Red Bull Junior Driver Liam Lawson says his Super Formula experience “bridges the gap so much” to F1

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Photo credits: Red Bull Content Pool

Oracle Red Bull Racing F1 Team are dominating Formula One at present. They top the F1 Constructors’ Championship on 287 points and have a lead of 135 points over their nearest rival Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team. The Milton Keynes-based team is in fine form and it seems they cannot put a foot wrong. The same could be said of one of their Red Bull Junior Drivers, Liam Lawson, as the popular New Zealander is plying his race craft in the Super Formula over in Japan. With two wins already, in his rookie season, Lawson leads the standings after four races and only five more are remaining. As such, expectation is mounting that he is already a candidate to have a full time F1 seat in 2024.


Liam Lawson does not enter a new racing category without getting noticed. The Red Bull Junior Driver has been victorious in the opening race of nearly every category he has competed in – most notably DTM and Formula 2. Therefore, back in April of this year at the opening race weekend in Fuji, many wondered whether this remarkable feat would continue.


It would certainly be quite an achievement considering the fact that Liam Lawson’s teammate at Team Mugen is none other than Super Formula’s defending champion Tomoki Nojiri. Not only this, but the Japanese racer was on pole for the race and Lawson would start P3. However, victory for the rookie is exactly what came to pass when Liam Lawson crossed the finish line ahead of Nojiri by just over 2 seconds. Until this day, no driver had ever won in the series on their debut in the last 45 years. Lawson was already making history in Japan and he had only just arrived.


Liam Lawson reflected on this achievement recently in remarks published by Honda Racing.  


“Before Fuji, I was getting messages from people saying, ‘you’re gonna carry on the record and win the first race,’ and I was like, ‘Guys, you don’t understand! It’s not gonna happen like that’,” explained Lawson. “To win, a lot of things have to fall into place: the start; the car being exactly where you want it to be; the tyres degrading how you expect; the pitstop being good; the strategy being good. All of that has to happen, and it did in that race.”


In recent years, Stoffel Vandoorne and Pierre Gasly had both driven in Super Formula. They would each go on to claim multiple victories and Gasly would only miss out on the championship in his debut year by half a point. A fact which shows how competitive this category of motorsport is.


Nothing happens by accident at Red Bull Racing and as such one can imagine that Liam Lawson has been sent to Japan for a clear reason. Should the New Zealander be able to come out on top ahead of his much more experienced and reigning champion teammate Tomoki Nojiri, then it would go a long way to showing that he has the capability to handle the high-pressure world of an ‘F1 circus’ on a regular basis.


Lawson’s recent remarks also showed how he felt arriving at Team Mugen and the welcome he received: “I would say I was a bit shy when I first came here because of the language barrier, but I very quickly learned that the whole team including Nojiri-san, are super-respectful. I think I have never had a teammate who is as nice as a person as Nojiri.”


Motorsport is regarded as one of the most intense sports on and off track due to its fierce level of competition and everyone looking to get one step higher. Lawson explained how the reaction of his teammate was a refreshing one.

“As a driver who has grown up going through F4, F3, F2… you’re all trying to reach the same goal of making it to F1 and you have to beat each other to get there. Here the top drivers are not looking elsewhere, so it doesn’t feel like that. There tends to be a lot more respect between drivers, which I didn’t experience so much before in my career,”

However, Lawson is a driver looking elsewhere – towards the pinnacle of motorsport – and his performances are surely resulting in more people looking his way as well. Lawson explained how his experience in Japan is preparing him for the world of F1 and how there are also some similarities between the machinery of Super Formula and Formula One.


“The aero sensitivity of these cars is extremely high, and that relates a lot to F1,” stated Lawson. “The stuff we’re focusing on here with set-up is the same stuff. The last couple of years doing simulator work for Red Bull, I was learning stuff about the set-up that I had never looked at before, stuff that we just didn’t do in F2. But coming here, a lot of it is similar.

“Of course, the speed of the car is also much closer to F1. This bridges the gap so much. This is the only car that is somewhat close, with similar characteristics. I’m so glad to have come here. If I get a shot to race in F1, I will be really happy that I raced here first.”


Another thing which has impressed Lawson is the culture of Japan and its world-famous work ethic. All the more impressive as Team Mugen have already won the title the past two years but are not resting on their laurels.


“The work ethic is unlike anything I’ve seen. I was on a FaceTime call with the team before Round 1, it was 9:30pm in Japan, I was in the UK. They were in the garage and I could see my car in the background. They were working on the car until late at night doing everything they could for me. My engineer [Tomohiko Koike] is also having English lessons to make it easier for me. He even found a teacher from New Zealand, so he’s picking up the slang and everything!” said Lawson.


For his part, the Kiwi is doing everything right. He was victor of the most recent round of Super Formula last month and now has a 4-point lead at the top of the Super Formula Drivers’ standings over 23 year old racer Ritomo Miyata. The New Zealander also has a 15-point lead ahead of teammate Tomoki Nojiri after he withdrew from the race at Autopolis International Racing Course due to ill-health.


Liam Lawson is a Red Bull Junior driver at present but so too was Carlos Sainz many years back – which is a reminder that talented drivers do also leave the Red Bull fold.

Lawson is a very hot prospect for Red Bull Racing and it is hard to imagine them letting Lawson slip through their grasp based on this form. However, due to the fact that Honda are to return to Formula One as the works engine manufacturer for the Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team in 2026, it does not take much to imagine that Liam Lawson would already be on their wish list if the opportunity to sign him ever arose.


The New Zealander made a name for himself in Japan already during December’s Honda presentation as he even went so far as to speak in Japanese. An experience Lawson described as ‘one of the most nerve-wracking moments of my career…I was more nervous for that than I would be just before a race.’

Nervous he may have been, but this off-track experience would no doubt have strengthened his reputation with the Honda powers that be. Meanwhile, his on-track performances are a keen reminder to Red Bull Racing of the quality they have waiting in the wings.