Liam Lawson is one of the most talked-about names on the junior single-seater ladder but who is he? Should you be excited about his prospects? Red Bull’s Junior Team program is bursting at the seams with talent. What hope does the young Kiwi have to stand out from the pack? Let’s find out.
Liam Lawson: Early Career
Lawson was born in 2002 in New Zealand and began his karting career in 2009. Racing across New Zealand for the next 5 years, he scooped a pair of national championships in 2014.
Graduating to single-seaters in the winter version of the NZ Formula First series in 2015, he would finish runner up with a sole win, but ten podiums. Sabre Motorsport gave him his winter seat and he remained with them for the full Formula First 2015 season. One win and three podiums saw him crowned rookie of the year and finish tenth in the standings.
Lawson moved up to the New Zealand Formula Ford 1600 championship for 2016. In an astonishing display, he won fourteen of the fifteen races to become the youngest ever Formula Ford champion at that time.
Spreading his wings, Liam Lawson graduated to Australian F4 for 2017. Another strong season saw him finish runner up with five wins. Again, he would then move further afield to compete in Germany in the super-competitive ADAC F4 series. Unfazed by the increased competition, Lawson bagged three poles and three wins for yet another second place in the standings.
Lawson returned to New Zealand for the 2018 – 19 winter Toyota Racing Series. This series regularly attracts some of the biggest names in the junior tiers. The season was no exception as Lawson engaged in a season-long battle with FDA member Marcus Armstrong. Both drivers took five victories, but Lawson took the title thanks to better Race Two results at Taupo and Circuit Chris Amon.
Liam Lawson moves up to F3
In preparation for the FIA F3 season of 2019, Liam Lawson took part in the final round of the 2018 F3 Asia championship at Sepang in Malaysia. In a crushing display, Lawson qualified on pole for the first and third races (the only two races with a qualifying session), set the fastest lap at every race on his way to winning all three. Placing eighth in the standings from just one round was an impressive performance.
Red Bull signed the young New Zealander to their Driver Academy in February 2019. MP Motorsport then took Lawson on the following month for the inaugural 2019 FIA F3 season. He won the Sprint races at Silverstone and Monza to finish the year eleventh.
Switching to Hitech Grand Prix for 2020, alongside stablemate Dennis Hauger, Lawson had another strong season. An unfortunate string of three retirements in a row from the Styrian sprint race and both Hungarian events dented his title challenge. Still, he added a feature race win to another brace 0f sprint victories to finish the year fifth overall.
Lawson goes for the 2021 double
Hitech Grand Prix retained Lawson’s services for the 2021 season, but this time he will be in F2 alongside fellow RBJT member, Juri Vips. In an interesting development, Lawson was also announced as competing in the DTM for AF Corse in a Ferrari 488 GT3 car. Clearly, the scheduling change to only eight weekends per year but three races each weekend for F2 and F3 is opening up new development paths.
Grand Prix Grandstand F1 seat prediction
Liam Lawson has won races in every category he’s competed to date. Driving for Hitech in F2 this season, it’s a reasonable bet that he will win at least one of the twenty-four races this season. Whether he can manage to win in the very different GT3 car in the same season will be interesting to see.
The nineteen-year old’s adaptability is about to be put to a very stern test, too. The practice sessions for F2 and F3 are notoriously short each weekend, so Lawson will have to become highly adept at jumping between cars. One moment it’ll be an incredibly nimble F2 car and then a GT3 car in quick succession. Adaptability is key for Lawson if he is to maintain title challenges in both series.
There is a real possibility that this could be a struggle and a gamble too far by Helmut Marko. By the same token though, it is also clear that Red Bull and Marko have a great deal of confidence in the young New Zealander by giving him this tough test. If he passes with flying colours, he could be on the fast track to the AlphaTauri team in 2022.
In reality, though, this is surely all about preparing Lawson for 2023 and beyond. It’s well known that it takes an absolutely exceptional driver in a top team to scoop the F2 title in a rookie season. Lawson will be up against some stiff competition as well in the form of Shwartzman, Drugovich, Daruvala, Ticktum and Zhou. Not to mention his fellow debutants such as Piastri and Pourchaire. It is much more likely that Lawson is preparing intensively for a title challenge in 2022. Perhaps with a promotion to F1 in 2023.
Can he do it? Probably, yes, but he needs to rise to the challenge of this multi-discipline season and deliver the goods. Let’s hope he does so.