The 18-year-old New Zealander started 2020 with a win, the first of five victories in this year’s Castrol Toyota Racing Series in his home country. Not a bad way to kick off the season and he followed that up with a great FIA F3 preseason test in Bahrain as a new member of the Hitech Grand Prix team.
He spent much of those three days towards the sharp end of the timing sheets. “That was a great way to start the F3 season, I think the test went really well and I was terribly disappointed that we couldn’t then start racing. It was the right call of course but just from my point of view it was very frustrating because after the test I was feeling confident.”
“With Hitech the level of readiness is a lot higher and going into the test I knew exactly what we had to do, I had a high level of confidence in the car and the team, we all worked really well together so I was ready. We had good pace all round, on quali simulations and race runs so I felt it was all there.”
“Of course it is hard to tell in a test just exactly how fast you are, you don’t know what the opposition is doing, are you in the top three, the top five or the top ten? I believe we are in the top bunch and as a team we know Hitech are a very strong team, they showed that last year,” Liam enthuses and indeed they finished 2019 second overall in the team table.
First year in F3
“Last year I went into the F3 season wanting to learn, to do as well as I could of course but I knew that it would be very tough. This year is the first time that I have gone into a season driving the same car as the year before. Of course I did two years in the TRS (Toyota Racing Series) but they changed the car for this year. So going back to the F3 championship in the same car will be very good and the expectation is definitely higher and we are going for the championship this year, 100%”
The 2019 FIA F3 season was highly competitive. “The two podiums we had were very good, I think we had a lot of highlight races as well but those probably didn’t show so much as I didn’t necessarily finish at the front but they were good races, coming through the field or good battles, things like that.”
“Those two podiums were the highlight. Obviously Silverstone, the whole weekend was really really good, we nailed quali with P7, that was an exceptional result for us. Then in the race I managed to get the reverse grid pole, I knew I wasn’t going to win the race, that just wasn’t possible but I led for as long as I could and put us on the podium.”
“Then there was the wet race in Monza, I finished second, those were two of the high points.” And what about low points? “There were definitely a few… to be honest I can’t remember so much specifically, we had some difficult weekends for sure. The first weekend was tough, Spa was a really tough weekend…. But I don’t think about those too much.”
Second year in TRS
2020 started with the Toyota Racing Series in New Zealand over 5 consecutive weekends through January and February. “I think it was a really good decision to do the TRS, especially when you look back now, there are so many drivers who have not been racing basically since last season.”
“Even for me it’s been a long time since I raced a car but I have been racing more recently than a lot of the guys I’m up against. So it was a very good championship to do, obviously the result was not perfect, it was not what we were looking for but we went into that championship to prepare myself for going back to Europe as race ready as I could be and I think that goal was achieved,” stated Lawson who finished a close second overall after winning it the previous year.
“I think we did a good job over the whole five weeks as a team. There were a few things outside of our control that didn’t help our championship and then maybe a few mistakes from my side as well. But I think it was still a good five weeks and I’m very glad to have done it.”
Following the F3 test in March it was a long wait at home in NZ while the motorsports world paused.
Ready for F3 – Year 2
“I flew to the UK in the second week of June, I’ve visited Red Bull Racing and Hitech to start the season preparations finally. It was a bit of a weird feeling arriving here from New Zealand where we have been virus free. I am super excited to be back in the UK for the start of the season but it is not the same situation here. It is a bit strange but I just try not to think about it too much, I just want to get racing.”
“I had a Covid test at Hitech, I am clear and we are working on the season preparation. It’s great to be involved with such a high level team. I was impressed with the way they prepare.”
“We go though all of the last season’s data, the images from the onboard cameras, the regulations, they have a simulator so we work in that as well. I knew what to expect, just how thorough they are because we did three days of prep prior to the preseason test in Bahrain back in March. That was extremely thorough even just for a test.”
“We don’t test again before the season in the F3 car, basically it is
the first weekend straight into Free Practice. I don’t know if I’ll be
in a car before then. I know other guys have started testing in other
cars, for myself I’m not sure yet. Of course I’ve been training hard but
there is nothing like actually being in the car and we’ve not been
driving for so long, it will be very physical. Plus we do 6 race
weekends in 8 weeks to start the season. It’s going to be very full on.