Piastri “pretty pleased” with P8 in Bahrain GP that is “historically not friendly” to McLaren’s F1 car

Photo Credits: McLaren Racing
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Oscar Piastri feels his eighth place finish at the 2024 Bahrain GP – which might not seem spectacular given the heights McLaren achieved late last year – indicates there’s more to come from the squad, as Bahrain is “historically” not as good a track for the McLaren car due to the many slow-speed sections which aren’t its strengths.

The Australian qualified in eighth place and that’s where he finished, despite grabbing hold of 7th place early on as Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes struggled with cooling issues on the power unit. Piastri had Hamilton under control with a gap of nearly 2.5 seconds, but Mercedes got the jump on McLaren and pitted the seven-time world champion first for their second round of pit stops on lap 34.

McLaren reacted a lap later, but Hamilton was able to get a successful undercut and get ahead of Piastri – who momentarily went off-track trying to defend his position as the pair exited the first turn side-by-side – who eventually had to concede.

Speaking to selected media after the race, the young Australian who’s starting his sophomore Formula 1 season, admitted the team could have done better to make sure he stayed ahead of Hamilton, but was mostly satisfied with how his race played out:

“I think there was a few things in the race that we needed to do a little bit better in terms of pit stops and strategy,” said Piastri. “I think it was a little bit closer than it needed to be and obviously, we lost out on that.

“I tried my best to stay in front, but just didn’t have any grip on those hards coming out of the pits.

“When I battled him out of the pits, I really put a lot of heat into my tyres, so that took a bit of time to settle that back in. With these tyres being so sensitive, potentially you pay the price through the whole stint, but I think even when he was behind he looked quick.

“It’s just, you know, with the dirty air with these cars, as soon as you start getting a little bit closer, it’s tricky. So I think the pace was okay at the end, but I think for the whole race, to be honest, it was pretty even. Maybe Lewis was a little bit quicker.”

This is a view that was shared by his team boss Andrea Stella, who plainly admitted McLaren made a mistake in not bringing Piastri into the pits sooner, and said a review process will be carried out to understand what could have been done better in that situation:

“We should have [brought him in earlier], but we didn’t do it, and [it’s] something for us to review,” he conceded.

Despite those issues, the Australian explained the team was where he expected it to be pace-wise, in a very similar level with the Mercedes’ and his own team-mate – but with the caveat that both Mercedes cars were suffering from some heavy issues on the cooling side – and admitted that McLaren is close but “not close enough” to take the fight to those ahead:

“I think [it was] not a terrible way to start the year, I think we definitely had some good moments and bad moments in the race, but we’re about where we expected, to be honest.

“It was close between everyone you know, I felt like with Lewis [Hamilton] and with Lando [Norris] and George [Russell], even [Charles] Leclerc at one point, it just felt like we’d catch each other [by] a tenth, lose a tenth and yeah.

“So we’re close, but not quite close enough to really fight, but I’m excited to see what the next few races have got in store for us.”

The reason for optimism comes from McLaren’s weakest point in its recent, ground-effect cars being a lethargic front-end which generally hurts them in slow speed corners, which Piastri hopes will not show itself on the races ahead, with mostly high-speed circuits in the form of Jeddah, Melbourne and Suzuka – where McLaren scored a sensational double podium in 2023 – coming up:

“It was nice to get back out there and yeah just be racing, honestly it felt like I raced just last week, it felt pretty natural jumping back in, but yeah not a bad way to start the year I think.

“We will definitely take it,” he said. “The pace was more or less how I thought it would pan out. We were very close with Mercedes, Ferrari seem a bit of a step ahead, Red Bull a clear step ahead.

“On a personal note, it was a decent race. So yeah, I’m pretty pleased.

“Historically [Bahrain] has not been very friendly to us, the next few races have been quite friendly to us so I’m optimistic.

“We’ll see what the next few circuits have in store for us – some quicker layouts and very different tarmac,” he said. “So we’ll see if that suits us better or worse. Hopefully better. But yeah, not a bad way to start the year.”