Wednesday, Jan 15 07:00pm
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

Liam Lawson details “crazy” Formula 1 junior drive offers

A little over a year ago Liam Lawson shocked the motor racing world, quickly putting himself on the path to stardom.


His Castrol Toyota Racing Series debut at Highlands Motorsport Park drew attention globally with spectacular passes that saw him beat his more experienced rivals, convincingly too.


He won his first race and set the tone for a captivating season that is widely regarded as one of the best in the history of the series.


“It was crazy,” Lawson recalled of that first weekend.


“I went into that championship with the expectation of nothing crazy. At the time, we said we just planned to learn from these guys. On the inside, I was really wanting to be competitive and to have a shot at the title, but I really didn’t expect it to happen. It was pretty crazy.


“That first race weekend was definitely one of the best of my life. Highlands was just one of those weekends where it stands out as one of the highlights in my career so far. It was pretty cool.”


It wasn’t long before Formula 1 was knocking on his door and contracts were laid out on the table. At the time, four teams were pursuing the then 16-year-old who’d largely blown the competition out of the water.


In the end, it was at a cafe on his 17th birthday that he signed on the line. In an instant, he’d become a Red Bull Racing affiliate, part of their highly volatile but immensely successful Junior Team.


Before then though, it hadn’t been plain sailing. Several strong tests with Van Amersfoort Racing seemed to suggest a season in Formula European Masters – which eventually folded – was the most likely course.


“Up until we got those offers during TRS we had no idea what we were doing for the rest of the year. We were working on plans and figuring out what to do. We really had no idea. It was all completely up in the air. For me, I was just so focusing on the driving part, but at the back of my mind I was thinking ‘what am I going to do after this?’


“The offers came at the perfect time. I remember getting told the different offers. As soon as I found out that there was a Red Bull offer … I was at a cafe and I remember standing up and saying I needed to go for a walk.


“I had to process what I’d heard. I couldn’t process it or remember how to walk. I was really thinking quite hard about walking. That’s just not something that you normally do. It was crazy. I can’t even explain it. It took a long time to process.”


For Lawson, the deal with Red Bull was a no-brainer. Despite the obvious concerns throughout the paddock having seen what had happened to Brendon Hartley and so many drivers before him, Lawson had his eyes set on the energy drink kings.


“It’s something I’ve dreamed of as a kid. I mean, come on, it’s Red Bull. It’s something everybody wants. I remember talking to my teammates last season and saying ‘imagine being a Red Bull driver’ and it’s something that is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Especially being from New Zealand, we don’t have that kind of funding to go all the way. It’s pretty unbelievable.


“Then it’s crazy how quickly it all becomes normal. I some times have to step back and think about what’s actually going on right now and pinch myself.”


The logic behind Red Bull over all the others? Lawson believes it’s the quickest way to get him into Formula 1.


“We talked about it a lot. Whether I was ready. At the end of the day, these offers don’t come all the time, and when it was there I had to take it. For me, Red Bull was just the clearest path.”