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Liam Lawson goes from kart to F1 car to kart over three weekends

New Zealand’s Formula 1 reserve driver Liam Lawson is in the middle of a busy three weeks as he goes from a winning return to go kart racing last weekend in Auckland to a first time drive around Bathurst in a Formula 1 car this weekend, and then back for the New Zealand CIK karting champs in Hamilton the following weekend.

Lawson is excited to have been chosen to pilot Red Bull’s former championship winning RB7 around the iconic Australian track on Saturday afternoon in a demonstration run, scheduled to run between the two qualifying sessions for the Bathurst 12-Hour race that starts early on Sunday morning.

“What I’m doing this weekend is just a wicked opportunity, something I’ll never forget. It’s really a once in a lifetime opportunity to drive a Formula 1 car around Mount Panorama. I’ve never driven it in my life so for the first time I’ll do a couple of laps in the rental car, maybe, and the next time I do it it’ll be in an F1 car,” said Lawson.

Although the soon to be 21 year old hasn’t actually driven the Bathurst circuit before he’s done many hours of racing it on a simulator.

“Of all the tracks in the world I haven’t driven on, Bathurst is the one I’d say I know the best without having done it. It’s one that being from New Zealand and with the V8 Supercars there, is really really popular and it’s one I’ve done so many times over the years.”

During the pandemic lockdown Lawson did win a live-streamed on-line endurance race of the Bathurst track racing a Porsche GT3 car.

“The funny thing is you drive a Supercar around Bathurst and then one of your mates will say, ‘hey, let’s drive a Formula 1 car around Bathurst and you kinda laugh about it and do a couple of laps for fun. It’s crazy now to think I’m actually about to do it for real.”

Lawson hasn’t been given a specific timetable for the demonstration but the event programme does list the only demonstration run on Sunday is due to start around 3.25pm New Zealand time.

“I think I’m literally just out for the flying lap,” added Lawson. “There’ll be some demonstration runs by the regular show car driver Patrick on Friday and Saturday, maybe, then the flying lap is what I’ll drive. Hopefully I get a warm-up, but it’ll only be one session.”

Although in complete contrast to an F1 car, the Sodi KZ2 shifter kart Lawson is racing is impressively quick. It can rocket from a standing start to 100kph in 2.5 seconds, reach up to 3G’s of force in cornering and stop from 140kph to 40kph in just two seconds.

“From my understanding the KZ2 is pretty relative to a Formula 1 car. They are unbelievable off the line. The gearbox is a six-speed sequential and the ratios are really short. On a go kart track the straight is over in two or three seconds so you don’t need long gears. It accelerates at a serious pace off the line.

With the contant gear changing lap after lap the driver is frequently steering the KZ2 one handed while coping with the rapid speed and sudden deceleration.

“It becomes extremely physical to hang on to the thing. One of the most physical things I’ve ever done and seat time makes up for it so if you haven’t been in the seat for a while you really struggle. Hopefully by Hamilton and after one more test day next week I should be up to a level where I can do a whole race quite comfortably.”

At the City of Sails kart meeting in Auckland last weekend Lawson came away with wins in both the Final, held in atrocious conditions, and the Pre-Final in which his battle with top contender Daniel Bray was the highlight of the weekend’s racing. After swapping places lap after lap Lawson stayed in front and edged away to win 2.5 seconds.

Lawson won the all important final race over Mitchell Sparrow by a commanding 4.3 seconds in a race hit by a heavy downpour during the closing laps that resulted in a number of karts aquaplaning off the track.

After taking his flying lap around Bathurst this weekend in Sebatien Vettel’s 2011 championship winning car, which Lawson has previously driven at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK, he’ll jet home to test his little go kart rocket around Kartsport Hamilton’s track to prepare for the CIK Trophy meeting on 11-12th February.


(1) Liam Lawson #30 pulled away from Mitchell Sparrow #71 to win the KZ2 Final by 4.3 seconds. (Photo: Shutter
(2) Liam Lawson, pictured with his father Jared (left), dominated the KZ2 racing at the annual Auckland City of Sails kart meeting. (Photo: Emilee Jane Photography)
(3) Liam Lawson will be reunited with Red Bull’s championship winning RB7 Formula 1 car at Bathurst this weekend after driving it at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK in 2021. (Photo: Red Bull Content Pool)