Why Oscar Piastri may be ‘better versed’ in racing combat than Lando Norris

Michelle Foster
McLaren drivers Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

McLaren's Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

In what is shaping up to be one of the best team-mate rivalries on the grid, Oscar Piastri might be “better versed” at wheel-to-wheel battles than Lando Norris says Alex Brundle.

With the spotlight shining brightly on him after last year’s Alpine versus McLaren contractual battle for his services, Piastri arrived on the 2023 Formula 1 grid under immense pressure.

To date he has shown no signs of buckling, instead rising to the challenge along with McLaren’s improved MCL60.

Oscar Piastri v Lando Norris is becoming the rivalry to watch

Clinching his first podium in Japan where he was third to his team-mate Norris’ P3, Piastri conceded his race pace still required some work.

One race later in Qatar, having already won the Sprint race, he took the chequered flag in second place in the Grand Prix ahead of Norris, albeit with team orders factoring into that.

And even with the team orders in play, Piastri responded to Norris closing the gap by laying down purple sectors to stay ahead of the Briton.

It was, however, Piastri’s understanding of battle that allowed him to shoot up from sixth on the grid to second after the first corner by taking the right line to avoid being blocked by the Lewis Hamilton versus George Russell collision.

Brundle reckons the rookie’s experience in Formula 2, which sees a lot more elbows-out racing than Formula 1 does, has given him an edge over Norris, who has now spent five years playing the strategy game in the midfield.

“You’ve got to remember that Oscar Piastri is coming yes into his rookie season, but he’s also coming from Formula 2 and battling for championships,” Brundle said on the BBC’s Chequered Flag podcast.

“He’s been battling wheel-to-wheel, year after year after year through the junior formulas.

“Lando Norris has had a period of years where his team-mate’s not necessarily been up with him, but he’s in been in the midfield of Formula 1, there’s been a lot more strategy.

“And so bizarrely, Oscar Piastri might be a little bit better versed even than Lando Norris, albeit that this is the world of Formula 1.”

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Oscar Piastri is making his mark on Formula 1

22-year-old Piastri is already making his mark in Formula 1 and could yet end the season with the record for the most points scored by a rookie driver.

He is third on the list with 83 points as of Qatar while Lewis Hamilton has the record after scoring 109 in his debut campaign with McLaren.

Alex Albon is second on 92 in his Toro Rosso/Red Bull year.

But with five races remaining, and two Sprint events, Piastri could easily break Hamilton’s record as he’s scored 41 points in the last two races alone.

On top of that, his P2 on the Japanese Grand Prix grid meant he became the first rookie to start on the front row since Lance Stroll in 2017.

And his P1 in a race in Qatar marked the first victory for a rookie since Hamilton, although Hamilton’s was in a Grand Prix whereas Piastri’s win was in a Sprint race.

That Saturday was also the first time this year Red Bull had been beaten in a Sprint.

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