Oscar Piastri, McLaren, Spa-Francorchamps, 2023

It was a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’ Verstappen would pass – Piastri

2023 Belgian Grand Prix

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Oscar Piastri said he didn’t stand a chance of preventing Max Verstappen from passing him for the lead of the Belgian Grand Prix sprint race.

The Red Bull driver started on pole with Piastri alongside him on the front row. Piastri was one of 10 drivers to then pit at the end of the opening lap for intermediate tyres, after starting with full wets on a drying track.

Verstappen came in the following lap, but exited the pit lane behind leader Piastri. But following a Safety Car restart on lap six of 11, Verstappen reclaimed the lead with an overtake down the Kemmel straight. He went on to finish the race six seconds ahead of the McLaren driver in second.

Piastri said his McLaren’s straight-line speed deficit compared to the Red Bull was always going to make it hard to stop Verstappen passing him.

Daniel Ricciardo, AlphaTauri, Spa-Francorchamps, 2023
Poll: Rate the 2023 Belgian Grand Prix sprint race
“I knew it was going to be difficult to hold him behind,” Piastri said. “I probably wasn’t expecting him to catch me literally at the top of Eau Rouge off the Safety Car restart, but such is our straight line speed.

“I was just focusing on trying to do the best job I could knowing that it was probably going to be ‘when’ Max came pass rather than ‘if’. But I tried my best and I think second was all we had.”

Piastri said the decision to pit for intermediate tyres on the first lap “was pretty obvious” and the pace he showed during his out-lap made him confident of taking the lead.

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“For us it was pretty clear we would box for inters,” he added. “There’s always the risk that maybe you hit some standing water or whatever, but I think I could see how quickly I was catching the guys ahead that stayed out on wets and I knew I’d be in a pretty decent spot.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Spa-Francorchamps, 2023
Gallery: 2023 Belgian Grand Prix sprint race in pictures
After a difficult start to the season, Piastri has now scored points in the past three races he’s competed in. “In a general trend, it’s going in the right direction,” he said. “I’m getting more and more comfortable with the car.

“Of course, the car is much better now than it was at the start of the year which helps with just the feeling of the car, but also knowing that if you do a good job, you can fight for the top three.”

McLaren only scored points in three of the first eight races. Their season was transformed by the introduction of an upgrade package at the Austrian Grand Prix. Piastri’s team mate Lando Norris has stood on the podium at the last the two rounds.

Piastri said the team’s progress has been encouraging. “Once we got the season underway it was a pretty distant dream that we’d be able to compete for the top three,” he said.

“To now be here consistently for the last three weekends is pretty remarkable. So, it’s been amazing for me.”

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2023 Belgian Grand Prix

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Author information

Ed Hardy
In 2019, Ed started working on Formula 1 writing articles during race weekends. Alongside that, he also built up experience in football working on...

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5 comments on “It was a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’ Verstappen would pass – Piastri”

  1. Grass is green. Sky is blue. Max Verstappen will be passing you.

  2. I like this guy, could be another Verstappen type of racer. Bad news for other wannebee WDC’s, even if you have 7 on your count.

  3. It’s not the straight line speed difference that let Max pass Oscar, it’s how much speed Max could carry into Eau Rouge – that car was just glued to the tarmac and Max had so much confidence in it.

    1. I think Piastri lifted too much in Eau Rouge making the speed difference look ridiculous

    2. Max’s overtake through/past Eau Rouge was down to skill and took Piastri by surprise. But I agree that if that hadn’t happened, a combination of skill + car + setup meant he’d have found a way past eventually anyway.

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