Column | One to watch, The Red Bull Junior who claimed an F2 debut victory

11-06-2021 10:00
Column | One to watch, The Red Bull Junior who claimed an F2 debut victory

A debut victory does not come easy for anyone, in any sport, but that was the case for Liam Lawson when he made his Formula 2 debut in Bahrain earlier this season. The 19-year-old Red Bull Junior driver has made an excellent impression since making his F2 debut in the season-opener and has found himself within the top 10 after Round 3 in Baku.

Lawson is a former Toyota Racing Series champion, joining the likes of current Formula 1 drivers Lance Stroll and Lando Norris and F2 rival Robert Shwartzman in the list of victors.

The New Zealander will have the goal of F1 already set out, but it would take a superb effort to try and claim a seat next season, due to the strength of both the F1 and F2 grid and drivers. It’s not out of reach just yet though, so how did Liam Lawson get to the position he’s in today?

Lawson’s career before winning Formula 2 races:

Lawson started competing in karting at the age of 7 but never burst onto the scene and won titles left, right and centre like many others around him did. He did however finally find his glory in the sport towards the end of his career and held two national titles, with both coming in 2014.

In years prior to this, Lawson was competing for victory but never was able to reach the top. In 2012, he finished third in the New Zealand National Sprint Championship, finishing behind Jacob Mitchell in second and Matthew Payne in first. The next year was another heartbreak for the young Kiwi as he finished behind only Caleb Cross at the Kartsport New Zealand Schools Championship.

In the year that Lawson claimed both his titles, he also had failures to start the season. A third-place finish in the Kartsport Auckland City of Sails was all he could best, but that wouldn’t have mattered to Lawson if he knew what would happen next. Victory in both the New Zealand Schools Championship and the New Zealand National Sprint Championship was achieved by Lawson and it would turn out to be the only victory in his karting career. He finished off by placing third in the National Sprint Championship in 2015 before turning his full attention to single-seat action.

His debut in single-seater came in the Formula First Manfield Winter Series driving for Sabre Motorsport, where he took a victory and stood atop the podium ten times, claiming second place overall at the end of the series. He then stayed with Sabre for the following season, this time competing in the New Zealand Formula First Championship, where he won one of the 24 races and claimed three podiums on his way to sixth overall.

He was finally victorious once again in 2016 when he won the New Zealand Formula Ford Championship with complete ease. 14 victories out of 15 races and 12 fastest laps sum it up very well and don’t forget the podium in the only other race of the Championship. The next two years were quiet for Lawson before making the move to Formula 3 in 2019, however, he still had two-second place finishes. Both coming in Formula 4 Championships, with the first being in 2017 in the Australian F4 Championship and the latter in 2018 in the ADAC F4 Championship.

Lawson made his F3 debut in 2019, however it didn’t go to plan. He was only able to achieve two podiums in the 16 races in the season and finished 11th overall, however finished ahead of both his teammates Richard Verschoor and Simo Laaksonen. As it got later into the year, glory fell into the Kiwi’s hands. A second-place finish in the EuroFormula Open Championship and then victory in the Toyota Racing Series for M2 Competition ended Lawson’s year on a high. He was also named as a new recruit to the Red Bull Junior Team at the start of 2019.

In his final season before competing in F2, Lawson competed in F3 and the Toyota Racing Series once again looking to repeat the success from the year prior, yet it didn’t happen. He bettered his finish from the year before in F3 as three wins and six podium finishes secured fifth overall for the 19-year-old. However, he lost out to Brazilian driver Igor Fraga by six points and was unable to hold onto his title.

Lawson came firing out the gates for Formula 2:

As a rookie, not much would’ve been expected compared to some of those drivers around him, yet Lawson took his chance at the first possible opportunity. Driving for Hitech Grand Prix team, he took victory in the season-opening sprint race in Sakhir, which was the debut race for the whole season. He then went on to claim a podium place in the feature race later on in the weekend, finishing third behind Guanyu Zhou and Dan Ticktum. 

He went on to win the second sprint race at the race weekend in Monaco in May but was later stripped of his victory. It was found that he used a prohibited throttle map at the start of the race, which in turn handed the victory to Ticktum. A week after the race weekend in Baku and Lawson currently sits eighth overall on 50 points, 13 behind his teammate Juri Vips. We still have 5 rounds of racing to complete so Lawson will no doubt still have confidence that he can fight amongst the top of the grid throughout the rest of the season.

In addition to his F2 Sprint Race victory, Lawson also made a return to karting at the start of 2021.  He entered into the Pool & Spa Maintenance Ltd Kartsport Auckland City of Sails race in two classes, alongside 130 other entrants and was victorious in both. He won the DD2 class and the Rotax Light class.

This year Lawson is also competing in the 2021 Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters with Red Bull, alongside current Red Bull F1 reserve driver Alex Albon and fellow New Zealander Nick Cassidy. He will compete in DTM as well alongside his F2 rookie season.

Can Liam Lawson find his way onto the podium after Abu Dhabi? Let us know in the comments where you think he will finish!

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