Piastri: McLaren F1 driver switch with Norris at Australian GP “completely fair”

Photo Credit: McLaren Racing
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The Australian Grand Prix proved to be a rollercoaster of emotions for the drivers on track, and fans watching on. Following Verstappen’s early retirement due to mechanical issues, the racing order was reshuffled, presenting opportunities for McLaren and Oscar Piastri to go for a podium.

Speaking about Verstappen’s DNF, Piastri noted what this could mean for the remainder of the season, and what impact this could have on future races. He also conceded how surprised he was that Sergio Perez did not reign them in during the race, although it should be noted that the Mexican had damage.

I think for me the biggest surprise was honestly Checo’s pace. I was expecting him to come through and he didn’t. 

“So, I think that’s probably a bit of optimism for everyone else on the grid.

“I mean, it’s rare that anyone, especially Red Bull, has a mechanical issue these days. So, I’m sure they’ll bounce back from that.”

Qualifying had already hinted at Piastri’s potential, with a solid performance putting him in a competitive fifth position for his home race because of Perez’s grid drop.

As Verstappen’s misfortune elevated Piastri to fourth place, he found himself in a position to challenge for a podium finish. Despite this, he faced his own set of challenges throughout the race, experiencing some struggles in the middle stint due to tyre management issues. 

Piastri had pitted along with Leclerc on lap 9 and they both undercut Lando Norris. The Brit was running in P2 and extended his first stint.

“I think for me it’s been a strong weekend, a couple of mistakes when it mattered, which is a bit frustrating. But, yeah, I think today’s been a solid result,” Piastri said.

The 2023 Qatar Sprint winner also went off at turn 13 as he locked up, losing a few seconds in the process. He explained that tyre management is still a work in progress.

“I think, yeah, a little bit of an off in the middle of the end of the second stint and grained the tyres a little bit there as well. So, just struggled a bit in that part of the race, but I think apart from that it was a pretty strong day. 

“Some things to learn and go through and see what I could have done a bit better. 

“I think definitely a step in the right direction, but still not the full way there.”

A major moment came for the 23-year-old when he received team orders to let his teammate Lando Norris through during the second stint, sacrificing P3.

As he was struggling for pace, on older tyres and got the undercut on Norris after he was running behind him in the first stint, Piastri understood and respected the call.

“I mean, for me it was completely fair. He qualified in front of me yesterday, went a bit longer on the first stop and he was catching me quicker at that point of the race.

“At that point I was keeping with Leclerc and Lando was catching both of us, so I was honestly kind of hoping he’d pass me and go and get Charles.

“Of course, at home, I would have loved to have been able to stay in third, but for me that was completely fair.”

Regardless of missing out on a potential podium, he recognised the progress made within the team. His fourth-place finish marked a significant achievement, signalling their potential for future success as they kept Ferrari very honest throughout the race, “I don’t think I got ahead of myself. I think, of course, I knew it was a possibility at one point. And if I was quick enough in the middle, then it could have been a reality. 

“I would have loved to have been one spot higher, but I think for the team it’s been an amazing weekend. And, honestly, I’m very happy with the gap to Ferrari, especially being a lot smaller this weekend.”

McLaren has been in the points at all three races this season so far, performing significantly better than they did at this point in the season last year, with Piastri claiming: “I think here in particular… didn’t quite expect to have this kind of pace around here. So, it’s been a positive start.

“I think a clean start to the year as well, which has been good… I feel like I’ve made a step forward in some areas. Still some work to go.”

With the Australian Grand Prix held in the city of his birth, he spoke about how special it was to feel the home fansl support in Melbourne, saying he “saw a lot of fans cheering on the cool-down lap, which was very special.

“A little bit disappointed I couldn’t get on the podium for them. But all in all, I think it’s been a great weekend.”