Ricciardo, who has been announced to drive for AlphaTauri alongside Yuki Tsunoda in 2024, broke a metacarpal during practice on the Friday of the Dutch GP on August 25 and has missed four races after undergoing surgery.
Lawson has impressed in his substitute appearances, beating teammate Tsunoda in the three races both drivers have started and took his first points with ninth place at the Singapore GP.
The New Zealander had never driven at the Singapore street circuit and will face the same challenge this weekend at the Qatar GP, which is also a Sprint weekend.
“Now we move on to Qatar,” said Lawson. “I’m not sure how we’ll get on there or how the upgrades will work. I think it’s hard to say because where we struggled in Japan was mainly in the high speed, in Sector 1.
“We still have more to learn about our new package, and I’m not so sure that Qatar is the type of circuit that will suit our car. Learning takes time, and we’ve got more opportunities in Qatar to try and get the most out of it.
“However, it’s also a Sprint weekend, so at the same time, that makes it quite tricky, especially in my situation. I’ve never driven here, so going into the sprint weekend will be extra tough.
“I drove the Qatar track in the simulator at the end of last week. It’s very fast, a very high-speed circuit and quite unique, and I’ve not seen many tracks like it, as there’s only one low-speed corner in the whole track. The rest is just fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh gear, so I think it’s going to be exciting to drive.
“With only one Free Practice session, we drivers will have to know where to improve because it’ll get faster at night when it’s much cooler, and we need to know exactly how to extract everything out of the car. I’m expecting it to be tougher than the races we’ve just done.”
Lawson disappointed to miss out on 2024 F1 seat
Lawson will be Red Bull and AlphaTauri‘s reserve driver next year after Ricciardo and Tsunoda were confirmed as the sister team’s line-up for 2024.
Only one set on the F1 grid has yet to be announced, Logan Sargeant‘s seat at Williams, but the American could keep his place despite several accidents and poor performances in his rookie season.
Ricciardo is set to return for the United States GP on October 20-22, so Qatar will be Lawson’s final chance to impress, before he looks to win the Super Formula title at Suzuka on October 27-29.
“In Japan, the news came public that I’m back to the role of reserve driver next year,” continued Lawson.
“Obviously, my goal is to be in Formula 1 full-time, so as much as it’s disappointing, it’s still my goal, and it’s now about trying to make sure that I can make that happen in the future.
“Right now, I’ve still got this opportunity to keep trying to show something, and I’ll try to make the most of it. For now, as long as this lasts, I’ll focus on it, and then once I step back from F1, it’ll be full focus on preparing for the final round of the Super Formula championship at Suzuka on the weekend of the Mexican Grand Prix.
“It’ll be very different adjusting back to the car, but it’s certainly been useful having driven so many laps at Suzuka throughout the Grand Prix weekend.”