Liam Lawson did New Zealand proud in DTM this year, and New Zealand should be proud of him.
The young Kiwi, dovetailing a rookie Formula 2 campaign with a debut DTM season, lit up the GT3 series from the get-go.
Before his first DTM race in Monza, Lawson had only raced a GT3 car once.
That came in the 2020 New Zealand Endurance Championship when he shared an Audi R8 LMS with Scott O’Donnell at Highlands.
His decision to do DTM came about after a random phone call with the head of Red Bull’s driver development programme Dr Helmut Marko.
“At first, I thought he was kidding, and that it was all a joke. But no, it was real,” he told Velocity News in February.
A surprise to many supporters given his burning desire to crack into Formula 1, Lawson immediately proved he belonged in DTM when he won his first-ever race.
A masterful strategy and clean drive meant Lawson took the chequered flag first at Monza and became the youngest-ever DTM race winner at 19 years.
It was no fluke. Lawson picked up three podiums over the next five races.
Rival teams started accusing the well-oiled AF Corse Ferrari team of having pitstops that were ‘too quick’ and ‘unfair’. But a solid pit crew doesn’t secure race wins. A quick driver does that.
Lawson would win two more races over the season, claim seven other podiums and four pole positions.
His consistency was outstanding.
He led the series heading into the final race of the weekend and was in a prime position to become only the second-ever rookie to win the DTM title.
The other was Rene Rast in 2017. But Rast did do three races the year before. Lawson was a complete newbie.
He deserved to win the championship. There is little doubt about that.
Kelvin van der Linde, a driver who will likely not go any further in his career than DTM, was reckless in pursuing the title.
His bizarre decision to lunge up the inside of two cars in the tightest of spots robbed a kid of a championship he had fought so valiantly to win.
In the end, van der Linde didn’t even win the title. His spin late in the race exemplified how he thinks with his heart and not his head.
If Lawson didn’t win the title that race, having Maximilian Gotz do so was the best alternative.
But it is not all doom and gloom for Lawson, as it shouldn’t be.
He now has enough Super License points to drive in F1 next year.
Later this year, he will be with AlphaTauri in the Young Drivers test and is expected to make some Free Practice outings next season.
There is still so much to come from Liam Lawson, and all of Aotearoa is excited to see what’s next.
That same interview in February, we asked if he did prove to be a star of DTM (which ended up being true) would he sacrifice his F1 ambition? But he just laughed: “No way. I’m too close to F1 and that has been the goal since the start.”