Zak Brown believes Oscar Piastri is keeping Lando Norris “on his toes” after an excellent rookie season in Formula 1.
Despite arriving with a strong reputation, Piastri has still surprised many by just how quickly he has adapted to life in Formula 1.
A sprint victory in Qatar stands as his best achievement but what is perhaps most impressive is how experienced driver Norris has found it hard competition to beat his team-mate.
Oscar Piastri challenging Lando Norris says Zak Brown
Piastri ended the year 108 points behind his team-mate but despite that gap, it was clear the McLaren team-mate competition was much closer than it was with Norris and his former partner Daniel Ricciardo.
To that end, McLaren CEO Brown has commented on how Piastri kept Norris “on his toes” throughout the 2023 season.
“I don’t think necessarily that [Piastri] brings something different but Lando hadn’t been challenged by his team-mate the last couple of years on a regular basis,” he told the Track Limits podcast.
“On a side note, great to see Daniel doing so well at AlphaTauri because he’s a great, great guy, won me my first race.
“But I think Oscar is keeping Lando on his toes. I think the benefit is they like a very similar race car, so we’re getting consistent feedback from the two.
“Last thing you want to do is have two drivers that one says they have understeer, the other says they have oversteer and then kind of what do you do?
“So I think we’re benefiting from having two very fast drivers that are very technical and we do have an experienced and a rookie, it’s just that our experienced guy happens to be pretty young.”
Later on in the podcast, Brown further reflected on Ricciardo’s departure and put it up there with the COVID pandemic in terms of hardest things he’s had to navigate.
“Probably the hardest one because it was also new to everyone was during COVID,” he recalled. “Furloughing, which is not a term I’d even heard before.
“Send effectively 1000 people home. I don’t remember exactly if it was without pay, or a very reduced pay, but that was uncharted territory for all of us.
“So that wasn’t even something where you could call and ask advice to a mentor and go ‘what did you do when this happened?’ So I think that was brutal.
“Breaking up with Daniel was very difficult. I love Daniel and, great guy, and it just didn’t work out. But that wasn’t the master plan.
“So that was a very difficult situation, especially something like that, very public and then everyone has their opinions and 99% of them don’t actually know what’s going on behind the scenes.
“So to kind of get accused of certain behaviours, they’re just not informed. And that’s the nature of the beast when you’re in so much fanfare spotlight and everyone’s got an opinion but they don’t have the facts.”