‘Realistic’ Oscar Piastri doubles down on Red Bull pace assessment

Michelle Foster
Oscar Piastri in the McLaren MCL38 cockpit.

Oscar Piastri is optimistic about McLaren's chances

Although Max Verstappen won the Bahrain Grand Prix by 22 seconds, Oscar Piastri has reiterated his belief that Red Bull aren’t as quick as first feared.

Verstappen brushed off his handling and shift issues from the Bahrain practice sessions to set the pace when it mattered most, qualifying and the Grand Prix.

‘But maybe still not quite as far ahead as we first feared…’

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher

Bringing in a maximum points haul of 26, the reigning World Champion claimed pole position, led from lights to flag to win the race, and posted the fastest lap of the Grand Prix.

It had Lewis Hamilton declaring “they’re going to win everything for a while” while his team-mate George Russell said he does “not think anyone is going to be fighting him [Verstappen] for the championship this year”.

But while there’s a touch of doom coming from the Mercedes camp, McLaren’s Piastri believes there is a silver lining. And that, quite simply, is that Red Bull don’t look “quite as far ahead” as their rivals feared after pre-season testing.

“I think it [the race] was a bit more realistic to what we expected to be honest,” he told the media including PlanetF1.com.

“I think they look in a pretty similar place to last year, you know, similar kind of gap so not a massive surprise, to be honest.

“In the races last year, they were always quicker than they were in qualifying, but maybe still not quite as far ahead as we first feared at the start of testing, but still, you know, a long way ahead.”

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As for his own race, Piastri finished the Grand Prix in eighth place after losing out to the Mercedes of Hamilton in a brief tussle out of the pits.

Hamilton pitted a lap before the Aussie in the second round of pit stops and had more heat in his tyres as he stormed up to the rear of Piastri’s MCL38 as the latter returned to the track after his pit stop.

Hamilton made short work of passing Piastri with the McLaren driver admitting he put too much heat into his Pirellis trying to hold off the Briton and that also cost him lap time.

Asked if he could have challenged Hamilton for the position after the pass, he replied: “Not massively, no.

“I think when I battled him out of the pits, I really put a lot of heat into my tyres so that took a bit of time to settle that back in. With these tyres being so sensitive, potentially you pay the price the whole stint.

“I think everyone who was behind you looked quick, it’s just with the dirty air with these cars, as soon as you start getting a little bit closer, it’s tricky.

“I think the pace was okay at the end, but I think for the whole race, to be honest, it was pretty even, maybe Lewis was a little bit [quicker].”

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