Highlander scoops F1 test 06 | 12 | 2010

    HIGHLANDER LEWIS WILLIAMSON scooped the biggest prize in British motorsport when he won the McLaren Autosport Young Driver of the Year. The 21-year-old collected his award from fellow Scots and previous winners Dario Franchitti and Paul di Resta.

    "Wow, I'm in dreamland," Williamson, runner-up in the British Formula Renault Championship this year, admitted after collecting his trophy, a TW Steel watch and a cheque for £100,000 at the awards ceremony at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London. As if that wasn't enough, he also gets a test in a McLaren Formula One car.

    “When they announced my name I could hardly get up from my chair as the table went about five feet in the air and I nearly ended up with a black eye as everybody started hugging me!

    “When we got to the venue I didn’t get my hopes up and I wasn’t feeling nervous – we had nothing to lose. To win the award is amazing. It’s all very emotional and difficult to put into words.”

    Williamson was one of six young drivers shortlisted for the coveted award and took part in a two-day evaluation at Silverstone where he drove a Formula 2 car and a Mercedes DTM racer.

    "I went to the test days and just concentrated on doing everything I could to the best of my ability," Williamson (pictured), who won five FRenault races this season, more than anyone else, and took four other podiums and five pole positions, continued.

    "I did exactly what I've done all year and that was to give it 100%. That's all I could do. It was a brilliant experience, but to win the award is just stunning.

    "To be recognised in this way is fantastic and it's really given me a huge boost. I think it'll take a few days before the full significance of it sinks in, but it certainly will help me with my plans for next season and the rest of my career."

    Having come so close to winning the FRenault title with Manor Motorsport, he was only pipped in the final race of the season by Tom Blomqvist (correct, Blomqvist), Williamson is now expected to move up to race in the GP3 series, part of the F1 grand prix support package.

    "GP3 is certainly what we're looking at for 2011," the talented young Scot, who is backed by a consortium of Highland sponsors and companies, admitted. "It would be a natural step towards Formula One, which is ultimately where I want to end up."

    Williamson, currently serving an engineering apprenticeship and who cut his racing teeth in karting, where he won a number of championships, has already shown his huge potential. Recently he was given a last-minute call-up to join the GP3 test at Estoril in Portugal.

    After flying in direct from Inverness to Lisbon and missing the opening day, he jumped into Atech CRS GP's car and outpaced the other 29 drivers, most of whom had already tested on the previous day and/or contested the whole 2010 season.

    And Williamson's success was praised by both Paul di Resta and three-times F1 world champ Jackie Stewart.

    "It's terrific for Scotland to have another talented and successful young driver coming through the ranks, Stewart, who also picked up the Gregor Grant Award in recognition of his lifetime achievements in motorsport, said.

    Di Resta meanwhile, who won the Young Driver award in 2004, said: "Lewis gave a terrific display at the test at Silverstone and I'm sure he'll make great use of the prizemoney and the prestige which comes with winning the award."

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    Jim McGill

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