Displaying tousled blonde hair and a boyish Kiwi grin, the softly spoken Liam Lawson is part of a new era of Kiwi motor racers.
The Red Bull Junior has been on the pathway to success since he first got behind the wheel, initially in go-karts and then graduating to his first race in a car at Formula First at the age of 12.
From there his career has moved at pace, stepping up to F2 with Hitech Grand Prix in 2021. This season Lawson will be in direct competition with Jüri Vips – who will sit next to him in the Hitech garage and the racer on top could very well follow in the footsteps of Yuki Tsunoda, who is due to race for Scuderia AlphaTauri in Formula One this year.
The 19-year-old from New Zealand will be putting up one hell of a fight. But before he boarded the plane for the Bahrain F2 competition, Lawson enjoyed some down time with family in New Zealand, something rare as he’s based in the UK or travelling between competitions for the most part of the year.
The exclusive documentary, Behind the Helmet, follows Lawsons summer at home and gives an intimate look at the man behind the driver, it’s the first piece of this kind featuring the up-and-coming NZ motorsport star.
New Zealand has breed arguably some of the best drivers in the world and Liam is no different. But when asked if he thinks he has big shoes to fill he says maturity has defined that for him.
“As I got older I realised that I don’t want to be like anyone other than me. 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.”
A life where racing wasn’t an option is unimaginable for Lawson, and he says that he’s never had a back-up plan.
“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 the early years, my peers were still focussing on school and having a back-up etc. But I have never had a back-up, 100% racing has been the only thing I have ever been interested in doing more of and pursuing,” he says.
The quick stint in rugby at age seven didn’t stand a chance when Lawson got his first taste of the adrenaline rush from high speed racing.
“The biggest buzz is the feeling you get every time you get into a new car. I guess there’s two things. There’s 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/h is pretty indescribable. It’s 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,” Lawson says.
Life for most Kiwi 19-year-olds is entirely different to the life Lawson is living and he says that at times he experiences “fomo” being away from friends and family.
“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.” says Lawson.