Red Bull’s Lawson feels “in the mix” after Super Formula testing
Red Bull junior Liam Lawson has expressed his satisfaction with his pace in this week’s Super Formula pre-season test at Suzuka, after finishing with the fifth-fastest time.
Lawson was back in Japan for this week’s two-day test, as well as last weekend’s Suzuka Fan Thanks Day event, as he gears up for his first season racing in Super Formula for defending champion outfit Team Mugen.
He finished Monday’s opening day of running with the ninth-fastest time, but improved to fifth on day two, getting within half a second of pacesetter Kamui Kobayashi.
Reflecting on his two days of running, Lawson said that he is feeling increasingly comfortable and competitive in his new environment after two seasons of racing in Formula 2.
“There’s still quite a big gap to Kamui in first, but I feel better in the car than I did on Monday and in the rookie test [last December],” Lawson told Motorsport.com.
“We tried a lot of stuff, we did some long runs and we have a better understanding now of the new tyre, and the final attack lap was quite good at the end.
“It was quite cool, everyone drove out of the box at the same time with new tyres, it felt like a proper qualifying session. I think it was quite representative.
“We still don’t know who was running on what fuel loads, so you never know, but I feel in the mix.”
Lawson however concedes that he will be at a disadvantage for the opening weekend at Fuji on April 8-9 as he will have no chance to drive at the track before the first free practice session of the weekend.
“Now we’re going to a track I haven’t done before,” he said. “It’s all very well being quick here, but I need to do the same at tracks I haven’t driven before.
“The team has a lot of data to look at and come up with the best baseline set-up going into Fuji. But it will be important to make the most of that first practice session.
“It’s good that there’s two rounds, because I’ll be more comfortable on Sunday. The target will be to really capitalise on Sunday’s race rather than Saturday’s.”
Beating Nojiri from the off ‘not realistic’
Lawson shared a track with his two-time champion Tomoki Nojiri for the first time in this week’s test, as Nojiri sat out the previous test at Suzuka last December.
Nojiri set the fastest time across the two days of testing, with a best time on Monday around seven tenths faster than that of Lawson on Tuesday.
The New Zealander admits that beating his more established team-mate from the off is unlikely.
“Obviously every driver has to have self-confidence; if you don’t have that, you’re not going to win,” said Lawson. “But coming here is a big challenge and it’s not realistic to expect to [beat Nojiri] straight away.
“Everyone that comes here struggles initially, so for me it’s about breaking that barrier as soon as possible and deliver as early as possible in the season.
“The first races will be tough. I am here to win, but I’m not expecting to do that early on. I still need to learn.”