Oscar Piastri warned of wingman status at McLaren if major flaw goes unaddressed

Oliver Harden
A close-up shot of Oscar Piastri with a prominent McLaren logo alongside him

Is it fair to have expected more from Oscar Piastri by now?

Oscar Piastri has been warned that he risks becoming Lando Norris’s wingman at McLaren unless he is able to address his shortcomings with tyre management.

Piastri enjoyed arguably the strongest debut season since Lewis Hamilton (2007) in 2023, claiming two podium finishes and winning the sprint race in Qatar.

Oscar Piastri to become Lando Norris’s McLaren wingman?

Yet tyre management proved to be a clear weakness for the Australian, with the most glaring example of his poor race pace coming at Suzuka 2023, where he finished 17 seconds behind Norris despite starting ahead on the grid.

Despite a couple of fourth-place finishes for Piastri in Saudi Arabia and Australia, Norris has once again led McLaren’s charge in the opening weeks of 2024, claiming the team’s best result so far with P3 in Melbourne.

With Piastri struggling to eighth in Japan last weekend, F1 commentator Harry Benjamin fears the 23-year-old could end up becoming Norris’s number two if he cannot improve quickly.

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Appearing on the BBC Chequered Flag podcast, he said “He’s a brilliant driver.

“You don’t win Formula Renault, Formula 3, Formula 2 back to back to back – and you don’t have teams fighting to keep you contracted to them, taking it to the courts – without being a pretty decent peddler.

“I don’t think we’re quite there yet to discuss Piastri and where he’s at at the moment, but I don’t think we’re far off and we’re getting to that point.

“Over the last couple of races, he’s had to move out of the way for Norris, but sometimes it’s due to strategy with Piastri just not being there.

“The one thing that is Piastri’s Achilles heel at the moment, it seems, is tyre deg and race management and he needs to get on top of that sooner rather than later.

“There’s no doubt about his speed in that car, but we all thought that he’d be closer to Norris by now.

“And I think that rate of improvement needs to be scaled up now, because otherwise he going to be the number two in that team.

“Right now I think everyone’s judging them on an even keel – yes, Norris is way more experienced – but with the amount he was rated coming into F1, I think Piastri’s performances should be better than they currently have been.”

With Piastri passed for seventh place on the final lap by George Russell, Benjamin’s fellow pundit Alice Powell claimed the McLaren driver would have been frustrated by his own performance.

She added: “He didn’t have the best of days.

“Lando did a great job trying to challenge for that third spot in the end, but the McLaren just really dropped off on the hard tyres.

“Piastri has been struggling for a little bit, since he’s come into Formula 1.

“His one-lap pace is pretty good – I think it’s there, if not sometimes better, than Norris – but his tyre management?

“He’s struggling with dealing with those Pirellis and then eventually having a nice battle with [Fernando] Alonso and Russell.

“He made a small mistake going into the chicane approaching the final lap, a little lockup there, and that allowed Russell to swoop around the outside going into Turn 1.

“I’m sure – I know – that Oscar will be disappointed with that.”

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