Liam Lawson, wearing his helmet, stares into the camera and raises his right fist in celebration as Carlin team boss Trevor Carlin, in team gear, places his right hand on the driver's back during parc fermé

Liam Lawson: Sprint Race victories ‘aren’t really surprising’ with Carlin’s pace

Red Bull junior Liam Lawson took his fourth Sprint Race win of the 2022 Formula 2 season on Saturday at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit. After an opening-lap collision between Jehan Daruvala and Enzo Fittipaldi brought out the red flag, Lawson restarted second behind polesitter Richard Verschoor but passed him for the lead on Lap 10. The New Zealander took the flag in dominant fashion, almost eight seconds ahead of his nearest rival.

By Tyler Foster

Lawson was joined on the podium by Verschoor and F2 champion Felipe Drugovich. F1 Feeder Series spoke to the trio after the race about their progress this year.

Lawson: Inconsistency ‘really cost us’

Though Carlin’s Lawson has taken four Sprint Race victories this season, a lack of consistency has kept him from challenging for the title. He won his first race in the series last year in Bahrain, but Lawson has been unable to take top honours during a Feature Race.

Currently fourth in the championship following his Sprint Race victory on Saturday, Lawson is now just four points behind his rookie teammate and F1 hopeful, Logan Sargeant. However, with his duties to Red Bull as their reserve driver taking precedence, the 20-year-old is rumoured to be moving on to Super Formula in Japan for 2023.

With potentially one race remaining in F2 for Lawson, we asked for his thoughts on what has been a tough season.

“Hats off to Felipe, he’s absolutely made the most of the speed he’s had this year and done a really, really good job. I guess I would say that there’s a few guys that are maybe in similar positions to me, where we felt like we had good speed, but it’s quite hard in Formula 2 to have consistent weekends and to have a run of good weekends. That’s really cost us this year,” Lawson said.

“We had a really good start to the season. We started pretty consistent and felt really good about things. I honestly feel like we’ve kept that speed all season long. Unfortunately, [we] don’t have the points to show it, so in terms of my progress, I don’t think it’s been too bad. I’d just say in terms of the points on the board, we’re not where we want to be.”

Mixed feelings for Verschoor

Starting from reverse-grid pole for Saturday’s Sprint Race at Yas Marina was Trident’s Verschoor. A red flag annulled Verschoor’s clean getaway and brought a rolling restart, after which Lawson slowly closed in on the Dutch driver. Eventually, Verschoor was passed for the lead, but he was able to hang on to a solid second-place finish, helping him move up to 12th in the standings, ahead of Marcus Armstrong.

Richard Verschoor, Liam Lawson, Felipe Drugovich and Carlin mechanic Jason Cox stand on the podium at the Yas Marina Circuit, holding their trophies and podium champagne aloft
Sprint Race podium, L–R: Richard Verschoor (Trident), Liam Lawson (Carlin), Felipe Drugovich (MP), Jason Cox (Carlin mechanic) | Credit: Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool

Having been victorious in the opening race of this year’s championship in Bahrain, Verschoor may have expected more from a campaign that has been impressive yet frustrating. F1 Feeder Series asked him whether the season went as expected and how he evaluated his results.

“It is very tight in the championship, points-wise, from P3 to P6 or P7,” Verschoor said. “With the issues we’ve had – especially of course the big one where I won in Austria [and] it got taken away and then also the failure at Monaco with the car – those were big, big points that were thrown away. I really think that we could have been quite high up, which is definitely not what I expected when I started the season.

“Nothing against Trident, of course Trident did an amazing job this year, to be honest much more professional and a much better car than I expected. Of course, when you look at the last four years, they didn’t win a race,” Verschoor said.

“I’m just really happy with all the work they’ve put in and also their trust in me when I was giving feedback about the car and stuff. I think really, we are working in the right direction. It’s just those mistakes unfortunately cost us many, many points. I think that we did show that we are a good team and we could be much further up than we are now.”

The three-way title showdown

While the drivers’ title has been wrapped up since Monza back in September, the teams’ championship has gone down to the wire, with Sunday’s Feature Race being the decider between MP Motorsport, ART Grand Prix and Carlin. The last of those, Carlin, have snuck up on the battle and given themselves a chance of stealing it away from the others. Following Lawson’s win and Sargeant’s sixth place in the Sprint, they need to make up at least nine points on ART and 15 points on MP to win.

The British team have finished third for the last two seasons and will be looking to go at least one better this time around. Anything is possible on Sunday, with the American starting sixth and the New Zealander ninth.

“Obviously, we’re not starting exactly where we want to be,” Lawson said, “but if we can have a good race, then I think there’s definitely potential to have a good finish in the teams’ standings. As well, I think for the team it would be nice. They deserve it; they’ve worked very, very hard this year. We’ve honestly had a great car for most of the season. I think displays like today aren’t really surprising from the team. They’ve done a really good job with the car all year.”

They’ve worked very, very hard this year. We’ve honestly had a great car for most of the season

Liam Lawson on Carlin

Drugovich and MP Motorsport will be in the driving seat, as the Dutch squad have a six-point lead going into this decisive race. The Brazilian driver starts fourth, one spot behind ART rival Théo Pourchaire, and has one main goal for Sunday’s event.

“I’ll go for the win for sure. I want to win, and that would be amazing if I can do that – also to help the team get the teams’ championship, but I’m in a very nice position. [I’m] just racing for fun, I would say. It’s very enjoyable, the way I can race now, and I hope to bring this championship for the team.”

Header photo credit: Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool

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