Oscar Piastri, McLaren, Yas Marina, 2023

Piastri’s lap for third was ‘one of my first without a mistake all weekend’

Formula 1

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Oscar Piastri admits his qualifying lap that put him third on the grid for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was one of his first without a “major mistake” all weekend.

The McLaren rookie secured a top-three start for the final round of the championship at Yas Marina. It is his best starting position since he secured a front row start in the Qatar Grand Prix.

Piastri’s team mate, Lando Norris, had been close to pole-winner Max Verstappen in the opening phases of qualifying. But he made an error on his final run and Piastri out-qualified him by three hundredths of a second.

Afterwards Piastri admitted he had trouble stringing a clean lap together before qualifying.

“I don’t know what happened to Lando on the last lap,” Piastri said. “I was struggling a little bit in the first two parts of quali, or certainly the first part.”

“I think before qualifying I hadn’t done a lap without quite a major mistake this weekend,” he added. “So I was struggling to get everything together. I think I did a much better job of that in qualifying.”

Piastri’s lap was marginally quicker than Verstappen’s through the first corner but he gradually fell away from the world champion’s time. He crossed the line with a time just six thousandths of a second slightly faster than Mercedes driver George Russell managed.

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“We’ve been quick in sector one all weekend,” Piastri said. “That seems to just be our happy place around here. But everything else is a bit up and down.

“Russell’s been looking extremely quick in all of the practices and Max said he was struggling a bit, so it’s been a bit hard to get a read on where everyone actually sits. But the normal stuff that we like – the medium-speed corners, high-speed corners – that’s where I think we’re strongest. And the slow stuff is where we struggle a bit more.”

McLaren endured a difficult round last weekend in Las Vegas where they failed to progress out of Q1, Norris crashed out of the race early on and Piastri finished down in 10th. He believes that his team look a lot stronger ahead of Sunday’s race in Abu Dhabi.

“We knew Vegas was going to be a bit of a struggle for us, going into the weekend,” he admitted. “We got a few things wrong in qualifying that made it seem worse than it actually was, but we knew here would be a lot better.

“The pace has been good the whole weekend, I would say. It was a bit of a surprise for me just how tight everything was at the start of qualifying – I think it was like four-tenths from first to 15th in Q1 – so you couldn’t afford to make a mistake. But no; we’re at the pointy end and nice to be back in the top three.”

Following qualifying, Piastri was summoned to speak to the stewards over an incident where he was alleged to have impeded Pierre Gasly at turn four at the end of Q3. However, after speaking with both drivers, the stewards took no further action as telemetry data showed Gasly has actually set a personal best microsector at the point of the circuit where he passed the Alpine.

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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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One comment on “Piastri’s lap for third was ‘one of my first without a mistake all weekend’”

  1. Nevertheless, an outstanding rookie and future champ. Plus his reticent demeanour indicates he is not yet another graduate of the F1 media masters school.

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