Formula 1 Racing

How McLaren glimpsed Piastri’s potential in curtailed debut · RaceFans

Oscar Piastri, McLaren, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023

He may have only had 18 minutes to prove himself in qualifying, and his race only lasted 13 laps, but Oscar Piastri was able to impress McLaren with his Formula 1 debut at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Friday practice marked Piastri’s first time driving an F1 car on a grand prix weekend, and he placed 12th and 15th in the two sessions. He improved to ninth place in Saturday’s session, where he was McLaren’s fastest driver, but in qualifying did not progress out of Q1 as he was only 18th fastest and 0.449 seconds slower than his team mate Lando Norris who scraped into Q2.

McLaren did not go into the weekend with high hopes for the performance of the MCL60, so Piastri’s lowly position was not a failure to meet expectations. The team believed he had the pace to rival Norris for a Q2 spot.

“We are very pleased with what we saw in qualifying, because apart from the big oversteer at corner two – which meant he lost basically the possibility to go in Q2 in a single corner – in some other corners he was a match for Lando, which is really very encouraging in terms of pure speed,” said McLaren’s team principal Andrea Stella.

Oscar Piastri, McLaren, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023
One costly error in qualifying set Piastri back

His turn two mistake meant Piastri was slowest of all in sector one of the lap in qualifying. However he was only 0.244s slower than Norris’s best in sector two and 0.150s off in sector three. Last year, the equivalent gaps Norris had over his previous team mate Daniel Ricciardo in those two sectors was 0.507s and 0.227s.

In the race, Piastri immediately moved up the order, rising to 16th by the first corner. As other drivers made their first pit stops he made up further places, and was in 11th before he headed to the pits himself for the first time. However that trip marked the end of Piastri’s race due to an electrical problem.

However that brief run gave more encouraging pointed for McLaren. “Oscar keeps improving,” Stella said. “The first stint he has done in the race is by far the best long run he has done so far.

“He keeps improving every session he does. It would have been good to complete the first race and to be even more ready for the second. But we take the positive, we take the fact that he seems to keep learning and learning very rapidly.”

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Stella praised the “methodical and progressive approach” Piastri has taken, and also mentioned where he wants to see the rookie improve based on his first race weekend with…

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