Oscar Piastri: Adapting part of the game, but nothing ‘completely alien’ with MCL36

Jamie Woodhouse
Oscar Piastri in the McLaren garage. Abu Dhabi, November 2022.

Oscar Piastri preparing in the McLaren garage at the Yas Marina Circuit. Abu Dhabi, November 2022.

Oscar Piastri did not find anything particularly shocking when he drove the MCL36, but even so, said a driver must always adapt to the car.

The Aussie has enjoyed private testing outings in McLaren’s MCL35M ahead of his debut with the team in 2023, though at the 2022 Abu Dhabi Young Drivers’ Test, he got the chance to get behind the wheel of that year’s challenger, the MCL36.

Both Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo have spoken of unique characteristics with the MCL36, Ricciardo in particular struggling with these as that opened the door for Piastri’s arrival.

Speaking after the Abu Dhabi test, Piastri did say that he felt some differences in this car, but having not had the chance to drive the 2022 challenger of his former team Alpine, he was reluctant to start claiming that these differences were specific to McLaren.

“I think compared to this car, it’s difficult to say if it’s a McLaren characteristic or a 2022 characteristic,” he told media personnel, including PlanetF1.com. “So I don’t want to put it into the ‘it’s a McLaren characteristic’ basket.

“I think maybe there are a few small things that are a bit different, but again it’s only my first day, I’m still well and truly getting up to speed.”

Piastri’s new race engineer Tom Stallard recently praised the 21-year-old in regards to how quickly he gelled with the McLaren machinery which he tested, saying he developed a clear understanding of what those cars needed.

Piastri, in regards to the MCL36, said he did have to alter his driving style in some ways to drive that car, but believes this is what a driver must do anyway during their career, even throughout a single season when upgrades are factored in.

Asked if he had to change anything about his way of driving behind the wheel of the MCL36, Piastri replied: “I think so a little bit, I wouldn’t say it was 100% natural, but I don’t think any car is 100% natural.

“One of the difficulties of the sport is being able to adapt and it’s certainly different to the F2 car I’ve raced, the F3 car, the ’21 car that I drove.

“You have to change more or less every year and the cars are getting constantly developed, so even throughout the season, you might have to adapt.

“So there’s a few things that did need a bit of changing, but there was nothing that was let’s say completely alien.”

It is safe to say that Norris adapted to the McLaren challengers far more successfully than Ricciardo did over the past couple of seasons, and in Abu Dhabi Piastri got a “first reference” on how Norris went about driving the MCL36.

While Piastri was taking care of the Young Drivers’ Test section, Norris was putting in the laps on Pirelli’s confirmed tyre compounds for 2023.

“I definitely was able to have a look at how he drives the car, and he’s obviously made it work well this year,” said Piastri.

“So that was nice to have sort of that first reference of how Lando drives the car and just see what he does differently, what he does the same in some places.”

Piastri was half a second up on Norris at the end of that day of testing, though by Piastri’s own admission, times are “meaningless” in such situations with all different programmes going on.

However, he did tell PlanetF1.com that when he was given two sets of the C5 tyres near the end of the session, he felt he was pushing as close to the limit as possible.

“Well we had two sets of C5s at the end, it wasn’t a qualy sim let’s say but you’re on soft tyres and doing one or two push laps on the tyres,” he said.

“So in my position anyway, I was certainly pushing as close as I could to the limit.”

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