Piastri looking to turn things around in Saudi Arabia

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Oscar Piastri’s hotly anticipated F1 debut at the Bahrain Grand Prix ended prematurely after an electrical failure forced him to retire after just 13 laps of racing. His teammate, Lando Norris, ultimately didn’t fare much better in what proved to be a weekend to forget for McLaren.

Speaking to the media in Jeddah on Thursday, Piastri said, “Bahrain was not the weekend we wanted,” but noted that “there were definitely positives to take. […] From my side, the race was going reasonably well up to that point.”

For Piastri, his F1 debut was primarily a great chance to learn and get back into the rhythm.

“The biggest problem was just being in a race environment again. It sounds silly, but being around other cars again for the first time,

experiencing dirty air again for the first time in over a year…” Photo credits: McLaren Racing

“Experiencing a first lap, where to put your car and stuff like that. It comes back reasonably quickly, but there’s still a bit of rust. So doing that kind of stuff, I still got under my belt even with the shortened race.”

McLaren’s poor showing raised questions about their performance and the atmosphere within the team. Piastri assured that the team has been working hard to analyse and resolve the issues they encountered in Bahrain.

“We know where those issues are, which I guess is half the battle sometimes, and have hopefully fixed them.”

“We’re obviously not where we want to be at the moment. We’ve been very open about that,” Piastri said. He added that the team has a plan to turn things around, but cautioned that there’s no quick fix at the moment.

“We’re pretty clear on where we need to improve. It’s now just putting the steps in place and putting in the work to make it happen. […] To get on the same level as those top three or four teams is difficult. But we can probably take inspiration from what Aston Martin has been able to do over the winter and try and energise ourselves.”

“It is possible to make that jump with a lot of hard work. We want to try and get back. We’ll see what these new developments that we’ve got in Baku bring for us. But it’s going to be a step in what’s a multi-step plan throughout the year.”

Asked if McLaren’s apparent slump in form has made him regret his decision to join the team, Piastri reiterated: “For me it was clear that I wanted to join McLaren, with the amount of passion that they showed to having me in the team, which was a massive, massive factor in that.”

“Obviously I’m very focused on where I am now and trying to help the team move forward and get back to where we want to be.”

“[Andrea Stella and Zak Brown] have been a very good source of support for me throughout my brief time so far at McLaren. They’ve been very encouraging and also realistic that there is going to be a time of adaptation to working with a new team, being in F1 for the first time and also having not raced for quite some time.”

Piastri also spoke about his own preparations for the challenging weekend ahead.

“It’s a street circuit and very, very fast. So, it’ll take some time getting used to. […] It’s something you need to treat with respect because walls don’t generally forgive you very well.”

He added that he had “quite a bit” of simulation work lined up: “It’s tricky to fully replicate the conditions with the wind direction, how much grip is going to be on the track. Obviously in a street circuit, the grip is constantly evolving pretty rapidly. So it’s difficult to do that.

“And I think on a sim, the fear factor is not quite there. So that makes things a little bit more forgiving, but quite a lot to try and dial myself into so that when I hit the track for the first time, I feel like I’ve got pretty good references.”

Piastri can also lean on his Formula 2 experience, having raced—and won—on this track in 2021.