Red Bull protégé Liam Lawson says his focus is on his ongoing successful campaign in the Japanese Super Formula championship amid rumors of an in-season move to Formula 1 with AlphaTauri.
At the end of last season, after finishing runner to Felipe Drugovich in the FIA Formula 2 Championship, Lawson was in line for a promotion to Formula 1 with AlphaTauri.
But Red Bull ultimately opted to assign the seat vacated by Pierre Gasly to Nyck de Vries.
Lawson was subsequently named as Red Bull Racing's official reserve and sent to Japan to tackle the competitive Super Formula series.
But de Vries' performance shortfall with AlphaTauri since the start of the F1 season coupled with Lawson's impressive results in Japan have led to speculation that the Kiwi could replace the Dutchman this summer if de Vries fails to turn around his fortunes.
Last weekend at Autopolis, Lawson scored his second win in four races in Super Formula, a result that has positioned the talented 21-year-old at the top of the championship's standings with five rounds to go.
While speculation over his future and de Vries' fate continues to mount, Lawson says his number one priority is achieving success in Japan.
"It’s good timing in the sense it puts me in the lead of the championship, and that’s what I am thinking about at the moment," he told Autosport after his win with Team Mugen at Autopolis on Saturday.
"I want to finish the year and fight for the championship, and that will give me the best opportunity for next year.
"In terms of what’s happening [in F1]… it’s completely outside of my control. I am just happy to win today."
Earlier this month, Red Bull motorsport boss Helmut Marko said that de Vries had been handed "a yellow card" in the wake of his poor results in F1, but insisted there would be no changes at AlphaTauri in the near future.
"Nothing will happen in the coming races," said Marko in an interview with F1 Insider.
"We talked to de Vries and he agrees with us: he needs to improve. The gap to teammate Yuki Tsunoda, who is doing great, is too big.
"To speak in football player language, Nyck got the yellow card, but not the red one yet. If he improves, there will be no problem."
However, in the event of a driver swap at AlphaTauri, Marko suggested that Lawson – and not fellow reserve Daniel Ricciardo – would be first in line to replace de Vries.
"In the worst-case scenario, we can fall back on our pool of young talent," said Marko. "We are talking about Liam Lawson and Ayumu Iwasa, not Ricciardo."