Lawson slips to second after Sugo
Team Mugen strategy hurts Kiwi star
Liam Lawson’s grasp on the lead of the Super Formula championship slipped away with a fifth place finish at Sugo.
Team Mugen split their race strategy over their two cars with the earlier stopping Tomoki Nojiri finishing on the podium while Lawson stopped late and despite a late-race charge wasn’t able to catch the leaders.
“It’s a real shame because we had the pace all weekend, we just didn’t make the best use of it,” said a disappointed Lawson at the finish of the 70 lap race.
In the final top-12 qualifying session the Red Bull/Rodin backed driver was sixth after posting a second-fastest time in his group during the first round of the qualifying format.
“In Quali, we missed the window a little bit and should have been higher up.”
“Still we had a really good start, from P6 to P4 and I was ahead of my teammate which should have helped with strategy.”
Team Mugen elected to pit Nojiri first for the compulsory pit stop so after the window opened, a strategy that helped him finish second and first of the Honda-powered cars.
Lawson, however, was left out until near the end of the race and rejoined from the lead in seventh place. He managed to pass two cars and was fighting for fourth place at the line, only to miss out by two-hundredths of a second.
“I think the feeling was that the leaders who boxed early would come out in traffic and that would hinder them. But they got no traffic and were able to put in the lap times and we were losing to them all the way, 40 laps waiting to box.
“I was stuck behind Tsuboi for too long, we should have boxed. We’ve got to look at all of that and see how we can do better, make sure we don’t get in this situation again.”
Race winner Ritomo Miyata was untouchable in the race, finishing 22-seconds clear of Nojiri in his TOM’S-Toyota powered car.
“The positive is that we did have the pace, we have that every weekend so we’ve got to go on back to Fuji where we started the season with pole and a win and make a better job of it than we did this weekend,” added Lawson.
The 21-year-old Kiwi will stay on in Japan this week for the official in-season testing at Fuji on Friday and Saturday before heading back to the UK and onto the Red Bull Ring for his F1 reserve driver duties the following weekend.
Lawson’s Super Formula campaign in Japan is supported by Rodin Cars, Giltrap Group, Turners, cumulo9, Porter Group and the Tony Quinn Foundation.
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Liam Lawson finished fifth at Sugo, currently 2nd in the Super Formula championship with four races to go. (Photo: Red Bull Content Pool)
Super Formula, Sugo: 17-18 April, 2023
Qualifying – Top 6
1. Toshiki Oyu (TMG Grand Prix) 1:05.468
2. Ritomo Miyata (TOM’S) 1:05.499
3. Tomoki Nojiri (Team Mugen) 1:05.681
4. Sho Tsuboi (Inging) 1:05.795
5. Ryo Hirakawa (Team Impul) 1:05.807
6. Liam Lawson (Team Mugen) 1:05.842
Race (70 laps) – Top 6
2. Nojiri +22.272
3. Tadasuke Makino (Dandelion) +26.961
4. Kazuya Oshima (Docomo Business) +29.077
5. Lawson +29.223
6. Kamui Kobayashi (Team KCMG) + 29.949
Super Formula Championship points – Drivers Top 6
1. Miyata 75
2. Lawson 63
3. Nojiri 58
4. Tsuboi 50
5. Hirakawa 28
6. Yamashita 28
Super Formula Championship points – Teams Top 6
1. Team Mugen 110
2. Team TOM’S 72
3. Inging 52
4. Kondo Racing 33
5. Team Impul 28
6. Nakajima Racing 21
Calendar 2023 – Super Formula, Japan
Rds 1/2: 08-09 April, Fuji
Rd 3: 22-23 April, Suzuka
Rd 4: 20-21 May, Autopolis
Rd 5: 17-18 June, Sportsland SUGO
Rd 6: 15-16 July, Fuji
Rd 7: 19-20 August, Motegi
Rds 8/9: 28-29 October, Suzuka