Liam Lawson takes New Zealand Grand Prix victory
Liam Lawson has won the 64th New Zealand Grand Prix and the 2019 Castrol Toyota Racing Series after Marcus Armstrong was awarded a five-second racing penalty.
Liam Lawson had excellent drive off the race start, passing polesitter Lucas Auer into the first corner. Marcus Armstrong, the other championship contender, was also past Auer by the end of the first lap, and the two leaders stormed away from the pack.
Lawson built a one-second lead over Armstrong as the race settled. Back in the pack, Pter Ptacek went into the fence at the last corner, bringing out a red flag as his car was recovered.
Lawson had gone into the race with 321 points to Armstrong’s 315 points. At the red flag, Lawson held the championship lead by 10 points.
As the safety car puled away, Lawson held his lead over Armstrong, but it was the fight for third that caught the crowd’s attention.
Lucas Auer was soon caught by Esteban Muth on the restart, with the pair going two-wide for almost the entire lap before Muth was finally able to get past the Austrian. “I was going backwards; going slower, slower”, said Auer.
Auer was swamped, with Brendon Leitch passing him on the inside. Cameron Das was next to pass Auer, and wasn’t as lucky, with the American going unsighted as Auer turned into the corner.
Auer spun and Das collected him, with Raoul Hyman, Thomas Smith, Artem Petrov, and Calan Williams all colliding with the pair in a six-car pile-up.
A second red flag ensued, and the teams worked quickly to assess the damage on the stricken cars.
After the extended safety car period, Lawson slowly led the pack around to the restart with Armstrong on his tail. Armstrong pulled even with Lawson on the main straight and the pair went two-wide through the Splash. Lawson went wide and fell off the track, falling back to fourth behind Esteban Muth and Brendon Leitch.
With Lawson in fourth, Armstrong moved into the lead of the championship.
As the leaders settled, tight racing ensued down the field. Dev Gore, chasing young Jackson Walls, made slight contact with the Australian, which saw his car launch on top of Walls’, and the two careened into the wall together.
A third red flag fell over the track as Walls was recovered from the bottom car, with Gore placing the full blame on Walls: “Jackson Walls should not have a license.”
At the third restart, a small moment of confusion as Brendon Leitch and Liam Lawson disgreed about who was in third when the red flag occurred. Armstrong, Muth, Leitch, Lawson, was the order at the restart, with Lawson applying pressure on Leitch and Leitch diving deep on Muth into the first corner.
Leitch clipped Muth and the pair slowed, allowing Lawson to get into second place and taking back the lead of the championship.
Armstrong, holding a 1.5 second lead over Lawson, could do nothing about the championship-defining battle that had just occurred behind him.
The race settled in, with Armstrong managing the race from the front, holding a 2 second lead. This was for naught, as race control announced that he had been awarded a five-second penalty for his earlier battle with Lawson.
Armstrong traded fastest laps with Lawson, as the crowd watched with bated breath to see if Armstrong could build a five-second lead.
The Ferrari Academy driver crossed the line 2.418 seconds ahead of Lawson, giving Lawson the race and championship victory.