Australian rookie and 2021 Formula 2 champion, Oscar Piastri, arrived at McLaren amidst a protracted transfer saga involving Alpine. The tussle between the two teams illustrates the expectation placed on the young driver. However, Piastri’s debut season was largely unremarkable due to a struggling car until a major summer upgrade reversed the fortunes of the MCL60, thereby boosting McLaren‘s competitiveness.
This significant boost rejuvenated the team and allowed experienced driver Lando Norris to score two 2nd place finishes in Britain and Hungary. Concurrently, it paved the way for Piastri to secure a top three finish at the Belgian Grand Prix sprint race, thereby rounding up an exciting summer.
Piastri’s notable placement at the Belgian race followed on from a commendable fourth-place finish at Silverstone where he narrowly missed out on the podium, thanks to an undercut during pitstop, and a fifth-place finish in Budapest.
McLaren’s team principal, Stella, believes Piastri’s recently slew of performances align with what the team had already seen across his debut season. “I think where he is at the moment is part of the gradient that we saw right from the start at testing and the first races,” Stella expressed.
Stella argues that the improvement hasn’t so much accelerated, but rather Piastri has taken advantage of a more competitive car. “I think he just took benefit from the car being more competitive, therefore there are more opportunities to show what he is capable of,” Stella explained.
Stella said this was already visible at the start of the season, but less apparent to external observers until the car picked up its pace. He commended Piastri for how he adapted to the McLaren car. Initially, the car’s characteristics were a challenge and felt uncomfortable for drivers, but Piastri has since managed to master it.
At the Spa sprint, Piastri delivered a measured performance in the challenging wet conditions, qualifying second, and comfortably maintaining his spot behind Red Bull‘s Max Verstappen, the reigning championship leader.
Stella was highly impressed by Piastri’s mature display. He commented, “The interesting point of Oscar is that he’s making all this look simple. He’s making it look simple that in these conditions you pit, you lead the race, and you go from inters to dry [conditions] and you never kind of make a mistake or so.” The young driver’s calm and considered approach has won plaudits, and thus far, his performance is indeed quite impressive.