Formula 1 2024 hopeful Liam Lawson claimed victory on his Super Formula debut in Japan.
Red Bull’s reserve driver Lawson, third in Formula 2 last season, is contesting a full campaign in Super Formula this year with Team Mugen.
It follows the path taken by other Red Bull proteges, most notably Pierre Gasly, who was a front-runner in 2017 before stepping up to Formula 1.
Lawson qualified third for the opening double-header round at Fuji Speedway, following the cancellation of practice due to weather, and went on to claim victory.
Lawson followed up Saturday’s win with fifth place in Sunday’s second race, having crossed the line third, prior to a time penalty for a Safety Car infraction.
The results leave Lawson second in the championship, on 27 points, 14 behind Mugen team-mate Tomoki Nojiri, who won the title in 2021 and 2022.
“Learning on the go a little bit but the team did a great job to come into the weekend, with no practice and having to guess a baseline set-up,” said Lawson.
“It’s really impressive that they have put together something this strong. So happy to win Race 1. Race 2, P5 in the end after the penalty which is unfortunate but I guess the rules are the rules.
“To be honest, the leader was driving pretty erratically, so I was pretty frustrated to see that I was penalised when he wasn’t but that’s how it goes sometimes.”
Lawson added that “I knew coming here to Japan that the series would be at a very high level because I know a lot of the drivers that have raced here before.
“What has impressed me, that I didn’t quite expect is the very high level of the cars and the teams. The teams are impressive, the way they operate.
“The car is extremely fast, faster than Formula 2, a lot closer to Formula 1. Sometimes it even feels like Formula 1 in some corners. Downforce is pretty exceptional.
“And the competition, these guys have obviously raced here a long time, they are very experienced, so they don’t make many mistakes and they are very fast.”