McLaren ‘definitely in mix’ as Red Bull ‘didn’t look as good as we feared’

Michelle Foster
Oscar Piastri speaking to the media.

Oscar Piastri reckons McLaren are in the "mix"

Oscar Piastri believes McLaren are in the fight in Bahrain as Red Bull don’t look as strong as “feared” after pre-season testing.

Formula 1’s first competitive hour of the 2024 championship, qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix, may have concluded with Max Verstappen on pole position but he was only 0.2s up on the chasing pack.

That was led by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc while behind him and down to P9, the gap was a mere three-tenths with the McLaren team-mates slotting into the mix.

‘Red Bull didn’t look quite as good as what we feared’

Additional reporting Thomas Maher

Lando Norris qualified seventh with Piastri in eighth place in a qualifying in which six teams progressed to the pole position shoot-out.

“I think we’re definitely in the fight in that pack,” Piastri told the media, including PlanetF1.com. “I think even Red Bull didn’t, or maybe didn’t, look quite as good as what we feared, which is good.

“But yeah, I think we’re definitely in that mix [Ferrari, Mercedes, Aston Martin].

“Honestly, I think it’s very similar to how we ended last year. I think when we go to Saudi next week, it’ll be a bit of a different picture again. When we go to Melbourne, Japan, Miami. I expected it to chop and change like we did last year.

“I think for us the fact that we’re starting here on a pretty positive note in terms of pace, the positions maybe don’t reflect it as well as we want, but I think if you had to put Bahrain at the end of the season last year, we probably still wouldn’t have been that optimistic.

“So I think the fact that we’ve started this year at a decent pace around here is a good sign for the year to come.”

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‘I think it’s eight cars that are all really tied together’

Norris will line up ahead of Piastri in seventh place having qualified only two-tenths shy of a front-row starting position.

With P2 to P9 separated by a mere 0.303s, the Briton predicts there could be a very close tussle come Saturday’s Grand Prix that could be both “exciting” and “frustrating”.

“I think it’s pretty accurate, to be honest,” Norris said when told it seems the pace gap between the teams is ‘very small’ and that the pecking order wouldn’t ‘change massively’ in the race.

“It was very close, like you saw, very close between different teams, which is always probably the most exciting thing.

“Even between the Red Bull, they’ve got to know that Ferrari will be going for it at the beginning. Then you’ve got Mercedes, Aston, us, so you’ve got a good amount of teams all fighting for some good positions.

“Hopefully, it is going to be us just trying to break away from the pack behind, I hope.

“But at the same time, I think it’s eight cars that are all really tied together.

“I think that could be a bit frustrating for everyone, and everyone watching, but also a good chance for us if it doesn’t spread out too much to try things and for everyone to try a different strategy and so forth. So I think we’ll make it exciting.”

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