“Certain aspects improved” in regard to handling, but still “some decent steps forward to make” on the F1 MCL38 — Piastri

Spread the love

2024 marks Oscar Piastri’s second season in Formula 1 and at McLaren. The 22-year-old had a good rookie season with some massive highs, including his first podium at the Japanese Grand Prix and a victory in the Qatar sprint.

Speaking in a media session on Friday, the Australian conceded that Red Bull will be the team to beat when the season starts in Bahrain next Thursday.

“They don’t look slow, put it that way,” he quipped. “It’s hard to say.”

“I think on day one, Max looked very, very strong. I think even Sergio today [Friday] has certainly looked a bit more comfortable than he was yesterday [Thursday]. They’re definitely the team to beat.

“How much their advantage is, I’m not quite sure. But it’s probably enough of an advantage to be comfortable.

“For everyone else, I’m not sure. But I think Red Bull are definitely the favourites still.”

McLaren started off last season very poorly as the MCL60 proved to be slow and difficult to drive. However, three updates that came from Austria onwards transformed their campaign, leading to nine podium appearances and remarkably beating Aston Martin to P4 in the Constructors’ Championship.

Asked where he thinks McLaren could be in regard to best of the rest behind Red Bull, the Melbourne born driver is unsure.

However, he does expect Bahrain to be a bit trickier for the team as it’s been a track that has historically not been great for the Woking-based team in recent years due to the car characteristics.

“I like to think that we’re somewhere towards the front of the grid. I certainly don’t feel at the moment we’re in a position to challenge Red Bull. I’m not sure anyone on the grid particularly feels that way at the moment. But I think we’re somewhere towards the front.

“I think without jumping to very early conclusions, just with past results around Bahrain specifically and the handling limitations we’ve had in the past, Bahrain is not on paper a great circuit for us.

“So it’s a bit hard to have a read, especially after just two days of testing, but especially after two days of testing here where it’s a pretty unique circuit compared to the rest of the season, where firstly we’re driving in the day now where we never race, and also just the tarmac that’s very different to a lot of places we go to now.

“So it’s a bit hard to tell and I expect it to still chop and change quite a lot depending on the circuit characteristics.

“It’s very hard to get a read on where everyone else sits at the moment. I think the only pretty clear conclusion from everyone at the moment is that Red Bull looks strong.”

An area McLaren has consistently struggled with — dating back to the days when Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris drove for them — is car handling and the unique traits their packages have had over the last few years which have made them difficult to drive.

Piastri explained how some things have been improved with the MCL38, but there is also still quite a bit of work to do before they can be completely comfortable to push to the limit.

“I think certain aspects of that we’ve improved. I think we still have work to do on some things […] but certainly some aspects of the low speed handling and just the handling in general I think we have made a step forward on.

“I think as Andrea has said in the lead-up, we’ve not been able to tackle everything in the time that we’ve had in the off-season.

“There’s still a lot of hard work going on to fully make the car a bit nicer to drive. It’s quite familiar from last year as you would expect.

“I think all of these cars across the grid are very dominated by the regulations. I think nobody’s car is going to be feeling wildly different to one another. I think any differences are going to be pretty small, especially if you’re in the same team from year to year.

“Some improvements but definitely still some areas where we want to make some decent steps forward.”