“Our strengths are definitely becoming more well-rounded” — Piastri says MCL38 a more complete F1 car following Miami GP upgrades

Photo Credit: McLaren Racing
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McLaren heads into the Monaco Grand Prix weekend with a serious run of momentum. Lando Norris won the Miami Grand Prix, and the British driver backed it up with a very strong to P2 at Imola last Sunday, finishing 0.7s behind Max Verstappen after 63 laps.

Australian Oscar Piastri has also been on good form. A bit more fortune would have seen him lead in Miami if a Safety Car appeared 2 laps earlier on a weekend where he did not have the full upgrade package, and he was quicker than teammate Norris in Q3 at Imola to grab P2 on the grid. However, he lost that due to impeding Kevin Magnussen in Q1.

Heading into this weekend around the streets of Monte Carlo, McLaren is expected to be right in the mix with Ferrari and Red Bull for the victory.

The MCL38 is extremely strong in every area since Miami, moving them from top 5 contenders to a team genuinely capable of winning each weekend on the basis of the last two.

Piastri explained in his written media session how McLaren’s recent upgrades has changed their car.

Last year they were rapid at high speed tracks like Silverstone, Qatar and Suzuka when updates to the MCL60 allowed them to be podium contenders. Early in the season getting out of Q1 and scoring points was an achievement.

It’s been an incredible turnaround. Nonetheless, the 23-year-old is wary not to make too many outlandish predictions.

“It’s very hard to know until you get it on track.Obviously, at the back end of last year, we were very strong in high speed corners.

“This year, I would say some others have caught up to us in that area, but I think we’ve made good gains in the low speed.

“And in circuits where we’ve maybe struggled in the past, we’ve been a lot better. Miami was a great example of that.

“I think we can be pretty optimistic. There’s never a guarantee with any of these things about being weak or on top of things, but I think our strengths are definitely becoming more well-rounded, and hopefully we can show that this weekend.”

As previously mentioned, McLaren has made astonishing progress since the start of 2023. Piastri was knocked out in Q1 in three of the first five events last year — he’s made Q3 in all seven rounds so far in 2024.

At Imola last weekend, he was 0.074s away from a maiden Grand Prix pole position, although that would have been taken away due to the grid penalty.

The Melbourne born driver says the mentality and approach has not changed versus early 2023, but he is naturally excited to be fighting for wins and podiums right now.

“It’s exciting. I think in terms of the approach, it honestly doesn’t change that much.

“Whether you’re fighting for 15th, 10th, or for 1st, you’re trying to get the most out of the car that you’ve got. It’s just a little bit more fun when you know that if you get everything right, you can win.

“So it’s not changed the world from that side of things, it’s just obviously a bit of a boost when you’re fighting for wins and podiums. So try and get some silverware, it’s always fun.

“But the approach to weekends is still the same. We’ve won one race, we’ve not won many, so we’ve still got a lot of work to do to be up there consistently, but I think we’re going in the right direction.”

After seeing his teammate take his first Grand Prix win in Miami and almost taking out the Imola race four days ago, it was put to Piastri whether he was putting pressure on himself to get his first Grand Prix victory, with the Aussie replying “very little”.

Piastri believes if he keeps putting himself in a strong position, things will eventually come his way. He also stated that Imola was a stronger weekend concerning his own personal performance, explaining why maximising a P4 is better than getting a somewhat fortunate podium.

“I think the last two weekends have been very strong for myself — I think Imola in particular.

“Miami was a couple of things I feel like could have done a bit better, but Imola I felt was a very good weekend from start to finish, from the first lap of practice to the last lap of the race. And we finished 4th, so sometimes that’s just how it goes.

“And I would in some ways rather be happy with my performance finishing 4th than […] I’d be pretty happy if I win a race, no matter what happens.

“But finishing on the podium going, ‘it wasn’t a very good weekend’, in the long term you gain more satisfaction and more learning from being satisfied with yourself.

“Not putting much pressure on it. I think it’ll come naturally.

“The last two weekends, different circumstances, the results could have looked very different. So I’ll just keep doing what I’ve done in the last couple of weekends.

“And you’ve just got to put yourself in the position to get these results. If you do that enough, the odds come in your favour and it’ll happen.”

As we reach a third of the way through the 2024 season, Piastri is 108 points behind championship leader Max Verstappen.

For the McLaren driver, focusing on becoming consistent challengers for victories is the most important thing at present.

“I don’t think so this year. I think it’s going to be very, very tough.

“Especially for the Drivers’ Championship for me, I don’t even know where I am. I’m a long way behind, so I’m not focusing on that at all.

“I think in the Constructors’, of course it’s possible to mount a challenge if both of us are scoring good points week in, week out.

“But again, it’s been two weekends that we’ve been able to fight for a win. We need to make sure that we can do that consistently first. And if you do that, then naturally the championship kind of starts to come towards you.

“So we’ll focus on being quick first, and then we’ll see what results we can get.”