McLaren hailed for ‘playing a blinder’ with key driver market move

Michelle Foster
Oscar Piastri takes pole for the Sprint in Qatar. F1 starting grid

Oscar Piastri took pole and the win at the Qatar Sprint.

Locking Oscar Piastri into a long-term contract, Karun Chandhok says McLaren “played a blinder” when they signed Formula 1’s newest winner through to the end of the 2026 season.

This season Piastri has not only emerged as Formula 1’s top rookie but he’s also taken the fight to his much-lauded team-mate Lando Norris.

His performances saw McLaren sign him to a new long-term contract, one that runs through to the end of 2026, with Piastri repaying them four days later when he secured his maiden Formula 1 podium with a third place at the Japanese Grand Prix.

‘McLaren have got driving stability’

Following that up with a maiden Formula 1 victory in the Sprint race for the Qatar Grand Prix weekend, Piastri’s name is now likely to feature on many a team’s wish list.

But for now, and for the next three years, he’s a McLaren driver.

With the Formula 1 driver market facing a major shake-up at the end of the 2024 season when seats at Red Bull and Ferrari become available, Chandhok says the Woking team has “played a blinder” in securing both Piastri and Norris for the foreseeable future.

“I think this is a really interesting time in the driver market because we’re in a little bit of a pause until we see what happens for next year,” he told Sky F1.

“I think McLaren and Zak [Brown] have played a blinder by locking down Oscar because they got Lando for the next two years, and Oscar has proved to be a little star isn’t he?

“They got driving stability and actually, now they’re in quite a good position of strength negotiating because Lando’s now locked in for the next two years, Oscar’s beyond it.

“It’ll be fun times the next next couple of seasons with all that.”

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Two future World Champions within McLaren’s ranks

Although Piastri was the one to clinch McLaren’s first P1 since 2021, it’s Lando Norris who Ralf Schumacher reckons is the most likely of the team-mates to take a grand prix victory.

Either way, though, he says in Piastri and Norris, McLaren have a championship-winning line-up.

“McLaren is in a very comfortable position for the future because they have two very excellent and young drivers,” the six-time grand prix winner told Sky Deutschland.

“With his sprint victory, Oscar Piastri showed what potential he has. Of course, we still have to wait for the long runs over the race distance where Lando Norris is even better with his experience. So it will take a while for Piastri. But he is someone who has the potential to compete for titles in the future. I’m very sure of that.

“In the future, this duo of Norris and Piastri will definitely be one of the strongest in the field. Norris is already at the highest level, Piastri certainly needs another year or two. As a rookie, he is already at an incredible level and one has to assume that his team-mate can also be a future World Champion.”

Schumacher reckons the rise of McLaren will be welcomed by Formula 1’s newly-crowned three-time World Champion, Verstappen.

“It will also challenge him more and motivate him that the McLarens in particular are getting closer and closer to him. He will have more fun if he is challenged more. It will be exciting if McLaren continues like this,” he added.

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