7 Dec 2022

Formula One prospect Liam Lawson 'getting closer' to motorsport big time

12:06 pm on 7 December 2022

Liam Lawson is confident the chequered flag continues to edge closer in the pursuit of his Formula One dream.

New Zealand F2 driver Liam Lawson

Liam Lawson of New Zealand Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The 20-year-old New Zealander was in Japan this week taking part in testing for the Super Formula Series, which he was expected to move into for the 2023 season.

But his ambitions to reach motorsport's top table remained strong and, he believed, in good shape.

Red Bull Racing further signalled their belief in Lawson at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last month.

The Red Bull junior was not only given world champion Max Verstappen's car for the opening F1 practice session but, a few days later, was the powerhouse team's representative in the annual end-of-year young driver test.

Lawson felt that he was still edging closer to a full promotion to the big stage.

"It's definitely getting closer now that I've driven the car and fully had a taste of what it's like," he told RNZ.

"It's not just driving the car but being with the team and working with the team.

"Being in Formula One is definitely where I want to be but a lot still needs to happen. As close as we are, it's still a few steps away."

There was a chance the Pukekohe racer may have been in a F1 seat next year, when a spot opened up at Red Bull's sister team Alpha Tauri last month.

The spot, though, was given to Dutch driver Nyck de Vries and Lawson said his up-and-down 2022 Formula Two campaign ultimately hindered his own chances.

But he had finished his season strongly in Abu Dhabi, winning the sprint race and taking third in the feature race to jump from seventh all the way up to third in the overall standings.

That had left Lawson with a good feeling as he went into the off-season, while his two outings with Red Bull were also keeping him optimistic.

Liam Lawson.

Liam Lawson. Photo: Photosport/PANORAMIC

Outings which he was more than satisfied with, despite a few nerves.

"You'd think the third time in an F1 car you'd be more relaxed but I definitely wasn't. I was more nervous for the Red Bull drive, just because it's Red Bull Racing and it was Max's car...

"But I've done the switch [between F2 and F1] a couple of times now and I knew it would be big step.

"I knew not to be worried about it when I got in, don't stress. From the start of the session it felt really comfortable.

"The simulator we have at Red Bull to do the development work for the car is so accurate. Jumping in the real car I could be pretty close to the limit straight away."

It was expected more of those opportunities would come in 2023, with Lawson remaining an official reserve driver for the Red Bull and Alpha Tauri F1 teams.

The rest of the time he was set to be racing in Super Formula, with Red Bull motorsport advisor Dr Helmut Marko telling multiple outlets the New Zealander would be part of the Japan-based series.

A series which appeared to keep him well in line for a shot in F1, with both French driver Pierre Gasly and former McLaren driver Stoffell Vandoorne transferring from Super Formula to F1 in recent years.

Lawson said nothing was officially confirmed yet, but added he knew the series was "run at a very high level", with high quality drivers, "very cool tracks" and "extremely fast" cars.

He was getting his first taste of that in this week's testing, before returning to New Zealand for his off-season break.

A break he relished more and more as his career ramped up, and that Formula One dream moved ever closer to being realised.