A late, untimely red flag hurt Liam Lawson’s chances in qualifying for this evening’s Super Formula race at Suzuka, with the Kiwi having to restart his final flying lap after a lengthy delay before setting the seventh fastest time.
The Kiwi’s closest championship rivals, Tomoki Nojiri and leader Ritomo Miyata, meanwhile, lockout the front row, with Lawson’s Team Mugen teammate jumping to second in the championship standings by claiming three points for qualifying on pole.
Miyata also claims two points for qualifying second, leaving Lawson 10 points in arrears and third in the standings ahead of the final two races.
Lawson competed in Qualifying 1 from Group A and set a best time of 1:37.822, progressing to the top 12 from second in the group and only .001 seconds off leader Sho Tsuboi.
Also progressing from Group A were Kakunoshin Ohta, Kenta Yamashita, Ren Sato and Nobuharu Matsushita.
Miyata and Nojiri qualified in Group 2, and the latter topped the session with a best time of 1:37.575, two-tenths faster than Ryo Hirakawa and a further one-tenth ahead of the championship leader, who progressed from third.
Tadasuke Makino, Kamui Kobayashi and Nirei Fukuzumi were the other drivers to progress.
With a lack of tyre blankets in Super Formula, Nojiri and Lawson led the field out on several laps of warmup before beginning their representative laps at the front of the pack as the clock ran down.
Nojiri set two purple sectors ahead of Lawson through the opening half of the lap, with Team Mugen looking likely for a front-row lockout.
A spin and crash into the tyre barriers for Sato put paid to that, however, with the session red-flagged before a representative time could be set.
With time up, organisers added an extra three minutes to the clock when the session resumed, giving time for only one warmup lap and a shootout for the pole.
Nojiri and Miyata opted for fresh tyres upon resumption, while Lawson did not. This ultimately proved a deciding factor, with the Kiwi’s time quickly topped by Nojiri and several others, including Miyata, who went second fastest as one of the last competitors to cross the line.
Lawson will have Yamashita for company on the fourth row for this evening’s race, which begins at 6.15 pm (NZ time) and is available to watch with a paid premium motorsport.tv subscription.
The 2023 Super Formula season concludes tomorrow, with qualifying for the second race at Suzuka at 12.40 pm and the race at 6.15 pm.
Header Image: Dutch Photo Agency/ Red Bull Content Pool