Oscar Piastri makes key Lando Norris request in McLaren’s Red Bull pursuit

Thomas Maher

Oscar Piastri

Oscar Piastri says he wants to make sure he and Lando Norris continue to race with respect in 2024 as he enters his sophomore year.

The young Australian stepped up to Formula 1 in fine style in 2023, where the rookie compared well against his experienced and talented teammate Lando Norris.

Piastri’s pace was similar to Norris over a single lap, leading to some mighty qualifying results for McLaren, although Norris usually had the legs on his young teammate over the course of a Grand Prix distance.

Oscar Piastri: It’s very important for us to work together

With McLaren doing their utmost to close the gap to leaders Red Bull, the MCL60 ended the 2023 season as perhaps F1’s most consistent second-quickest car. So good was McLaren’s turnaround, that Piastri even managed a ‘win’ by taking victory in the Qatar sprint race.

With Norris having to look over his shoulder at the rise of Piastri, the Australian believes he and the British driver must remain completely transparent with each other and stay respectful in what could be a closer fight in Piastri’s second year.

Armed with more experience, Piastri said the goal remains the same: to find more and start challenging Red Bull on a more consistent basis.

“The relationship is still exactly the same,” Piastri said, in an exclusive interview with Autosport.

“Of course, we’re not winning [titles] at the moment. We’re a lot closer than we were, but we still need to find that bit more to challenge and to beat Red Bull.

“So, it’s still very important for us to work together and help the team develop the car.

“The team back at MTC and the engineers here are all doing their best to try and help things. But if me and Lando have got any additional info or directions on things, then anything we can do to help is going to help both of us.

“In terms of data and stuff like that, it’s all completely open. There are no barriers or anything and that won’t change.

“We just need to make sure that our racing is respectful. But apart from that, it’s all good.”

With McLaren having a dismal start to 2023, he said his aim had remained the same throughout the year – to compare well against the known performance level of Norris.

“I was still always going to be compared to Lando, whether we were fighting for last and second last or first and second,” he said.

“So, those comparisons were always still going to be there.

“But maybe in terms of outright results, maybe there wasn’t quite the pressure to achieve big points or podiums or whatever straight away. But that comparison was still there.

“I was still trying to learn as quickly as I could and try and help the team the best I could. It didn’t really lessen things.”

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Andrea Stella: Oscar Piastri exceeded expectation in 2023

Reflecting on Piastri’s season after the 2023 championship had come to an end, McLaren team boss Andrea Stella was effusive in his praise for the team’s young charge.

“I can confirm that definitely our perception, our analysis, is that Oscar’s season has just been exceptional. And when I say exceptional, like beyond our expectation,” he told media, including PlanetF1.com.

“It’s the rapidity with which he learns that I think makes him exceptional. I think this has been true in whatever scale you take. Within the time of a race, within the timeframe of an event, within the timeframe of the season, just his gradient is so impressive.”

With his performance level “obviously creating expectation”, Stella pointed to a key strength he’s observed in Piastri.

“He’s so focused, he’s so committed, and if anything, working with him will be more about what do we need to do to confirm this gradient,” he said.

“He’s so calm, I think he’s so good at keeping himself in a status in which he can use the best of his talent. I don’t have that quality. I have to very actively think about ‘what am I thinking? what are my emotions?’

“I have to think about my psychology to actively keep myself in the most productive state. For Oscar, this seems to come quite naturally. So that’s, if you want, the main enabler.

“I think he has it potentially as a natural gift, or maybe he worked throughout his young career to do that. I don’t know, but certainly he’s remarkable.

“Even when I’ve seen great drivers, currently or in the past, all of them sort of sometimes underperform because they don’t stay in the status in which they give their best. I think for Oscar, this is quite natural.”

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