Lawson to race in Japan next year alongside continuing Red Bull F1 Reserve Driver role
Liam Lawson will switch from European racing to the Japanese Super Formula championship next year but will also remain Red Bull Racing’s main F1 Reserve driver.
After two seasons in Formula 2, the European undercard to F1, Lawson moves to Super Formula’s championship winning Team Mugen alongside double champion Tomoki Nojiri in official Honda-powered cars.
The 20-year-old Kiwi driver tested with the team at Japan’s Suzuka circuit last week and was confirmed overnight when Honda announced their 2023 driver lineup in Japan.
The move to Super Formula is seen as further preparation in Lawson’s bid to earn an F1 seat in the future with Red Bull, by racing a car that is much closer in specification to F1 than F2.
“I was surprised by how quick the car was,” said Lawson after the two-day Suzuka test. “I knew it was going to be quite a step up from Formula 2 with the way the aero works on this car, but I was surprised by how much of a step it is. It’s very, very quick. I was also surprised at how nice it is to drive. It does what you want it to do, especially in high-speed corners.”
After a tough couple of years in Formula 2, Lawson says he’s excited for the change.
“It’s very different to Formula 2. The car is lighter and the aero much more effective so in preparing you to drive a Formula 1 car, this for me is a much better step.”
Lawson was 10th fastest and the top rookie driver on the first day of testing before settling into longer race runs on the second day at a track he’d always wanted to drive.
“I played it a lot on Formula 1 games, it’s a pretty iconic track. It was very cool to drive around, especially in a Super Formula car, which I think perfectly suits it. It’s a very high-speed track with very high speed sections and in this car it’s very on the limit. If you make a mistake it’ll bite you pretty hard but the adrenaline you get from that is pretty cool!”
Super Formula has limited testing so Lawson will only have the official two-day pre-season test in March to learn more about the car before the new season starts in April.
The all-Japan based series has seven rounds at five different tracks and the 2023 series will be the fifty-first season of Japanese premiere open-wheel motor racing, the eleventh under the name of Super Formula.
“The level here is very high,” said Lawson. ” The local drivers have done lots of years in this car and at these tracks so they’re very experienced and very quick. There’s potentially a few more foreigners next year, but it’s going to be extremely tough with how quick the local guys are.”
It will be a busy year for Lawson combining Super Formula with his F1 Reserve role and simulator duties. Lawson may be forced to miss up to four rounds of the 23 F1 Grand Prix scheduled for next year, although Red Bull are yet to confirm which of their reserve drivers will take the back-up role at each of those rounds.
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Liam Lawson is confirmed to drive in the Japanese Super Formula championship with Red Bull Racing in 2023 with Team Mugen.
Calendar 2023 – Super Formula Japan
Races 1/2: 07-09 April, Fuji
Race 3: 21-23 April, Suzuka
Race 4: 19-21 May, Autopolis
Race 5: 16-18 June, Sportsland SUGO
Race 6: 18-20 August, Motegi
Races 8/9: 27-29 October, Suzuka