Motorsport: Liam Lawson, New Zealand's next Formula One prodigy?

New Zealand’s next Formula One prospect faces a crossroads in his career path this weekend.

A member of the prominent Red Bull Racing Junior Team, Liam Lawson, 18, has just completed his second season in Formula Three.

While mechanical issues cost the Hastings native any chance of emulating fellow Kiwi Mitch Evans and winning the championship, Lawson achieved three race wins, six podiums and a pole position - good enough for fifth overall.

But Lawson's immediate future is at stake, when he tests a Hitech F2 car in Bahrain this week. Hitech is the sister team to F1's Red Bull Racing, which is spearheaded by Belgian-Dutch superstar Max Verstappen.

A successful test for Lawson could result in a promotion to F2 next year and a step closer to his dream of driving at the highest level of motorsport - Formula One.

"I'm really excited," Lawson tells Newshub. "Being in a F2 car, you definitely get looked at more often by the F1 teams. 

“It's a big step up in car speed and downforce."

Lawson's potential graduation has been orchestrated by his Red Bull bosses, who have a history of promoting youth.

Daniel Ricciardo, Alex Albon, John Eric-Vergne, Carlos Sainz, Sebastian Vettel and Verstappen have all been part of previous young driver programmes, while Kiwi Brendon Hartley's experience in the programme led to his full-time drive with the team two years ago.

So the pathway is there for Lawson - it's now up to him to impress on the free-flowing power-circuit, starting Friday.

"This is Red Bull's decision,” he says. “My career is pretty much in their hands and they have decided that now is the right time to step up to F2, so If we go well this weekend, then we will hopefully get a ride next year.

"As long as you keep up to their expectations, then their track record shows they will reward young talent."

Lawson has only driven for six-years, after racing go-karts as a 12-year-old. His rise to one of the most established teams in motorsport has been rapid and includes a 2019 New Zealand Grand Prix win.

That same year, he won the Toyota Racing Series title, pipping Ferrari development driver and fellow Kiwi Marcus Armstrong.

Decked out in his full Red Bull Racing kit, Lawson admits he still pinches himself to make sure he's not dreaming.

"I didn't think this would come so quickly. I couldn't walk when I got the phone call that they wanted to sign me. 

“I was sitting in a cafe and I couldn't get up. It's silly to say, but three years ago, I would never have even dreamed this, but now it's become my normal and that's crazy."