Oscar Piastri picks ‘definitely the team to beat’ with McLaren ‘somewhere towards the front’

Henry Valantine
Oscar Piastri in the McLaren MCL38 cockpit.

Oscar Piastri is optimistic about McLaren's chances

Oscar Piastri has dubbed Red Bull “definitely the team to beat” in 2024, based on the early evidence in pre-season testing in Bahrain.

The RB20 has looked strong in testing so far, with Max Verstappen lapping a full second clear of the rest of the field on the first day, but Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko has estimated their advantage to be more like three tenths of a second per lap.

Piastri is optimistic about McLaren’s own chances based on the laps he has put in driving the MCL38 so far, and hopes they are “somewhere towards the front” in the early pecking order.

Oscar Piastri labels Red Bull ‘definitely the team to beat’ in 2024

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher

The early signs from Red Bull are ominous in the new season, but nobody will know everybody’s true pace until practice and qualifying get underway in Bahrain next weekend.

But from what the teams have been able to garner so far in testing, almost everyone seems in agreement that Red Bull look fastest once again heading into the new season.

That includes Piastri who, while he is unable to quantify exactly how much of a buffer Red Bull have to the rest of the field, believes it to be “enough to be comfortable.”

“They don’t look slow, put it that way,” Piastri told media including PlanetF1.com when asked about Red Bull’s speed in testing.

“It’s hard to say. I think on day one, Max looked very, very strong. I think even Sergio today has certainly looked a bit more comfortable than he was yesterday, so they’re definitely the team to beat.

“How much their advantage is, I’m not quite sure, but it’s probably enough that it’s enough of an advantage to be comfortable.

“For everyone else, I’m not sure, but I think Red Bull are definitely the favourites.”

When asked about his own team’s prospects, McLaren have appeared to have had a sturdy platform with the MCL38 so far and appeared towards the top of the timesheets.

While testing is famously an unreliable barometer of exactly where outright pace is, with fuel loads and engine modes shrouded in secrecy, Piastri is optimistic about where McLaren currently are – even if Red Bull remain a step ahead.

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“I like to think that we’re somewhere towards the front of the grid,” he responded when asked about McLaren’s pace.

“I certainly don’t feel at the moment, we’re in a position to challenge Red Bull, I’m not sure anyone on the grid particularly feels that way at the moment, but I think we’re somewhere towards the front.

“I think, without jumping to very early conclusions, just with sort of past results around Bahrain specifically, and the handling limitations we’ve had in the past, Bahrain is not on paper, a great circuit for us, so it’s a bit hard to have a read, especially after just two days of testing.

“It’s a bit hard to tell and I expect to still chop and change quite a lot, depending on the circuit characteristics.

“It’s very hard to get a read on where everyone else sits at the moment. I think the only pretty clear conclusion from everyone at the moment, is that Red Bull look strong.”

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