A win and a non-finish in the second round of the Euroformula Open championship has reduced New Zealand driver Liam Lawson’s lead to six points heading into the next round at Germany’s Hockenheim circuit this coming weekend.
A clash with his teammate and pole setter Julian Hanses in the Pau Grand Prix feature race put both Motopark drivers out of the race.
Lawson had moved up to second place from grid four when the incident happened, both drivers battling on slick tyres in the increasingly wet conditions.
“I was quicker at that point of the race and I tried to overtake as quickly as possible. I went for a move that I’d done earlier in the race and I think Julian was wise to it, saw me coming and moved to defend. At that point I couldn’t stop and we clashed. My apologies to Julian and the team,” said Lawson.
Clearly the fastest driver on slick tyres, Lawson was trying to advance as quickly as possible to gap several drivers behind him who were closing fast after their teams had pitted from the formation lap to change onto wet weather tyres, gambling on the conditions worsening.
The young Kiwi driver was a second a lap faster than his other slick-shod rivals and needed to get by Hanses to try and hold-out a charging Billy Monger on wet weather rubber. Monger had by then closed to within 4-seconds of Lawson and was reeling off laps just over a second faster than race leader Hanses.
“Our team were the top four cars on the grid and we made the decision to stay on slicks at the start. Team Carlin were outside the top ten and made the gamble to change, and in the end it paid off for Billy. Congratulations to him on the win.”
The 78th Pau Grand Prix race itself was a stark contrast to the Red Bull Junior driver’s dominant pole to flag victory the day before, when Lawson won by 16-seconds.
At the start of the GP, Lawson demoted Marino Sato before rounding up his Red Bull Junior teammate Yuki Tsunoda, who he got by at the same place he attempted to pass Hanses.
Earlier in the day during the qualifying session Lawson banked fourth fastest lap time before changing to new rubber for a push for the pole time. Unfortunately on his flying lap the session was red flagged when young Australian Jack Doohan crashed. When the session went green again with only minutes to run, the rain came and there was no chance for him to improve.
A post race investigation resulted in Lawson being handed a three-grid penalty for the next race at Hockenheim for the incident with Hanses. However, he still maintains his championship lead with the deficit to Sato now reduced from 14 points to just six.
Lawson’s victory in race one of the weekend was the first by a New Zealand driver since Mike Thackwell won in 1984 and again in 1986.
The Red Bull Junior driver is proudly supported in Europe by the Porter Group, Turners, and Giltrap Group.