Oscar Piastri, McLaren, Suzuka, 2023

Piastri says he could have gone quicker after claiming front row spot on Suzuka debut

Formula 1

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McLaren’s Oscar Piastri says he was pleased to secure second on the grid at Suzuka despite knowing he could have gone faster.

The rookie driver, who signed a contract extension with McLaren to keep him at the team until the end of the 2026 season earlier this week, will made his first start from the front row of a grand prix grid in Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.

Despite never having raced at Suzuka before, Piastri out-qualified his team mate Lando Norris. The pair were half a second behind pole winner Max Verstappen.

“Yesterday we thought we could be in for a solid weekend and then I think this morning we made some good changes and the car looked quick in FP3,” said Piastri.

“I was getting more used to the track too. So I’m very, very happy to be on the front row. Of course the gap is a little bit, or a lot, bigger than I would prefer. But I’m happy to be in second.”

Despite taking the best qualifying result of his short F1 career, Piastri felt he should have gone faster. He failed to improve on his final timed lap at the end of Q3.

“I think I was about two-tenths up after the first sector, but I wasn’t going to find six,” he explained. “So in the end, it didn’t make much of a difference.

“Of course when you’re up on your lap before, you want to keep going that way. So I’m just a little bit frustrated I didn’t manage to improve on the second lap, but in the end it didn’t matter.”

It will be Piastri’s first front row start for 651 days. His last came when he started on pole position for his final Formula 2 race at Abu Dhabi during his championship-winning season in 2021.

Piastri says he will be looking to beat Verstappen on the run to turn one at the start of the race.

“It’s the first time I’ve started on the front row for a while, so it’ll be cool,” Piastri said. “There’s only one car ahead to overtake, so I’ll try and make that happen.”

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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14 comments on “Piastri says he could have gone quicker after claiming front row spot on Suzuka debut”

  1. I would say OP is the biggest arrival in F1 since Max Ver.

  2. Actual times
    Max +0.6s McLaren

    Ideal times
    Max +0.3s McLaren

    But of course it’s Red Bull, who have dominant car, rather than Max pulling off genius lap, while both McLaren drivers left at the very least 0.3s on the table. Every mental gymnastics and excuse are used before admitting Max is the best driver in history.

    1. Why stop at greatest driver ever? Why greatest living being ever? I guess Sergio is the second greatest driver ever to be within 8 tenths because a loser like any of the McLaren’s would be 8 seconds off the pace.

      1. Ha Ha Ha

    2. Seriously, on what metrics can you meaningfully compare Max with Juan Manuel Fangio or Jim Clark? I do not mean they are both better than Max. They are, all three, exceedingly good, surely among the very best ever. I mean you cannot really compare when everything is so very different. That obsession about the GOAT is kind of insane.

      (anyway I still go for El Chueco as the GOAT, hehe, But I do not have to smash it on everybody several times a day)

      1. Because the sport is at much, much higher level than 50-70 years ago? It was unironic “Drive to Survive” back then and only since the 80s we can talk about it as a racing series. That gives us Senna and Max, with some other great drivers like Prost, Schumacher or Alonso.

        1. My top ten in chrono order (I won’t even try to order them from best to worst, too different eras)

          1. Or make it eleven and include Alberto Ascari. Nobody else comes close IMO

          2. Where is Senna.

    3. Every mental gymnastics and excuse are used before admitting Max is the best driver in history.

      Talk to us when he’s won 7 WDC or won championships in more than one team.
      As melanos points out: Fangio for starters.
      People say, if Clark had lived, he might have moved from Lotus and done the same. Speculation there.

      Max’s record to date:
      2021 – gifted (gift giver lost his job)
      2022 – very dominant car
      2023 – impending in extremely dominant car.

      1. Number of WDCs are just Wikipedia facts, as per Wolff and Hamilton.

        1. Absolutely agree. It is about 80 % car/team dependent, only 20% driver dependent.
          Although it is far from perfect, I’d rather go for f1metrics best driver of the year (using the math model to equalize the car/team factor) than by the actual WDC results (how about Fernando Alonso 11 “f1metrics WDCs” vs. 2 for Sir Lewis Carl Davidson Hamilton?)

          1. Sorry, it was from the top of my head, I checked and Alonso got 10, not eleven. Only bested by Schu with 12. It does not necessarily make them best ever; JM Fangio or Jim Clark did not have the luxury of racing for so many seasons.

  3. Strange, a lot of comments on others rather than Oscar.
    Can’t see it happening but Oscar winning at his 16th F1 start against Norris winless after 98 might set the cat amongst the pidgeons contract wise.

    (Bah humbug I’m sticking with the olden day pidgeons

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