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Super Formula Suzuka II

Lawson laments Suzuka red flag as Super Formula title hopes fade

Liam Lawson has lamented the timing of the red flag in Suzuka qualifying after a truncated Super Formula race in which he was severely compromised by his starting position.

Liam Lawson, TEAM MUGEN

Red Bull Formula 1 junior Lawson was classified sixth in Saturday’s penultimate round of the season, with the results declared after just three laps due to a stoppage caused by a terrifying crash between Hiroki Otsu and Ukyo Sasahara at 130R.

It followed a difficult qualifying session for the Mugen driver in which he could set only the seventh-fastest time while his title rivals Ritomo Miyata and Tomoki Nojiri qualified on the front row.

Explaining his plight afterwards, Lawson said he felt the lap he was on at the time of Ren Sato's crash at Degner Curve that brought out the red flags would have put him as high as second on the grid.

While the session was eventually resumed, Lawson didn’t have any fresh tyres to put on like his rivals, a legacy of his Motegi crash in August, leaving him six tenths off Nojiri’s pole time.

He said: “Qualifying was obviously frustrating. We had done 95% of the lap and then a red flag came out, and everybody else had spare tyres and I didn't have spare tyres, so I had to reuse the same set of tyres. 

"It obviously put us out of position. It's a shame to be honest because the qualifying lap was really good before the red flag."

Asked by Autosport where he could have qualified had he been able to complete the lap, Lawson said the dashboard on his car showed he had sent an identical time to Nojiri until that point of the track.

“I was 0.0s with Tomoki before the chicane," he said. "Let's say if I have a bad chicane, I lose a tenth, it's P2,” he said.

Liam Lawson, TEAM MUGEN

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

Liam Lawson, TEAM MUGEN

“Obviously anything could have happened, I could have locked up and gone straight. But the lap was really good. 

“The car was really good for that new tyre and we were on for a very similar laptime. With the gap Tomoki had on the others I think it should have put us between them [Nojiri and Miyata] if not fighting with them.

"Unfortunately, just everything that could happen today happened to us.”

Lawson made up a place at the start on the Impul of Ryo Hirakawa to move up to sixth, and had just passed Inging’s Sho Tsuboi at Turn 1 when the race was stopped on lap 5.

But with the order reset at the end of lap 3, Lawson was officially classified sixth behind Tsuboi, as only half points were awarded to the top 10 finishers.

“The biggest issue is that we never had a chance to fight for any positions today," reflected the Kiwi. "The car was really fast. 

"Firstly, [Otsu and Sasahara] were okay, which is obviously the most important thing. But aside from that, it obviously really hurt our race because regardless we would have come forward [if the race had run the full distance]. 

“I think we were fighting for the podium at least [with a full race].”

Having already conceded ground in qualifying, Lawson now trails TOM’S driver Ritomo Miyata by 15 points in third in the standings, with Nojiri 8.5 points clear of him in second.

Lawson conceded that the outcome of this year’s title fight is now out of his hands, as he needs misfortune to strike the top two contenders in Sunday’s Suzuka finale in order to have any shot of winning the championship

“It's going to be very tough for us,” he said. “I need them to not finish. Obviously I'm going to try and win the race and go as fast as I can but I would need them to have a really bad race."

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