A random phone call while in quarantine led to Liam Lawson landing a drive in DTM, a series he is excited to tackle once the season gets underway.
Successful stints in Formula 4, the Toyota Racing Series and Formula 3 over the last four years has put Lawson firmly on the path to Formula 1.
The young Kiwi has focused on single-seaters his entire career that he only got his first taste of a saloon race car last year when he shared an Audi R8 LMS with Scott O’Donnell in the New Zealand Endurance Championship.
Lawson has since been confirmed to race in the 2021 Formula 2 championship with Hitech GP, putting him just one step away from an F1 seat.
However, an unexpected phone call with the head of Red Bull’s driver development programme Dr Helmut Marko late last year led to a deal for Lawson to race in the DTM championship.
“It was all kind of random,” Lawson told Velocity News.
“I was in my last few days of quarantine in New Zealand having come back from the Formula 2 test in Bahrain, and I get a call from my manager Grant McDonald.
“He tells me that he will be having a call with the ‘Doctor’ [Helmut Marko] about something, and for me to prepare for anything he has to say.
“But Grant then calls back later that day saying that Red Bull want me to do the DTM.
“At first I thought he was kidding, and that it was all a joke. But no, it was real, and now I am really excited about the opportunity.
“I raced alongside the series when I was in F4 in Germany, and it was really cool to be a part of.
“It is the Formula 1 of GT cars and the high level of drivers and manufacturers in the class makes it such an awesome championship.”
The series rookie will contest the full eight-round championship, with no calendar clashes with his F2 commitments.
Lawson believes will be the biggest hurdle to overcome will be the switching between the two series over the year.
“The biggest challenge will be going between the F2 car and the DTM car each weekend.
“Yeah it is just another car, but I will have to adapt between the two each time I get back into them. So, that will be interesting to see how it goes.
“But I think the DTM will also be great for my development as a driver, which should help me in F2.”
Red Bull will field a pair of Ferrari 488 GT3s for the championship – the first under the DTM’s new GT-Pro regulations.
The team’s second car will be filled by former Red Bull F1 driver Alexander Albon and fellow Kiwi Nick Cassidy.
Cassidy will race the rounds that Albon will miss due to the Thai driver’s commitments as an F1 reserve and test driver.
The two bring a lot of racing experience to the fold, and Lawson hopes to learn from the pair of them.
“I hope so,” he said when asked whether he will be working alongside Albon and Cassidy. “It all just depends on when they are driving as well.
“Both have huge experience that I would love to learn off. Alex has raced in F1, and Nick is a champion in Super GT over in Japan. So, he has raced similar cars before and will have a lot more knowledge about how they work.
“I currently don’t have any expectations on my performance because I have never driven the car before. So, learning off Alex and Nick will be important and I hope I have the chance to do so as much as possible.”
And what if Lawson turns out to be the next DTM champion and a future star of GT racing. Will he sacrifice his ambition of F1?
“No way,” he laughed. “I’m too close to F1 and that has been the goal since the start.”