Motorsport: Why Kiwi Liam Lawson is happy to ignore Formula One speculation despite Japanese success

Kiwi Liam Lawson is happy to ignore any outside noise over his future, even with the bright lights of Formula One seemingly ahead.

After two years in Formula Two, Red Bull junior Lawson has switched to racing in Japan's Super Formula series with Team Mugen to show his wares to those who will ultimately decide his careerpath.

And Lawson is answering every question asked of him - in style.

In his first Super Formula race, Lawson won the championship's season-opener at Fuji by overtaking teammate and reigning champion Tomoki Nojiri.

Fifth and fourth-placed finishes in the next two races saw Lawson's name put forward by Dr Helmut Marko, Red Bull's head of development, as a contender to replace the struggling Nyck de Vries at Formula One outfit Alpha Tauri next season.

To press his claims even further, Lawson went even better in the season's fourth race at Oita's Autopolis, winning for the second time to take the championship lead.

Now, from the outside at least, talk has turned from when - and not if - Lawson steps up into Formula One through Alpha Tauri, the sister team of Red Bull.

After previously testing for Alpha Tauri and Red Bull, Lawson is the team's acting reserve driver for half the 2023 Formula One season and will be in the garage at the Spanish Grand Prix this month. But any talk of the future is taking a backseat, with only results in the present keeping him in the frame.

"I'm not sick of [talking about] it," Lawson told Newshub. "It's my dream, and it's what I'm pushing and striving towards, but it's very easy to look into it a lot, especially during the season. 

Liam Lawson celebrates in Formula Two.
Liam Lawson celebrates in Formula Two. Photo credit: Getty Images

"Because I'm going strong right now, I get a lot more questions about it, but at the end of the day, I've got a long season ahead. I've still got over 50 percent of the races to go.

"That's what I'm completely focused on right now - trying to finish the year really strong right now. That'll give me the best chance of a future in F1."

Super Formula has already produced a Red Bull Formula One driver, with Pierre Gasly - currently at Alpine - taking the same route in 2017.

After years in Formula Two, where development is ultimately prioritised over results, switching to a senior-level championship has been the change Lawson needed.

"I'm loving life, loving racing at the moment. It's very, very enjoyable.

"We are succeeding at the moment, but even [in] pre-season testing, getting used to the car and the team, it was very clear that it was a big step up. 

"As a driver, it's always enjoyable to take a step like that."

After four races, Lawson leads the championship by four points, with five races remaining.

Liam Lawson in testing for Red Bull.
Liam Lawson in testing for Red Bull. Photo credit: Getty Images

A title in his first attempt would only further strengthen Lawson's ambitions, even if he's still getting used to racing in Japan, but against drivers with years of experience, it is by no means a foregone conclusion for the young Kiwi hopeful. 

"For sure," he says of his title aspirations. "It was from the very start of the year.

"It's really nice to be in a position like this now, but the next track we go to is very unique. It's going to be very tough, as is the rest of the season.

"It's a realistic target, but it's not an expectation - it's a goal."