Liam Lawson doesn’t have any idols. Instead, he aims to be the best Liam Lawson he can.
The 19-year-old Kiwi is scheduled to make his FIA Formula 2 debut this weekend in Bahrain with Hitech GP. Finishing fifth in last year’s Formula 3 championship, Lawson is now just one step below a coveted drive in Formula 1.
He is the second Kiwi on the 2021 F2 grid, with Cantabrian Marcus Armstrong set to start his second season in the series.
Both are vying to become New Zealand’s latest F1 driver since Brendon Hartley’s short-lived career with Toro Rosso between 2017 and 2018.
However, for Lawson, his determination to make it to the top stems from within himself. As he reveals in a Red Bull documentary titled Behind the Helmet, Lawson does not want to follow in the footsteps of anyone before him.
“As I got older, I realised that I don’t want to be like anyone other than me,” he said.
“When I was younger [the benchmark] was Lewis Hamilton, I read his book when I was younger, and he was just the guy that I really wanted to be like.
“But now I just want to be Liam, the best version of me.”
Racing has played a central role in Lawson’s life, and he says since he began his racing career in karting, he has had a desire to be the best.
“I think I would have always ended up racing something. Even before I could talk, I was making car noises and gravitating to anything with a motor; diggers, tractors, anything.
“It’s funny. When I used to race go-karts and in my early years, my peers were still focusing on school, having a back-up plan. But I have never had a back-up. Racing has been the only thing I have ever been interested in doing more of and pursuing.
“The biggest buzz is the feeling you get every time you get into a new car. I guess there are two things. There is the speed, and then there’s the feeling that you get from the speed.
“When you’re racing, the feeling of being inches away from the car beside you both going at 300km/hr is pretty indescribable. It is a crazy feeling.
“The adrenaline rush is insane. I’ll say and do things in the minutes following a race that I would never usually do, just from the huge rush from the adrenaline.”
The documentary follows Lawson on his summer trip home to New Zealand after a season of racing in Europe. He tells the story of how sometimes he does miss the normality of teenage life, but he wouldn’t change his young career for anything.
“You miss out on a lot, but in the same way, I don’t feel like I miss out because I’ve got so much else going on for me at the moment. I think about like, basically, my career has started so much earlier than everybody else.
“I have my whole career in front of me. So, I focus on the really exciting things that are happening for me. I’m still pinching myself that this is all happening for me.”