'I knew we'd be stronger this year' - Liam Lawson on dominant Red Bull form

Liam Lawson.

It doesn't matter if you're a casual Drive to Survive enthusiast, or an F1-level engineer who can tell your wishbones from a diffuser, one thing is abundantly clear so far this season — Red Bull have created a monster.

This wasn't a surprise to the Kiwi who helped build it.

"Red Bull had a really, really strong car last year. I knew that (this year's car) was going to be stronger," Kiwi Red Bull reserve driver Liam Lawson said.

OK, sure, Lawson didn't technically build the RB19, but he spent a significant amount of time in Red Bull's simulator last season, helping the team develop the 2023 car.

When jokingly asked whether the likes of Max Verstappen has him to thank for the pace of the car, he laughed and said "it almost sounded like I was trying to say that, but I swear that's not what I was meaning!"

The thing with a Formula One off-season, one team's performance gains are only relative to how much progress other teams have made in the same time, behind closed doors.

It's still too early, just two races in, to make sweeping judgments about the full pecking order of this year's grid, but it's hard to argue that Red Bull don't already have one hand on both driver and constructor titles this year.

"I think it's something the team knows very well, that we have a very, very strong car. (We're just) trying to make the most of it while we have this sort of advantage," Lawson said.

"You're only as strong as your last race."

Which in Red Bull's case, was as dominant a race weekend as we've seen in years.

Mexico's Sergio Perez held off Red Bull teammate, and defending world champion Max Verstappen to take a dominant one-two on the podium. At times you forget that Verstappen actually started the race in fifteenth.

"He's got to be one of the most ruthless guys out there."

Lawson was officially Red Bull's reserve driver around the Jeddah Corniche circuit, and almost looked set to jump in the world champion's car with the Dutchman recovering from illness earlier in the week.

While Lawson's regularly courted high praise from the likes of team principal Christian Horner, and Red Bull boss Helmut Marko, his place in the Red Bull standings was a bit unclear by the end of last season.

Many wondered whether discarded McLaren driver, Aussie star Daniel Ricciardo re-joining his former team could push Lawson down the pecking order.

He admits it's something he can't give a "definitive answer" on in terms of where he stacks up against the other junior Red Bull drivers and Ricciardo, but insists it doesn't bother him, with his destiny very much in his own hands.

That aside, it would have been great comfort to hear Marko come out and say definitively that Lawson was the first cab off the rank in Saudi.

Either way, it doesn't bother the Pukekohe speedster.

"I know what I have to do to at the end of the day. I care about getting a full-time seat in Formula One and I know what I have to do to achieve that."

Liam Lawson celebrates his victory in France.

One of those things is to go and perform well at the Super Formula season in Japan, starting next weekend.

It will make for a busy few months for the Kiwi, juggling his own race commitments with his reserve role at Red Bull.

His next Grand Prix with the team will be in Baku, Azerbaijan, at the end of April.

While Super Formula is a positive step in his journey towards a full F1 seat, it does come with the slight risk of not being in the right place, at the right time if an opportunity arises at a Grand Prix.

You only need to look back to last season, with Nyck de Vries a last-minute substitution for Williams at Monza, where he impressed the Red Bull fraternity to the point of being offered him a full-time contract with their sister tam, Alpha Tauri for 2023.

"I would absolutely love any opportunity to jump in the car."

If he got to choose which track to be an emergency ring-in driver this season, he said he's not fussed: "I think most tracks I'd be OK, but if I had to pick it would be somewhere like Silverstone."

As for this weekend's Australian Grand Prix, his Red Bull teammates are going in as overwhelming favourites, again.

"I think the car will be really strong (in Australia) this year. But I found out recently that Red Bull hasn't actually won there since 2011. Reliability is quite tough, so if that all goes to plan, I think yeah, we have a good shot."

You'd be a braver person to bet against it.