Motorsport: Kiwi Liam Lawson determined to maximise Formula One opportunity as AlphaTauri stint continues at Italian Grand Prix

For many athletes, ticking off a lifelong ambition would represent the end of a journey, but for newly minted Formula One driver Liam Lawson, it's only the beginning.

Lawson, 21, has become just the 10th Kiwi to drive in Formula One, after being rushed into AlphaTauri's plans, when Daniel Ricciardo suffered a broken hand.

With limited practice opportunities, Lawson produced a very credible 13th-placed finish at the Dutch Grand Prix - a better result than Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Mercedes' George Russell.

Liam Lawson for AlphaTauri.
Liam Lawson for AlphaTauri. Photo credit: Getty Images

With Ricciardo undergoing hand surgery, Lawson has been confirmed to continue for next weekend's Italian Grand Prix and as long as it takes for the Australian to recover.

Naturally, ticking off a life goal can be overwhelming and Lawson is no exception. Now back at his UK base, the Pukekohe native says he's still coming to terms with what he's achieved in the last few days.

"[I'm] pretty good," Lawson told Newshub. "To be honest, I'm very tired - my neck is very sore.

"It doesn't feel completely real, to be honest - the weekend happened so fast."

Lawson's journey is only getting started. With Ricciardo out, Red Bull and AlphaTauri have backed the Kiwi to continue at the Italian Grand Prix at the iconic Monza circuit.

At Zandvoort, Lawson's preparation was impacted by Ricciardo's injury. While the rest of the F1 grid had three practice sessions, Lawson only had one to learn a car he'd never driven before, in abysmal conditions.

This week will be different. Lawson is already in the simulator, preparing to hit the track in Italy, before he departs for Monza later this week. A full preparation is exactly what he needs. 

"With F1, the biggest challenge is you have to have so much confidence to put the car on the limit and be fast," he said.

Max Verstappen and Liam Lawson.
Max Verstappen and Liam Lawson. Photo credit: Getty Images

"When you start driving the car, you don't have that. You lose so much lap time.

"It's such a difficult thing. You're pushing harder than what you're comfortable doing.

"You need to get that feeling, I'm hoping to build that up as quickly as possible at Monza."

In the short term, the AlphaTauri seat belongs to Lawson, at least until Ricciardo is back at full fitness.

The future of that seat is anyone's guess, with Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda both off contract in 2024.

Lawson's ascension indicates he's in Red Bull's plans in some capacity, but whether that translates to a full-time drive next season remains to be seen.

With at least one more race to show his wares to the decisionmakers - team principals Franz Tost and Christian Horner, as well as head of development Dr Helmut Marko - Lawson knows he can't squander this opportunity.

"Obviously, that's where the complete focus is right now. We'll reflect on the weekend and learn from it, but it's too early to look back and go, 'Wow, that was so cool'.

"I've got to focus and get ready for this weekend. You get one shot at F1.

"I still can't believe that I'm having a shot right now, but it is happening right now.

"I need to try and make the most of it. You get one chance at it."

Lawson has an advantage that few drivers on the Formula One grid can call upon. As a reserve driver for Red Bull and AlphaTauri, he has built a friendship with Max Verstappen - the two-time reigning world champion and odds-on to make that three later this year.

In 2021, Lawson came to Verstappen's aid at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, lending him a pair of racing boots, as the only person with the same size foot in the entire country.

Last year, Lawson test-drove Verstappen's world championship-winning car at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Last weekend, that friendship continued at Zandvoort, with Verstappen lending Lawson any help he needed in preparation for his maiden Grand Prix. 

"Because I've been a reserve with Red Bull for over a year - I spend every weekend with the team when there are races - I've been able to catch up with Max quite a lot.

"Max has always been super helpful to me. On the weekend, he gave me some really nice advice before the race as well, which was really, really cool."