It has been a fair while since the Island nation of New Zealand have seen someone compete in the highest form of motorsport that is Formula 1. In fact you have to go back to the 1984 Season to find the last Kiwi driver in the form of Mike Thackwell, who raced once for RAM and failed to qualify once for Tyrrell that year. New Zealand has one World Champion from the past in Denny Hulme, while history will always remember fellow Kiwi’s Chris Amon and Bruce McLaren, the former regarded as the best driver never to have won a Grand Prix, while the latter formed the legendary McLaren team, which still races in F1 this very day.
Nineteen-year-old Mitch Evans is the brightest star shining at present from New Zealand with F1 aspirations, and heralds from Auckland. He has been mentored since sixteen by none other than Australian Formula 1 driver Mark Webber, and has shone speed in every car and series he has driven in. Back in 2010, Red Bull Racing driver Webber praised Evans and said:
“I met Mitch for the first time at last year’s Australian Grand Prix and was amazed at how switched on he was at the age of just fourteen.
“At this very early stage he is displaying all the right ingredients and characteristics to be successful at the highest level and he has some great people behind him who I’m certain will do everything to ensure he fulfils his dream.
“It’s really important that he chooses his next steps carefully and I’m looking forward to playing my part by using my own personal experiences and contacts to make the move as seamless as possible, and helping his development on and off the track”
Mitch Evans’ single seater career began back in 2007 with three races in the New Zealand Formula First Championship, taking 9th in the Championship. In 2008 he progressed on to the Formula Ford Manfeild Winter series, winning 7 times out of 12 races and the Championship in the process. Through the 2008/09 season of the New Zealand Formula Ford Championship, he won 6 races, only being pipped to the championship by fellow Kiwi Richie Stanaway.
He moved to Australia for the 2009 season, racing primarily in the Australian Formula Ford Championship, winning 6 races and finishing second in the championship to Nick Percat, now a big name in Australian V8 Supercars. Evans was also drafted in by Team BRM to race in the final race weekend of the Australian Drivers’ Championship to try and assist main driver Joey Foster’s championship campaign. A fourth place in race 1 was followed by a win in race 2, while Foster was also successful in his fight for the championship.
2010 saw Mitch run a full year in the Australian Drivers’ Championship with Team BRM, finishing second in the championship, one point behind champion Ben Barker, despite missing a round early in the season. However he went one better when he raced in the Toyota Racing Series back in his native land, winning the championship with the Giles Motorsport team. It was during this campaign where Mark Webber picked him up. He returned to the series in 2011 and dominated, winning 7 of 15 rounds and the championship.
Under Webber’s guidance, Evans was brought over to Europe for the first time in 2011, joining Webber’s own MW Arden team, a team the Aussie runs with Red Bull boss Christian Horner, in the GP3 Series. He won Race 1 at the Circuit de Catalunya having started from pole position, while he also finished on the podium in Valencia, finishing 9th in the overall standings. He also had 3 races in British Formula 3 for the Double R Racing outfit.
He remained in the GP3 Series with MW Arden in 2012, and won the championship, defeating German driver Daniel Abt by 2 points. He won races in Catalunya, Valencia and the Hockenheimring, whilst also finishing on the podium at Silverstone, Budapest and Spa-Francorchamps. He also raced a few times back in his native New Zealand in the Toyota Racing series, winning twice on his return.
2013 saw the Kiwi driver promoted to the full Arden International outfit in the GP2 series, and Evans has continued his impressive career to date, finishing on the podium in the opening weekend of the season in Malaysia despite suffering from food poisoning, and thus became the youngest driver ever to stand on a GP2 podium! Three other podiums in his debut GP2 season (Both races in Monaco and the second race in Hungary) is something to be very proud of indeed, even if bad luck took him out of contention on more than one occasion. He could and should be sitting higher than the 14th he current holds in the championship with one round to go.
So what next for Mitch Evans, and just how good is he?
Well I cannot help but think another year in the GP2 series with Arden International is on the cards, and if he does indeed return, he’ll be one of the favourites for the championship, especially with the confidence of the years experience and the podium finishes of 2013. Big things can be expected of this young man, still a teenager, and it would not surprise me to see him plying his trade in Formula One in the not too distant future. He is a superstar in the making, and when he drives, he drives fast but also with maturity. One to watch without a doubt.