The recent discussion of Liam Lawson’s impressive debut in Formula 1 has brought up the ongoing conversation of how much time a rookie deserves in Formula 1 to prove why they should become a permanent fixture on the grid. There is no doubt that stepping up to the pinnacle of motorsport is a daunting task for anyone, but when you look at the performance of the remaining rookies in 2023, it’s clear to see that some sink and some swim.
We have already seen the fast-paced nature of the sport with the removal of Nyck De Vries just 10 races into this 23-race season. Although Red Bull have become somewhat known for their unforgiving treatment of their junior drivers, there is no hard and fast rule dictating how long a rookie deserves in Formula 1.Embed from Getty Images
We’ve seen a complete contrast to Red Bull’s methodology over at Williams with the persistent patience that Logan Sargeant has been shown in his rookie year. Sargeant’s teammate, Albon, has obtained all of the team’s points so far in 2023 and many initially recognised that as this was Sargeant’s rookie year against a much more experienced teammate in one of the more difficult cars on the grid, he could be forgiven for lagging so far behind. This rationale bought Sargeant some time to get up to speed, except that speed never really arrived.
With the sudden introduction of Liam Lawson, who has been standing in for Daniel Ricciardo, the ‘reassurance of the rookie season’ excuse went out the window. Lawson was able to step in on short notice and is already on the pace of Tsunoda, who has been at the team for 3 years now. The New Zealander scored his first points in a car that is arguably worse than the Williams, leading many to question what should the standard of a rookie be and how long should they have to prove their worth in Formula 1.
Piastri and Lawson have shown that a rookie is able to define their talent regardless of the quality of the car, the ability of a driver will naturally be more difficult to measure if they are not in a competitive car but each rookie this year has had the benchmark of an experienced teammate. Out of Sargeant, Lawson, and Piastri, it’s become crystal clear that Sargeant is not up to the standard that has been set by his peers but is there room for an improvement significant enough to justify his spot on the grid?Embed from Getty Images
Following the announcement that Ricciardo and Tsunoda will continue on as Alpha Tauri’s driver for 2024, relegating Lawson to the role of the reserve, the question has been asked as to whether he is more deserving of a seat than Sargeant. The proposal of Lawson temporarily joining Williams was put to the Team Principal, James Vowels, and whilst he admitted that Lawson’s performance so far has been “impressive,” there was no hint or suggestion that an opportunity would open for Lawson over at Williams.
The rise of the rookies over the past decade or so have elevated the expectation of what we now expect from drivers taking the step up into Formula 1. The new generation of F1 drivers were able to demonstrate their raw talent right from the offset, the argument of rookies being given sufficient time to get up to speed is a subjective one. Personally, I think that rookies should be given one full season to showcase what they have and stake their claim in Formula 1. The rapid removal of Nyck De Vries earlier in the season was much too harsh in my opinion, however, the continuation of Logan Sargeant into a second season is much too lenient.Embed from Getty Images
We all know that Formula 1 is a money game and that won’t change, but we have to acknowledge that the overall quality of the sport suffers when rookies such as Lawson get sidelined in favour of those such as Sargeant. Across the ever-expanding Formula 1 calendar, drivers are provided with ample opportunities to show why they belong among the top 20 drivers in the world, and with the quality of junior drivers that are rising through the ranks there is no room for those that can’t keep up.