(L to R): Lando Norris, Oscar Piastri, McLaren, Silverstone, 2023

Norris leads the way at McLaren but can’t afford to ignore potential of Piastri

2023 F1 team mate battles

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Lando Norris saw off Daniel Ricciardo so comprehensively during the course of their two years as team mates at McLaren that Ricciardo was shown the door a year before the end of his three-season deal.

So Ricciardo’s replacement Oscar Piastri will have been under no illusions about the scale of the challenge he faced going up against Norris. But on the face of his first half season at McLaren, Piastri has justified the reputation he brought with him when he arrived in F1 having won consecutive championships in Formula Renault Eurocup, Formula 3 and Formula 2, only to be unfathomably left on the sidelines for a year by Alpine.

But both McLaren drivers had to contend with a MCL60 which fell far short of expectations when it was launched six months ago. Shortly after pulling the covers off, the team admitted they would not start the season as competitively as they wanted to. This was not just the usual pre-season expectations management. Only when McLaren brought a significant upgrade to the car nine races in did its drivers have the competitive machine they deserved.

The first two races of the season were a write-off. Technical trouble ruined the Bahrain Grand Prix, and after Piastri qualified a superb ninth in Jeddah he suffered first-lap damage which also ruined the race of his luckless team mate. But at Melbourne, the pair avoided late-race carnage to deliver a badly needed double points score.

Piastri has led at each of the last two rounds
The duo generally grabbed points on the occasions the car permitted it over the opening races. Both were eliminated in Q1 in Miami, but both persevered in a challenging, rain-hit Monaco Grand Prix to score points – an especially impressive performance for rookie Piastri.

Finally, in Austria, McLaren’s upgrade was ready – for Norris alone. He immediately delivered on its potential with fourth place.

Next time out at Silverstone both drivers had the benefits of the new parts and they duly impressed by cleaning second and third on the grid. They almost certainly would have finished there had the timing of a Safety Car not cost Piastri his first appearance on the rostrum.

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They claimed the second row of the grid in Hungary where Piastri remarkably broke through into the lead at the start. He couldn’t match his team mate’s pace in the race, however, and McLaren arranged their pit stops in such a way to get Norris ahead. After the race Piastri admitted the call was justified.

It would not have been true in Belgium, however, where Piastri underlined his obvious potential by qualifying alongside pole winner Max Verstappen for the sprint race, then taking the lead by pitting onto intermediate tyres one lap before him. The McLaren was never going to be able to keep the Red Bull behind at the subsequent restart but Piastri nonetheless claimed his second place. His grand prix was ruined by a first corner collision with Sainz.

While Norris leads the way in the standings, and not merely because of the advantages of upgrades and strategy he’s enjoyed at times – Piastri has given every indication that with more experience under his belt he can be every bit as quick as his team mate.

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Norris Q

Unrepresentative comparisons omitted. Negative value: Norris was faster; Positive value: Piastri was faster

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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10 comments on “Norris leads the way at McLaren but can’t afford to ignore potential of Piastri”

  1. I think it’s great McLaren have 2 drivers that can push each other

    If you go back to 2019, you’ll see that Lando performed just as well against Carlos as Oscar is against Lando, only the results the car were capable of didn’t show it

    I just hope McLaren can keep them both around for a long time, there’s going to be huge efforts from others to try to lure them away

    1. That is true havinf two drivers who push each other is much beter for car development. in 2015 Red BUll had a really bad car often beaten by their sister team. When Max joined Red Bull you had a good rivalary bringing the car development much higher.

    2. The potential problem for Norris is that Piastri is probably no Sainz. At this rate, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see Piastri increasingly outperform Norris. But he might rise to the challenge; this is a fun and interesting driver pairing.

      1. Yeah, really the only thing a driver can do to see off such a challenge is to step up themselves as well. If they can’t (or are unwilling, which would mean they are already on their way out), that’s the end of it.

        Will be interesting and good to see both of them further develop, Piastri really has shown already that he has the potential.

  2. Piastri has been such a formidable force in the ladder series and it was a blow to see him sidelined when they signed Ocon on a long-term contract, good for him he’s now able to develop further, a quite exciting driver to watch.

  3. I’m a big fan of Norris, I was not expecting Piastri to be so impressive this season. McLaren have an impressive duo driving for them. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that this is Piastri’s rookie season, he’s already putting pressure on Lando. It may well be that Piastri’s calm and pragmatic attitude will give him the edge.

  4. They’re arguably the most talented pair, after Hamilton/Russell.

    1. I would argue that they have the potential to be stronger.

      I think with the same machinery, Norris beats Hamilton, and Piastri would be neck-and-neck with Russell.

      1. Absolutely, this is very possible, just seeing how norris held hamilton off in russia 2021 before he ended up with slicks with full wet conditions, and russell hasn’t exactly outperformed hamilton, so if piastri can improve a bit, as you’d expect since he’s a rookie, he should be up there with russell.

  5. As a pairing, Mclaren have a set up second only to Mercedes in my opinion.

    There are better individual drivers than either of them, but as teammates they are right up there. I’m a fan of both of them.

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