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Lawson "grateful" to qualify P3 after Motegi Q2 worries

Liam Lawson has admitted to relief at qualifying third for this weekend’s Motegi Super Formula as rapidly changing conditions left him feeling ‘worried’.

Liam Lawson, TEAM MUGEN

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

Red Bull junior Lawson was outpaced only by Mugen team-mate Tomoki Nojiri and Dandelion's Kakunoshin Ota in Saturday's Q2 shootout, ending up within 0.282s of Nojiri's pole time.

That puts him five places ahead of title rival Ritomo Miyata on the grid for Sunday's race, the two title rivals now tied on points after Lawson earned one bonus point for qualifying third.

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Reflecting on a crucial session for his title ambitions, Motegi novice Lawson admitted that the swing in track temperatures from Q1 Group A made him nervous about whether he would be able to make the step necessary to start towards the front of the field.

“It’s a good result in terms of where we are in relation to Miyata,” Lawson told Motorsport.com. “Of course Nojiri was extremely fast, but I was concerned whether I would be able to make that jump [in Q2]. 

“We knew the time was possible, as Nojiri showed, I knew the car had performance, but it took me until that last lap in Q2 to finally deliver a good time today. 

“All through practice and Q1 I didn’t really have it, so I was relieved to make that step.”

Liam Lawson, TEAM MUGEN

Liam Lawson, TEAM MUGEN

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

Such was the huge difference in conditions from Q1A to Q1B that Lawson’s time of 1m33.339s would have only been good enough for ninth in the latter group.

The New Zealander said that advice from 2019 Super Formula champion Nick Cassidy, present in support of Lawson this weekend, helped reassure him.

Lawson explained: “In Q1A it was sunny, really high track temperatures. As soon as we finished this big cloud and the track temperature just dived. I was hearing it from my engineer and it was dropping a couple of degrees every couple of minutes. 

“I knew the track would be faster [in Q2], but it’s still worrying when you see how fast they were [in Q1B]. 

“It was actually Nick [Cassidy] who came to me and told me not to stress about it and said the time would come naturally, I knew I had to make a step anyway, but I think that’s what made it so hard for most of the guys in Q1A. 

“That’s something I normally struggle with, so I am just grateful that I managed to do a lap like that. It was 1.2 seconds I had to find; it was like a different car.”

For his part, Miyata said qualifying eighth - his worst grid position of the season, excluding his penalty at Suzuka - was roughly in line with expectations at what has long been a difficult track for TOM’S.

Ritomo Miyata, VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S

Ritomo Miyata, VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

“I want to get big points in the race, but maybe it will be difficult because Motegi is the most difficult circuit for us and last season we couldn’t fight at the front,” commented Miyata.

“Everyone knows Mugen is really strong from the last race at Fuji, and today they qualified pole and P3. Tomorrow they will be very strong. We have to focus on gaining positions and scoring as many points as possible.”

Motorsport.tv is showing all Super Formula qualifying sessions and races live in 2023. Click here for further information and to sign up today.

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