was given the opportunity to drive the 2023 Red Bull car, so the team could assess him up close, although it’s pretty clear based on Red Bull’s comments about it at the time that they were at least aware when Ricciardo was running the qualifying simulation.

This allowed the team to make initial comparisons with the performance of its drivers at the previous British Grand Prix, and justified its feeling that Ricciardo was worthy of being placed in RB’s second team in place of the struggling Nyck de Vries.

This is another big difference between Ricciardo’s position in 2023 and what Lawson faces now. As well as a more significant test in the modern Red Bull team, perhaps over more laps, giving Ricciardo a race seat was clearly on Red Bull’s agenda and closer to reality already.

Red Bull were only looking for a final confirmation now that De Vries’ fate was sealed. Lawson needs to make a compelling case to himself and Red Bull to decide whether he really wants to part ways with Perez at Red Bull or, ironically, Ricciardo at right-back.

And if it is true that Perez’s points deficit to Verstappen – which stands at 137 – would give Red Bull a chance to activate the performance clause in his contract during the summer break, then a Red Bull Racing seat could already be available early this season.

Lawson’s other test

Whatever Lawson does in the RB20 game, this won’t be his last chance to impress before the end of the month.

Perez has two races left to correct his situation, or at least give his best, before the summer break. Lawson is due to test in the AlphaTauri AT03 the week after the Belgian Grand Prix, at Imola, so by the end of July Red Bull will have all the data it needs on Perez, Lawson and Ricciardo to make a decision.

The timing is important given that Lawson’s contract is believed to include an option until 2025 from Red Bull which expires in September – so if he is not given a race seat for next year by then, he will be a free agent.

The RB test – in a two-year-old car built in the team’s previous livery – is really just a chance for Lawson to get some decent mileage in a year when his opportunities are limited. It has been long scheduled and is likely to be part of his normal 2024 programme, which cannot include Friday’s first practice sessions as his five race starts last year rule him out of so-called “young driver” activities.

Although working on the cars in 2022 is less important than driving the Red Bull car in 2024, working on the cars in 2022 will be more beneficial in that the rules regarding testing previous cars (TPC rules) have become more open.

Although cars must only use specification components and software that have been used in at least one race or test, and are fitted with Pirelli Academy tyres, there are no mileage restrictions, and mechanical set-up changes and driver control changes are permitted.

This is why the TPC rules are so useful to teams developing young drivers, with Ferrari (Uli Biermann) and Mercedes (Kimi Antonelli) pupils getting plenty of mileage in situations where teams can learn a lot. And the rules may be so important that these teams are putting more weight on older car testing than F2 driver campaigns.

Lawson has not driven for either Red Bull team since his last race in Qatar last year, so perhaps the two tests were intended as a stress reliever. Whether they lead to more than just a few weeks, not one test, will be determined by the new season.



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