Oscar Piastri reveals moment where sprint win prospect felt ‘in a lot of trouble’

Jamie Woodhouse
McLaren's Oscar Piastri in conversation.

McLaren driver Oscar Piastri in conversation.

While Oscar Piastri went on to claim a first Formula 1 victory in the Qatar sprint, he believed falling behind George Russell early in the event had put that achievement in grave danger.

Piastri delivered a stunning display to take pole for the sprint in Qatar, a P1 grid slot which he turned into victory to crown himself a race winner in F1 for the first time.

He had to fight for it though, his efforts including a re-pass on Russell for the lead, before keeping newly-minted three-time World Champion Max Verstappen at bay in the closing laps.

Oscar Piastri survives George Russell scare

Piastri, McLaren team-mate Lando Norris and Verstappen all started on the medium tyres, and while Verstappen and Norris were swamped by Russell, Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc at the start, Piastri kept the lead.

Russell was though later able to send it down the inside of Piastri at Turn 6, taking over the lead, at which point Piastri sensed serious danger for his victory chances.

“I think I probably got a bit of a better launch than Lando and Max and then there’s obviously the Safety Car which spaced everyone out a bit more for me,” Piastri told reporters in Qatar as he reflected on the start of the sprint.

“Once George got past I thought I was in a lot of trouble because I tried to stay on the outside of him and it’s like he had the grip to double. So yeah, that was difficult.

“And I think staying in front of the Ferrari at Turn 1 was pretty important for me. I think if I had gone behind then I would have been in a bit of trouble. So that was a pretty important moment in the race.”

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As expected, the sprint came back towards the medium tyre runners as the laps ticked by, allowing Piastri to pass Russell, though for the closing stages he now had Red Bull’s dominant force Verstappen on the hunt in P2.

But, Piastri stayed out of range for the Dutchman, claiming a very impressive win with a final margin of 1.8 seconds.

“Whenever you’ve got Max behind you, it’s not the most confidence-inspiring feeling I’ll be honest,” said Piastri.

“I think the pace was actually probably better than I expected. But yeah, pushing flat out when there’s two or three laps to go at that point, just trying to hang on as best as I could and the pace was solid.”

Oscar Piastri has “weird” feeling after sprint win

While this was a sprint, rather than a Grand Prix, Piastri can call himself a race winner for the first time, though Piastri is not looking at it that way as he admits the feeling is “a little bit strange”.

Nonetheless, it is his execution of the sprint which makes him happier than the result itself.

“I was obviously happy to win the sprint,” he said as he summarised his emotions.

“I have to say it’s a bit of a weird feeling because it’s not a race win, it does feel a little bit strange, but no, very, very happy. I think it’s just been a really good day. And I felt like as a race thing more than the result, I was really happy with how I managed things and obviously a difficult race with tyres as well.

“So yeah, I think good learning for tomorrow and happy that I executed well. And the fact that it gives me a number one trophy at the end is a bonus.”

Piastri will face a sterner challenge on Sunday to score a first Grand Prix victory, as the Aussies prepares to launch from P6.

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