Miyata beats pole-winner Lawson to Super Formula title in finale

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Ritomo Miyata saw off the threat from returning Formula 1 driver Liam Lawson to clinch the Japanese Super Formula championship at Suzuka.

Third place in the second of this weekend’s two races at the home of the Japanese Grand Prix ensured Miyata beat Lawson to the title by eight points.

The Red Bull junior claimed pole position for the finale at the track where he finished 11th for AlphaTauri last month. However he was beaten to turn one by fellow front row starter Kakunoshin Ohta, who went on to win.

With Lawson finishing second, third place was enough for Miyata to secure the title. Lawson took three wins over the course of the season to Miyata’s two, one of which came in yesterday’s half-points encounter which ended after just three laps following a heavy crash. But Miyata’s superior consistency told over a season in which he never finished lower than fifth.

Lawson, who was competing in the series for the first time this year, said he expected a difficult return to it following his five-round stint in F1 as a substitute for Daniel Ricciardo. “I knew it was going to be tough swapping back to Super Formula after driving the F1 car and it was,” he said. “But I really enjoy this car and by the time we got to qualifying I was comfortable.”

He found himself at a disadvantage in the opening qualifying session as a result of the crash he triggered at the Motegi round in August. His attempt to rebound in the Saturday race ended when it was cut short by a huge shunt involving Ukyo Sasahara and Hiroki Otsu.

“We knew going into the final weekend we had points to make up and Q1 on Saturday was okay, put in a banker lap,” said Lawson. “Into Q2 and I was 95% round my push lap that would have been right at the front when the Red Flag came out. Because of the Motegi crash, I didn’t have another set of tyres to have another go so that was it, P7.

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“Still we could have got something out of Saturday’s race, I was moving forward, made a couple of passes but then the race was red-flagged and I actually lost points.

Miyata won the Super Formula title at his third attempt
“A frustrating day and all the more so considering we took pole on Sunday. We didn’t find more pace on Sunday, we had that pace on Saturday, it was just the circumstances that meant we didn’t show it.”

Despite taking pole position for Sunday’s race, Lawson’s slim title hopes took a it at the start. “It was great to take my first pole,” he said. “The start wasn’t bad but it wasn’t perfect, we’ve had a few clutch issues and I lost the lead off the line.

“I could push him all the way through the race and I did, I pushed him to try and get him to make a mistake but I couldn’t get ahead.”

Lawson ended the year half a point ahead of his team mate Tomoki Nojiri, who also won three races this year and missed the Autopolis round due to illness. The pair secured the teams’ title for Mugen.

“It was great to get the teams’ championship,” said Lawson, “a shame we didn’t take the drivers’ title as well, especially for my side of the garage who worked so hard and supported me so completely.

“The whole team have been absolutely fantastic from the first day I arrived, incredibly skilled and experienced plus they have a work ethic that I have not seen in any other junior series. A huge privilege to be part of it.”

Video: 2023 Super Formula round nine: Suzuka

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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5 comments on “Miyata beats pole-winner Lawson to Super Formula title in finale”

  1. Congrats to Miyata for winning the series championship & Ohta for the race win, although Lawson’s second place in the final driver standings as a rookie, like Gasly in 2017, is also note-worthy.

  2. So the (now former) reigning champion Nojiri did lose to Lawson, if only by the tiniest amount (half a point) and with one fewer race appearance due to an illness. He talked a lot about feeling a need to prove the value of the series prior to the season, as having someone from ‘outside’ come in and instantly win would be a bad look for the Japanese formula. That Miyata wins with the fewest race wins of the title protagonists is a testament to his consistency; as the saying goes, in a tight battle the worst results are often more important than the best, and Miyata’s worst was a single 5th place.

    Super Formula is a fun series, but calendar could use some work, as its heavily front-loaded. There was a more than two months gap between the race at Motegi and this double header finale.

    1. someone or something
      29th October 2023, 20:21

      calendar could use some work, as its heavily front-loaded.

      Additionally, it’s a bit underwhelming to have two thirds of the races disputed on just two tracks. I can see why, in a national series, they’d have double-headers at the two most important tracks. Japan is not a huge country, it doesn’t make sense to prioritise having as many different venues as possible over their quality because, inevitably, there’s bound to be a significant drop in quality compared to Japan’s most famous venues at Fuji and Suzuka. Especially compared to Suzuka’s world-famous layout, whose significance can hardly be overstated.
      But still, having both a double-header AND a standalone race each at Fuji and Suzuka, in a calendar of just nine races, is too much.

      1. Surprising the series has not tried to expand internationally with very good tracks in China, Korea, Vietnam, etc. Even as far south as Australia and New Zealand. It would make a great Pacific based series. A round at Laguna Seca for the American Pacific round?

      2. True, but there’s not a whole lot they can do about that with those unusually fast and powerful cars for a national series.

        Not sure why they don’t race at Okayama (formerly Aida) though, or even Tokachi up north (I think they raced there in the Formula Nippon days).

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