INTERVIEW: Liam Lawson on exceeding expectations and the TRS title hunt
Liam Lawson has been a standout performer in the 2019 Castrol Toyota Racing Series. Lawson has won four races and had nine podiums in the TRS, building a reputation for his thrilling overtakes around the outside of New Zealand’s long, sweeping, race tracks.
“I mean, obviously,” says Lawson, ”it's been really, really cool.”
“I watched the series for a lot of years now, being really keen on doing it. Last year I was very close - my age got in the way of that. So I was really keen to race last year, but to be honest, I'm glad I didn't. It was nice to have a year in Europe, which absolutely prepared me for it in a better way.”
The wait has paid off. Lawson is guaranteed to take home the TRS Rookie championship, and will be fighting hard for the overall series victory over this weekend’s three races at the New Zealand Grand Prix.
“The expectation going in, the goal was to always try and win it, but the expectation was more to run top five/top three was where we were hoping to be at - so it's nice to have exceeded that a little bit so far.”
“It's really nice to come into the final weekend leading.”
‘A little bit’ is an understatement. Lawson was the standout performer of the series’ first round at Highlands, with two victories where he pulled comfortably away from the chasing field, but it soon became clear that the championship was closer than it looked at first glance. “It's been really really close,” said Lawson.
“I think the first three rounds, every single race the championship was going back and forth points-wise, and it's really nice to come into the final weekend leading.”
Despite his age, it is not an unfamiliar situation to be in, and he seems eager to balance his expectations. “It's hard, I try not to think about it too much. I try not to overthink it really, because - I mean - I haven't been in this position in quite a while, coming into the last round with the boys. The last two seasons have been really good, we get to the halfway point, always with a shot of winning it, and then... “
“The last few times, we had a bit of problems in Australia, we had a few problems at the end of the year which stopped us from having a championship chance, and then last year [in the ADAC Formula 4] the same thing. So this year, and this season anyway, it's nice, it's really cool to come to the final weekend. So I am a little bit nervous, but just try not to think about it too much.”
The Toyota Racing Series is seen as a ‘summer school’ for younger drivers, and Lawson acknowledges that he has a lot to learn. “A little bit of work has to be done in quali, we've been improving that a lot, I managed to get two poles last weekend in Taupo, which at the start of the season was our downfall with quali every time. So it's nice to have worked at that and made some steps…”
“I've learnt a lot…”
“That was an absolutely unbelievable car, absolutely love it.”
Lawson’s competitiveness, as well as his past entries in Australian and German Formula 4 championships, have led to wild speculation about where the young kiwi may be driving in 2019.
“At the moment no, I can't say what we're going to do, I don't know. We'll have a few really cool opportunities hopefully coming up, but it's difficult to say at the moment what we're going to do. “
“It's been nice, I've tested a lot in the Dallara F3 car: last year's FIA car and this year's Master's car. I did a few test days in that, and that was an absolutely unbelievable car, absolutely love it, could be driving in that.”
“I also tested in Asia, in the new Tatuus F3 car to get some experience in that as well.”
Are these breadcrumbs, or signs of Lawson’s eagerness to get a 2019 race seat?
“The options are all there, we're still deciding, it's difficult at this point: coming into this year with a lot of new series, it's difficult to say what one's the best one. Obviously a lot of people are in the same boat as me where they haven't made a decision yet, because we just don't know.”
“So, at the moment, it's difficult to say.”