Piastri “did a much better job of putting everything together” after practice struggles in Abu Dhabi

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Oscar Piastri said: “you couldn’t afford to make a mistake” in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The Australian qualified third for McLaren in an ultra competitive session at Yas Marina.

Piastri and team mate Lando Norris were blisteringly fast in sector one on Saturday and were consistently the quickest cars in the opening part of the lap.

The 22-year-old said: “We’ve been quick in sector one all weekend. That seems to just be our happy place around here.”

The rest of the lap was much more unpredictable, particularly in the technical final sector where Piastri admitted he floundered slightly over a single lap.

“Everything else is a bit up and down. Russell’s been looking extremely quick in all the practices and Max said he was struggling a bit.

“So it’s been a bit hard to get a read on where everyone actually sits. But the normal stuff that we like, the medium speed corners, high speed corners, that’s where I think we’re strongest and the slow stuff is where we struggle a bit.”

A second row start for Piastri represents a sizeable step forward for the Australian from Las Vegas last time out, where he got knocked out in Q1.

Norris also failed to clear the bar in the first knockout session in the United States.

Piastri anticipated Abu Dhabi would provide the platform for McLaren return to their lofty standards, on a weekend where the less the half a second separated the top 15 in Q1.

“I think we knew Vegas was going to be a bit of a struggle for us going into the weekend. I think we got a few things wrong in qualifying that made it seem worse than it actually was.

“But we knew here would be a lot better. The pace has been good the whole weekend, I would say. It was a bit of a surprise for me just how tight everything was to the start of qualifying. I think it was four tenths from first to 15th in Q1.”

The McLaren driver enjoyed superb success in Abu Dhabi in his junior days, winning the Formula Renault Eurocup title in 2019, which was followed up by the F2 championship two years later.

Piastri lacked raw speed on Friday, but delivered when it mattered most in the final part of qualifying.

“I like this place. I’ve got good memories around here, but, I don’t know what happened to Lando on the last lap. I was struggling a little bit in the first two parts of qualifying or certainly the first part.

“I do have good memories around here. I’ve just been struggling to get it together this weekend.

“I think before qualifying, I hadn’t done a lap without quite a major mistake this weekend, so I was struggling to get everything together. I think I did a much better job of that in qualifying. But I do like going back here.”

Piastri lines up third for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday ahead of Norris in P5; the Brit made a critical error on his final lap.

Photo Credit: McLaren Racing