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Autosport Top 50 of 2023: #29 Liam Lawson

2nd in Super Formula, 20th in Formula 1 World Championship

Top 50 2023 dotcom29

Top 50 Drivers of 2023

Autosport's team of expert journalists got together to try to assess who were the top 50 drivers of 2023. Here are the results.

After two solid but inconclusive seasons in Formula 2, a move to Super Formula was exactly what Lawson needed to fully convince Red Bull of his qualities as a genuine F1 prospect, and he stunned the Japanese establishment with a historic debut win at Fuji.

That was the first of three victories, but a penalty, a strategic blunder and a very costly crash at Motegi ended up denying him the title.

When he was parachuted into AlphaTauri after Daniel Ricciardo broke his hand at Zandvoort, Lawson immediately impressed, and outscored Yuki Tsunoda in their five races together. Another Red Bull opportunity will surely loom.

Read Also:

Five great ‘gaijin’ rookie Super Formula seasons

Ralf Schumacher (1996)

Coming to Japan off the back of success in German Formula 3, the younger brother of Michael (himself a one-time Japanese Formula 3000 starter) joined the series for its first season under the Formula Nippon moniker with Team LeMans.

With three victories, Schumacher edged out team-mate Naoki Hattori and Japanese racing legend Kazuyoshi Hoshino to win the title and book his ticket to F1 with Jordan.

Loic Duval (2006)

When Andre Lotterer was snapped up by Toyota, Honda-aligned Nakajima Racing needed another fast European to fill the breach. Step forward Loic Duval, who was scouted by Satoru Nakajima in Macau after the Frenchman’s heroics there in 2005.

Like Schumacher, Duval won his second race in Formula Nippon, and while he could only muster fourth overall, he blew team-mate Hideki Mutoh out of the water.

Stoffel Vandoorne (2016)

Vandoorne's Super Formula success led to him making a full-time move into F1

Photo by: Yasushi Ishihara

Vandoorne's Super Formula success led to him making a full-time move into F1

It was McLaren that relaunched Super Formula as a serious proving ground for F1 aspirants when it sent GP2 champion Vandoorne to Japan with the backing of Honda.

In a slightly odd year in which none of the established frontrunners were consistent using the then-new Yokohama tyres (Yuji Kunimoto won the title with only four podiums from nine races), Vandoorne won twice to end up fourth overall before his belated F1 call-up.

Pierre Gasly (2017)

In 2017 it was Gasly’s turn to spend a year in Japan after winning the GP2 title, marking the start of an involvement in Super Formula for Red Bull that continues to this day. 

The Frenchman took longer to get going than some, but back-to-back wins at Motegi and Autopolis established himself as Honda’s only title hope. The cancellation of the Suzuka finale due to a typhoon left him half a point shy of the crown.

Alex Palou (2019)

Palou arrived in Super Formula to much less fanfare than either Vandoorne or Gasly, but in many ways his campaign was even more impressive as he took the struggling Nakajima Racing team back to the front of the field.

Only a loose intercooler tube getting caught up in his rear suspension at Suzuka cost the Spaniard the title on his way to IndyCar stardom.

 
Lawson's time in Super Formula will no doubt be remembered as a starring 'gaijin'

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

Lawson's time in Super Formula will no doubt be remembered as a starring 'gaijin'

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