Eric Thompson catches up with three Kiwis who were flying in overseas championships this year
Three of New Zealand's best young racecar drivers, who've been making their names overseas, are back home for Christmas.
GP3 champion Mitch Evans will step up a class and contest the GP2 series next year. Brendon Hartley scored an exclusive gig at the Le Mans 24 Hours and is working with the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One team. Richie Stanaway has been recovering from a major back injury sustained in the Renault 3.5 litre series. Recovered, he's looking forward to next year.
Driven caught up with the three and asked each for their thoughts on this year and what they want out of next year.
Driven: What is your best moment from 2012?
Evans: Easy, winning the GP3 championship.
Hartley: Returning to an F1 cockpit and leading the Le Mans 24 Hours in the LMP2 car.
Stanaway (2011): Some of the top moments include winning the first race of the F3 season. I'd never raced F3 before so to win off the bat after a lengthy off-season full of anticipation was a great moment. Of course winning the F3 title that year as well as a GP3 race on my debut weekend are some of the moments that stand out too.
Your favourite race in 2012?
Evans: Either Barcelona and Valencia race one, where I won, or my very last race when I went from 25th to 7th before I got my puncture.
Hartley: Le Mans 24 Hours, biggest motor sport event on Earth.
Stanaway (2011): I'd have to say the final race of the German F3 season in Hockenheim. As a driver you're constantly trying to get the most out of yourself physically and mentally while trying to work with your team to optimise your car. It's very hard to get every aspect close to 100 per cent at one given moment, but on that day we got it pretty close ... and I think it was one of my best performances to date. Races like the GP3 win hold slightly more credibility, but speaking strictly of performance I'd have to say that race in Hockenheim.
What is your worst moment from 2012?
Evans: Race one at Monza. We had a good opportunity to tie the championship up in that race, but the floor was crushed when I went over the speed hump, and when I got hit and got the puncture in race two. I thought the championship was over - it was one of the worst feelings I've ever experienced.
Hartley: Car breaking down on the 15th hour of Le Mans.
Stanaway (2011): Macau Grand Prix. High hopes prior to the weekend but had no pace and didn't even make it to the first corner in the race.
Which race did you think got away from you?
Evans: The whole Monaco weekend. I was super-fast in practice and everything was looking good, but didn't have the best qualifying. It was only 15 minutes long when we usually have 30 minutes so the tyres didn't come up to temperature fast enough and I qualified fourth. You can't pass around Monaco so I had to settle for fourth and fifth when we had probably the fastest car all weekend, which was frustrating.
Also race one at Silverstone. I was starting from pole, the track was a bit damp so we decided to use used tires and not new ones. We should have been on new, like the guys around me. The performance drop was huge - we could have won that race, which again was frustrating.
Hartley: My first race with Murphy Prototypes where we finished third, 30 seconds from the lead. Without the stop-and-go penalty, the race was ours. Also leading Le Mans for four hours and then having a failure. It was heartbreaking.
Stanaway: An F3 race in Assen where I won it on the road after a last-lap overtake but a mistake with the timing scored the race a lap too early by technical fault.
What do you hope to achieve in 2013?
Evans: I hope to have a very strong season in GP2. I need to, to give myself the best chance for 2014 for whatever it may be, whether it's another year of GP2 or a Formula 1 seat.
Hartley: Continue my work with Mercedes AMG Petronas and hopefully step behind the wheel again. Plus secure a top drive in Le Mans prototypes with another successful season.
Stanaway: I aim to perform at the level where I can score pole positions and win races in Formula Renault 3.5 litre; I also hope to be in a position to fight for the title. I'm yet to have success at that tier, which is just below F1, so I'll be working hard to try and achieve that.
If you could ask any driver dead or alive for advice, who would it be?
Evans: Ayrton Senna.
Hartley: Don't know.
Stanaway: Vettel. He's a three-time world champion at the age of 25. I couldn't think of someone better to get advice from.
Your ultimate goal is F1, but with what team?
Evans: Top team, you can't be fussy, but definitely a race championship winning team, so the likes of Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes.
Hartley: Mercedes AMG Petronas.
Stanaway: Lotus. I'm in a good position with them now - if I play my cards well I'd love to drive for them in the future.
Whose house would you most like to have Christmas dinner at?
Evans: Our beach house in Omaha, and we normally have a Christmas lunch, which is always to die for. Can't beat it, especially in our amazing Kiwi sun.
Hartley: My family. Last year was the first Christmas I spent away from home, really looking forward to seeing them this Christmas.
Stanaway: Bernie Ecclestone's.