Although new McLaren team boss Andrea Stella declared at the launch of the MCL60 McLaren had addressed last year’s issues, Oscar Piastri is wary that some may still be lingering.
From pre-season brake troubles to the search for downforce and a lack of front-end grip, last year’s MCL36 was a handful with Lando Norris managing just one podium result on his way to seventh in the Drivers’ standings – though he was the only non-top-three-team driver to get on the podium last year.
But while the Briton was able in part to adapt to the car, his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo could not and he bid farewell to not only McLaren but the F1 grid, his seat going to Piastri for the 2023 championship.
The Aussie marked his first pre-season outing as a Formula 1 driver in Bahrain on Thursday, putting in the laps in the new MCL60.
It’s a car that new team boss Stella claims has “pretty much addressed” last year’s weaknesses.
“I wouldn’t want to be too specific,” he continued, “but certainly they have to do predominantly with aerodynamics.
“Aerodynamics is the name of the game in F1 so no mystery, but there’s some areas, for instance, in terms of interaction with the tyres, where there’s some work that we needed to do and this was done over the winter.”
But, he added, “we are happy, not entirely happy for what is the launch car, but optimistic that we should take a good step soon.”
Piastri, though, isn’t entirely sure the car has fixed last year’s problems.
Speaking to the media, including PlanetF1.com, in Bahrain on Friday, he said: “I think at the moment is pretty difficult to say.
“I think my time running was done on the first morning so the track was was pretty dusty, it was hot, the middle of the day, and just makes everything feel worse, regardless of how good your car is.
“I think the issues we’ve got [are] probably pretty similar to last year, I think I’m also still getting up to speed with how I need to drive to extract the most out of the car.
“I think for me at the moment that’s the biggest point is trying to gel myself with the car and hopefully what we’ve got in the future just makes us quicker.”
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Piastri, who is in action on Friday afternoon replacing Norris in the car, covered 52 laps on his first day of testing.
“I think yesterday a lot of it was about make sure the car works properly, make sure I’m getting comfy in the car and ticking all those boxes,” he said.
“I think in terms of feeling of performance it’s I would say a small step from last year.
“We know we’ve got a few things in the pipeline for hopefully soon in the season. But yeah, so far, it’s similar to what I remember from my limited experience in a ground effect car.”
He was also asked about his one-and-a-half days in the car before the season begins, the shortest pre-season ever and one that could not have come at a worse time for rookie drivers.
“It’s certainly a challenge that’s for sure,” he said. “I think if I had more testing that would be great.
“But I think myself and Logan are in the same position. Obviously, Nyck is a rookie as well, but has already done a race.
“It’s the same for all the rookies. I’m sure we’d all love a bit more testing, but I think just trying to maximise the time that we’ve got is the most important thing.”
Additional reporting by Thomas Maher