Top NZ drivers reunite at Hampton Downs
While his deal to drive in the Formula One feeder class is being put together, Mitch Evans is enjoying a Christmas break at home in New Zealand.
But there's just no keeping the GP3 world champ out of a car, with a pre-season run at Hampton Downs today. Evans is returning a favour to the Toyota Racing Series, which provided the GP winner's stepping stone to Europe.
“It gives us a really good platform to what we want to do and give young kids an opportunity,” says Evans.
Young is a relative term. Evans is only 18. Even Brendon Hartley, considered a TRS veteran, is just 23. But he's already tested for the Red Bull, Torro Roso and Mercedes F1 teams.
“I sometimes forget how much experience I have,” says Hartley. “[It] actually scared me before when I realised that the series has been going for nine years and I won the first race nine years ago.”
Today’s pre-season shakedown at Hampton Downs turned into an impromptu reunion for New Zealand’s three top European-based drivers.
For Richie Stanaway it was also a comeback. This was his first time in a race car since June, when a crash in Belgium left him with a broken back.
“It's nice to come out and do a few laps to get my confidence back, and we'll have to see how this next season goes,” says Stanaway.
While Stanaway has an eye on a future spot with the Lotus F1 team, Hartley is enjoying his double role with Mercedes, testing Lewis Hamilton's new car while competing in the Le Mans Series.
And even on today’s low-key practice day, there was competition to be the fastest Kiwi.
“We're all super competitive,” says Evans. “We all want to make it to the top, but we're also from the same country. So we've got to give each other a little bit of support, I guess.”
Evans hasn't ruled out a crack at this season’s New Zealand GP, although it's GP2 and another world title he wants most.