Piastri: “A first sprint win sounds pretty cool” as “good pace” helps him fend off Verstappen

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A thrilling 19-lap sprint race in the Lusail Circuit saw rookie Oscar Piastri win ahead of World Champion Max Verstappen and teammate Lando Norris.

Piastri, starting the race in pole position, had a rollercoaster of a day, initially losing the lead to Mercedes’ George Russell due to differing tyre strategies. However, his tenacity and raw talent were on full display as he clawed his way back to claim his first-ever Formula 1 victory.

Oscar Piastri
Photo Credit: Mclaren Racing

The Australian driver aced the start, keeping his lead into Turn 1. However, Norris and Verstappen faced issues as soft-tyre users swiftly passed them. Leclerc, Sainz, and Russell made rapid gains in a chaotic battle.

Russell, pressuring Piastri, executed a daring move into Turn 6, taking the lead.

After Sargeant’s spin brought out another Safety Car, aiding those with fragile tires, McLaren’s rookie closed the gap and eventually overtook Russell.

Chaos struck again when Perez and Ocon triggered another safety car. Despite the turmoil, Piastri clinched his maiden Sprint race win, with Verstappen close behind, securing his third world championship title.

After the sprint, he reflected on the battles, saying: “A very stressful race; when I saw all the soft guys come through at the start, I thought we were in a bit of trouble, and then their tyres fell off pretty quickly.

“The safety cars were my friend today, definitely, once Max got behind me.”

“But the pace was reasonable and, in a race where you had to manage a lot the tyres and cars on other compounds, I think we did a really good job, so we’re very happy.

“A first sprint win sounds pretty cool.”

There’s no denying that Piastri was under immense pressure from the soft runners initially and then Max Verstappen, but he managed to hold them off until the chequered flag. He expressed his satisfaction over his performance and race pace, adding:

“Once [Max] got through into second, I thought I was going to be in a bit of trouble, but the pace was good, and I managed the tyres well.

“With the soft guys at the start, I thought I was in trouble with how much pace they had, but they dropped off just as quickly.

“At the start, it was a bit difficult to judge; the safety cars weren’t helping the medium tyres at all; they cooled down way too much.

“I knew that I had to try and get as much of a gap whilst Max was behind George as quickly as I could, which I managed to get out enough. The pace at the end was also pretty good too.”

With the limited track time on the challenging circuit, the sprint race served as a practice for long-run tyre performance. Nevertheless, the multiple safety cars skewed the results. When asked what was learned, the Aussie stated:

“I think we learned a lot; the soft at the start were obviously extremely strong and dropped off; everyone’s tyres stayed together, so that was a bonus; it was more or less what we expected.

“And with so many safety cars, a lot of restarts and different tyre temperatures, obviously tomorrow is going to be a very different race, but a lot of interesting things to learn.”