Stella explains how Piastri “fits” with McLaren’s culture and compares him to Alonso and Schumacher

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McLaren team principal Andrea Stella heaped praise for the newly re-signed Oscar Piastri, claiming the Australian driver’s attitude “fits with the culture” of the Woking squad, and drew comparisons between him and F1 greats like seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher and former McLaren driver and two-time world champion Fernando Alonso.

Photo Credits: McLaren Racing

Piastri hit the ground running in his first Formula 1 season so far, with 42 points to his name and a best grand prix result of fourth at the British GP [when he looked set for a podium before getting unlucky with a late safety car], and an impressive second place finish at the Sprint in Spa-Francorchamps. Whilst raw results may present a more favourable outlook for his team-mate Lando Norris, a closer look at how each race and qualifying session played out will show the Australian has run the Briton close for most of the time – including scoring the team’s first Q3 appearance and points finish of the year back at the Saudi Arabian GP.

Speaking to selected media after confirmation of Piastri’s contract extension ahead of the Japanese GP, McLaren team principal Andrea Stella explained the decision to keep Piastri onboard for longer was made “pretty early” in the season, and affirmed he is “the right driver” for the team:

“It is a new contract because it became very apparent for us that we wanted to secure these prospects and we wanted to realise the full extent of the collaboration,” Stella said when asked about the deal by Australian website Speedcafe. “It came at the point in which it was very apparent for us that Oscar is the right driver for McLaren.

“This has been clear to us very early, kind of the announcement comes now, but actually the agreement was found pretty early on.

“I’m happy to say that the same was on Oscar’s side, so it was recognised by both parties that this is the collaboration that should lead both parties from a team point of view and from driver point of view into the future.”

The Italian was full of praise for Piastri’s “calmness” in conversations and debriefs with the team, which he believes is a valuable asset in a sport that already causes nerves by its competitive nature, and his ability to reduce pressure on those around him and make for a better work environment:

“He is a calm, considerate person. He doesn’t have nervous reactions, he doesn’t have unnecessary irritation,” Stella said. “It doesn’t add tension. His comments are a genuine report of what happens with the car, or genuine report or what happens in a situation that wasn’t ideal.

“But you know you can trust that what he’s saying; he’s not adding speculatively anything because he needs to promote himself, he’s kind of trustworthy, and calm.

“And to be honest, even like calmness is kind of a quality I generally try to strengthen as much as possible throughout the team. There’s already enough reasons to be tense, for the competition itself. Nobody should create additional [tension], just through behaviours or the way you speak to your colleagues or the way you report things emphasizing.

“Oscar is very considerate with his words, is very considered with the way he presents himself, and he’s totally trustworthy.”

The team brought a huge set of upgrades to nits MCL60 last time out at the Singapore GP, but those were only installed on Lando Norris’ car due to a lack of new components for both cars – the second time this season after Norris was the first to receive their first major upgrade at the Austrian GP. Stella explained how the young Australian always understood the situation and made no mentions of his lower-spec car during the weekend, setting an important “example” despite facing difficulties that weren’t of his own making:

“This decision needed to be made weeks before [the event] because we needed to change the chassis at the factory,” Stella said of the new upgrades that were only fitted on Norris’ car. “In both times, the conversation with Oscar were calm, rational, constructive conversations where it was easy for me to say, ‘I’m talking in the name of the team’.

“And it was easy for him to understand that. And even if as a driver, you always want to have the highest potential package.

“And at no point during the Singapore weekend, we had any reference to any annoyance, any comment like my car is a little slower but obviously the other one is the new part – not even indirect.

“This means that everyone listening, everyone looking at the person, gets something by example.

“That’s the fit with the culture,” he added. “Drivers are definitely leaders in a Formula 1 team, they lead by example, and Oscar you can trust is going to do it even when he is a disadvantage.”

The 52-year-old team boss compared Piastri’s work ethic to two of F1’s greatest drivers, former McLaren driver and two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, and seven-time world champions Michael Schumacher, with regards to his approach to racing and the sense of unity he creates in the team, fitting with the culture and meaning conversations about an extension started early in the season:

“We saw the qualities at an attitude level and these are to do with being able to continuously improve,” he said. “You may be as talented as I say, I am sure there are people who are as talented that didn’t go anywhere because there was no attitude for improvements. I think we have really good examples on the grid who can keep being extremely competitive at ages we didn’t think would be obvious because of continuous improvements.

“So in this sense, this is a similarity with Fernando [Alonso].

“For us it was important that the person we keep on board not only fits our culture but will contribute to establishing the culture even more and potentially adding to the culture, to the values and behaviours that make us become a team of mates.

“In this sense, Oscar, if he wasn’t a Formula 1 driver, I would appreciate him as a person – the values he brings into the sport and the team, in this sense, makes me think about Michael [Schumacher],” he added. “Somebody who worked with Michael in this paddock with another team now, he said to me ‘he was so capable of building families’. It was definitely tough on track but within the team, the spirit and sense of unity was nothing short of a sense of family.

“So I think I am referring to natural talent, attitude and culture and values. These things became apparent to us relatively soon and that is why the conversations started soon.”