Oscar Piastri, McLaren, Las Vegas Strip Circuit, 2023

Piastri’s rapid learning key to his “exceptional” rookie season – Stella

Formula 1

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McLaren team principal Andrea Stella was deeply impressed by Oscar Piastri’s development as a driver through his rookie Formula 1 season.

Piastri scored 97 points in his maiden campaign, the second highest for a rookie with McLaren after Lewis Hamilton’s history-making haul of 109 in 2007. He reached the podium twice in grands prix, and in sprint races he qualified and finished second at Spa-Francorchamps then took pole and won at Losail.

In regular qualifying Piastri reached Q3 on his second attempt, and did so 14 more times over the 22 rounds. His team mate Lando Norris managed the feat just one time more than him, but used his top-10 starting positions better as he scored more than twice as many points.

After the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, in which Piastri outpaced Norris to qualify third but finished one place behind him in sixth, Stella raved

“I can confirm that definitely our perception, our analysis is that Oscar’s season has just been exceptional. And when I say exceptional, like beyond our expectation,” he said.

“At this weekend he started [FP1], learning things, and then he was there in P3 in qualifying. In the race he kind of needed to learn a couple of things at the start. Like I think he was a little naive when Lando overtook him. And then even in the second stint, managing the tyres he left, I think, some performance behind. Then you go on to the third stint, so you have another opportunity of a stint on hard tyres, and he has a very strong stint.

“So it’s the rapidity at which he learns that I think makes him exceptional. I think this has been true in whatever scale you take. Within the time of a race, within the timeframe of an event, within the timeframe of the season, just his gradient is so impressive.”

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Stella admitted the quality of Piastri’s season “obviously creates expectation for next season, and expectations require work to be confirmed.”

Another of Piastri’s strengths “is that he’s such a grounded person,” said Stella. “He’s so focused, he’s so committed, and if anything, working with him will be more about what do we need to do to confirm this gradient. Work that effectively has already started in terms of planning ahead onto the winter.”

While the team endured a disappointing start to the season, Piastri’s level-headedness has also been a valuable strength, said Stella. He believes that “may be one of the key enablers” of his rapid rate of learning.

“He’s so calm, I think he’s so good at keeping himself in a status in which he can use the best of his talent. I don’t have that quality. I have to very actively think about ‘what am I thinking? what are my emotions?’. I have to think about my psychology to actively keep myself in the most productive state. For Oscar, this seems to come quite naturally. So that’s, if you want, the main enabler.

“I think he has it potentially as a natural gift, or maybe he worked throughout his young career to do that. I don’t know, but certainly he’s remarkable.

“Even when I’ve seen great drivers, currently or in the past, all of them sort of sometimes underperform because they don’t stay in the status in which they give their best. I think for Oscar, this is quite natural.”

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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13 comments on “Piastri’s rapid learning key to his “exceptional” rookie season – Stella”

  1. Great catch by Mclaren, WC material.

  2. Stephen Taylor
    29th November 2023, 14:09

    Be very interested to see how the Norris-Piastri partnership develops next year . Lando is a quick guy but perhaps more fragile than Piastri mentally. A brilliant rookie season by OP81.

  3. I think McLaren showed they picked up a really solid candidate! Really showed what he can offer as a rookie, it will be interesting to see how he develops, and also how it will work between him and Norris over the next season.

  4. I think Oscar has had a superb season, and I say that as someone who was very skeptical of him as a driver before he came into F1. However, he has proven me wrong, which as a McLaren fan I’m delighted about! He’s managed to find his feet very well, and has often looked at the very least like a match for Lando. I think they’ve got a very exciting driver line-up going into 2024…

  5. Robert Henning
    29th November 2023, 18:17

    Since Spa he has outqualified Norris. Could be interesting going into 2024.

    1. Stephen Taylor
      29th November 2023, 19:10

      It’s easy to manipulate statistics to convey a certain narrative of Piastri being definitively better by the fact is Norris was the faster qualifier and racer over the season . That’s all that matters the end.

      1. Actually, it’s fair to say that Norris was significantly better racer this season. Faster and with better racecraft. Obviously, Piastri is a rookie and Norris himself wasn’t nearly as good in his first season as he is now (but he showed promise, similar to Piastri or maybe even less so). But whoever says that Piastri was close to Noris this season is misleading someone. In some races Norris was wiping the floor with the young rookie, similarly to Verstappen vs Perez. I’m very curious about how Piastri will develop in the next couple of seasons, and to see where his peak is and how far off he is at the moment. This is really hard to tell with any driver, except a few extraordinary talents (like rookie Verstappen, Hamilton, Schumacher, Senna…). That’s why I’m not sure why so many people rush to call Piastri a future champion. Maybe he will be. That’s as probable as him being replaced by someone else within two or three years if he doesn’t improve by much and McLaren finds a new youngster to pursue.

      2. Robert Henning
        30th November 2023, 6:56

        All I said was since Spa Piastri outqualified Norris. That’s a fact, and it’s clear that has hit a nerve.

        I can easily make an argument as to how Oscar was a rookie and grew as a driver and in fact managed to be quick over one lap than Norris in Norris’ own team but you clearly are not ready for that discussion the way you try to shut it down. And since Spa is like one half of the season as well.

        Norris might as well make Oscar his #2 or it could go the other way round. I find the future most interesting at the Papaya team.

        1. but you clearly are not ready for that discussion

          Then why don’t you? Taking just one facet in the battle between teammates can cause misleading perceptions.

          1. How about… he won a sprint race this season. Something Norris hasn’t managed to do in F1 despite having many more seasons on Piastri.

            I’m not saying Piastri was better than Norris over the entire season, but to add to Robert’s point, in the 2nd half of the season Piastri outqualified his more experienced teammate and even added a sprint win to his tally. If we assume that his 2nd half of the season form carries on to next season, there’s no denying that it will be start next season off stronger.

  6. Norris claims, with some evidence, that he is very good at looking after the tyres. Given how his pace drops off during stints, Piastri still has some way to go to match his teammate. Hopefully he can rapidly learn this from Norris and start matching – or exceeding – him for a full race.

    1. That’s probably his main thing to work on. I don’t know enough about his races in detail to know if it’s getting better, but if he can make that extra step on keeping the tyres working well he’ll be able to match Norris more often.

      And he probably needs to, as well. RaceFans ranked Norris the second best driver in F1 last season, but without a hapless Ricciardo there to make his every race look amazing, it’s been a bit tougher for him to really show off.

      So matching Norris is good, but I’d still rank Norris as more of a Sainz or Russell than a Hamilton or Verstappen. Leclerc is somewhere in between, I guess.

  7. Piastri has also laid down a marker for what a team can get when they recruit the right talent from the F2 pool. Apart from throwing out a bit of a challenge to his own teammate Norris, his season really throws some shade over other recent graduates from F2 like Zhou, Sargent,

    All this, after spending only one year in F2 and a year on the sidelines thanks to Alpine. Its not like he had a huge bank of experience to see him through the year without racing

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