Red Bull junior Lawson returns to his main commitments in Japan’s premier single-seater series after making five grand prix appearances for AlphaTauri in place of an injured Daniel Ricciardo since the previous Super Formula round at Motegi in August.
Tomo Koike, who oversees Lawson’s side of the Team Mugen garage, feels that the experience gained by the New Zealander at the wheel of an F1 car at Suzuka in particular can only help him in his bid to overturn Ritomo Miyata’s points advantage.
Lawson goes into the Super Formula decider eight points adrift of TOM’S driver Miyata, with Mugen team-mate Tomoki Nojiri just a further two points back with 46 left to play for across the two Suzuka races.
“I think [it can be an advantage], because he is quite good at adjusting,” Koike told Autosport.
“He is able to quickly match his driving style to the car of each category.
“Also, he told me at Suzuka in the paddock that the tyre degradation in F1 was quite similar to Super Formula. So it was kind of a practice for Super Formula!
“The type of degradation is different, but the management is similar in both categories.”
Koike emphasised the importance of Lawson qualifying well, not only due to the bonus points on offer but also in order to avoid a repeat of the situation in the second race of the season at Fuji back in April.
Liam Lawson, TEAM MUGEN
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
There, Lawson was penalised for backing up the pack too much behind the safety car as he sought to avoid losing time as Mugen double-stacked he and Nojiri in the pits.
“I am worried about a repeat of Round 2 at Fuji, if the safety car is out on lap 10 [when the pit window opens],” said Koike.
”That would be a disaster for the second driver, so qualifying [ahead of Nojiri] is really important.”
Koike is also keeping an eye on the championship positions following Saturday’s penultimate race, as they will dictate which drivers will end up in which of the two Q1 groups in qualifying for the all-important decider on Sunday.
Qualifying in Group B is traditionally seen as an advantage as it means drivers face a shorter interval until Q2, meaning that conditions have less chance to dramatically change.
“The championship standings after Round 8 will dictate each group, so position one or three is better [to be in Group 2],” said Koike.
“Actually it could be better to be third than second after Round 8, as long as we close the gap to Ritomo.”