Liam Lawson made an impressive debut in the Asian Formula 3 championship, claiming pole position, winning his first race and setting the fastest lap on his way to victory at Malaysia’s Sepang circuit.

A guest driver for Irish-based Pinnacle Motorsport, Lawson became just the fifth driver in the world to win in this new generation F3 car.

But even more impressive is the 16-year-old from Pukekohe had very little track time in the car before he dominated the two qualifying sessions that set the grid positions for two of the three races over the weekend.

A misfiring engine in Lawson’s car saw him complete less than a dozen laps over the three practice sessions with the team unsure the problem was solved as they sent the young Kiwi driver out to qualify. Luckily the misfire was cured and Lawson blitzed the field in Qualifying 1 to claim the pole by over half-a-second to Ye Yifei, a former French F4 champion who finished runner-up in this year’s Eurocup Formula Renault.

Lawson then topped the second qualifying session by nearly the same margin, this time over Japan’s Tomoki Takahashi.

With so little pre-race testing, and just one practice start before the lights went green on the first race, Lawson lost out off the line but led the 18-strong field by the end of the opening lap. He went on to win the race by over 8-seconds.

“I knew we had a really fast car but unfortunately I got a really bad start and dropped to third. I was able to regain the lead on lap one and then control the race from there,” said Lawson.

The Sepang round is the final of this season’s series and the opening race was held at night, another new experience for Lawson.

“I raced a kart when I was 8-years-old under lights but this was my first real night race. I really enjoyed it and I think we should have more of them,” he said.

“This is my first time in Asia so I’m struggling with the heat and not really looking forward to when it gets hotter for the other two races.”

The second race is scheduled for 3.35pm NZ time today (Saturday) with the final on Sunday at 5.45pm. Both races will be live-streamed and can be watched via a link at