Liam Lawson will likely take part in his last event of the F1 season for AlphaTauri at this weekend's Qatar Grand Prix as Daniel Ricciardo nears a return.
The New Zealander has been substituting for Ricciardo since the eight-time race winner broke a metacarpal in his left hand during practice for the Dutch Grand Prix.
A string of stunning performances - including points at the Singapore Grand Prix - led to calls for Lawson to be given a full-time spot on the grid for next season, though AlphaTauri ultimately opted to retain Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda.
Ricciardo had been targeting a comeback at the Lusail International Circuit and despite completing simulator work in the build-up to the event, the Australian will likely return at the United States Grand Prix with Lawson reverting attention to his Super Formula title battle.
"In Japan, the news came public that I’m back to the role of reserve driver next year," said Lawson.
"Obviously, my goal is to be in Formula 1 full-time, so as much as it’s disappointing, it’s still my goal, and it’s now about trying to make sure that I can make that happen in the future.
"Right now, I’ve still got this opportunity to keep trying to show something, and I’ll try to make the most of it.
"For now, as long as this lasts, I’ll focus on it and then once I step back from F1, it'll be full focus on preparing for the final round of the Super Formula championship at Suzuka on the weekend of the Mexican Grand Prix.
"It'll be very different adjusting back to the car, but it’s certainly been useful having driven so many laps at Suzuka throughout the Grand Prix weekend."
Lawson unsure over upgrades
F1's return to Qatar for the country's second event is complicated by the Sprint format, with limited practice time to prepare cars into a working set-up window.
"I’m not sure how we'll get on or how the upgrades will work," conceded Lawson.
"I think it’s hard to say because where we struggled in Japan was mainly in the high speed, in Sector 1.
"We still have more to learn about our new package, and I’m not so sure that Qatar is the type of circuit that will suit our car. Learning takes time, and we've got more opportunities in Qatar to try and get the most out of it.
"However, it’s also a Sprint weekend, so at the same time, that makes it quite tricky, especially in my situation. I've never driven here, so going into the sprint weekend will be extra tough.
"I drove the Qatar track in the simulator at the end of last week. It’s very fast, a very high-speed circuit and quite unique, and I’ve not seen many tracks like it, as there’s only one low-speed corner in the whole track.
"The rest is just fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh gear, so I think it’s going to be exciting to drive.
"With only one Free Practice session, we drivers will have to know where to improve because it'll get faster at night when it's much cooler, and we need to know exactly how to extract everything out of the car. I’m expecting it to be tougher than the races we’ve just done."