March 27, 2023

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Rarely self-confident newcomer in F-1: he is not afraid of the pressure and collapse of his predecessor, he was dissatisfied with the team even before the tests

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Meet F2 champion Oscar Piastri .

Typically, F1 rookies in their first interviews talk about the long and difficult journey of learning and adaptation ahead: how they have to learn a lot of new things, improve their fitness , immerse themselves in a new world from scratch and spend at least half a season on the roll.

But not Oscar Piastri – a former reservist of Alpin, who refused the place of Fernando Alonso and replaced the flagship of the French races with McLaren .

Oscar impressed in 2019, 2020 and 2021 – successively won the Formula Renault, Formula 3 and Formula 2 European Cups, with the last two series in their debut seasons. Before Piastri, only Charles Leclerc and George Russell, the undoubted talents of the generation, who immediately received places in F-1 (at least as outsiders), succeeded in this. The knockout in F-2 was especially powerful, where Piastri with incredible stability tore apart the experienced Robert Schwartzman from the Ferrari system, Zhou Guanyu (a former member of the Ferrari Academy and another Alpin pilot), Dan Tiktum (former pilot of the program Red Bull and Williams academy student), two Red Bull talents Urey Wips and Liam Lawson, and many other guys with several seasons of experience and a powerful press. It was one of the strongest performances in the history of the main youth team.

What are his strengths?

– Fantastic natural speed on one lap (in F-2 he took 5 poles in the last 5 stages in a row (there were 8 qualifications in the season!).

– Stability and ability to balance risk with possible outcome.

– Unreal psychological stability (this skill is constantly emphasized by his manager Mark Webber).

In terms of skill set, Piastri is most reminiscent of George Russell – who surprised with mighty qualifications at Williams (he even earned the nickname “Mr. Saturday”), who almost won the pole and the race in his first weekend for Mercedes, and in 2022 gave 9 top 5 finishes in a row (and 3 more just after leaving the UK).

And Oscar has already begun to demonstrate psychological stability – even before the start of the first tests! In the period between the end of the pre-season and testing in Bahrain, the Australian entered the media field – and already showed himself there as an extremely self-confident pilot. And the comments of his new boss Andrea Stella only emphasize the main features of the newcomer.

The pressure doesn’t scare him.

“I enter the season feeling quite comfortable. It seems to me that as soon as all the facts became known and the whole story came out, the situation became clearer for many people. So it does not burden me in any way, nothing additionally puts pressure on me.

Rather, a certain level of expectations is formed in connection with the results that I achieved in the youth series earlier. And although the incident added an element of drama and attracted a lot of public attention, it did not affect my aerobatics in any way.

I just try to return to the usual form and the usual speed as quickly as possible. After all, I did not race for a year and a little rusty.

McLaren has a good track record with newcomers and honing them into world-class Formula 1 drivers. This gave me confidence. And the feeling that the team needs me played a huge role. Passion, energy and desire to get me – it was very nice.

Do I believe that I can finish the first season higher than Norris? I think yes. I think everyone has to keep that belief in themselves that they can win, or that they can make the most of it if the position isn’t to win.”

The same thing will definitely not happen to him as to Riccardo’s predecessor – who suffered from constant problems with the car.

In general, Piastri got to McLaren in a slightly unusual way: the last year of the contract of his predecessor Daniel Ricciardo was bought out because he did not meet the star status, expectations and results of Norris. In many ways, the situation has developed because of a difficult car – it finished off the self-confidence, positivity and career of an experienced 33-year-old winner of 8 Grand Prix. Even the former shadow contender for the title failed to adjust and adapt to the complex technique of McLaren .

However, the fate of the predecessor does not bother Oscar at all:

“Of course, I’m sorry that the team and Daniel did not work out. But, I think, personally, the same aspects do not bother me. During my unique career, I changed cars every season and didn’t drive the same car for more than a year. Adapting to new cars is a big strength for the junior series, and in my career this strength has been very noticeable.

So it won’t affect me. I have already tested in a 2021 car and drove a 2022 car for a bit in post-season testing. I understand what it’s about and what to expect. The rider must always adapt. There will always be some things that may not exactly match your desires. There are always some restrictions, and they just need to go around.

I think that in general my character is extremely stable, and an important feature of my character is relaxation. And my aerobatic style is quite similar to my personality. “Smoothness” is a fairly common comment I hear. And “accuracy”. For me, a rarity is what is usually called a “sloppy circle”. Obviously, everyone gets them sometimes, but still, I think all my circles are quite clean, very consistent and methodical.

This became the fiber of my three titles. So even when you’re not fast enough, you’ll always be where you need to be or at least nearby, which I think is really important – and even more important in a long Formula 1 season.

He is already constantly dissatisfied with the new car and the team

Before the tests and presentation, Oscar drove the new MCL60 only on a simulator, but even his feedback on the virtual car model allowed McLaren chief Andrea Stella to talk about “constant little dissatisfaction”! Both technology and some internal processes:

“Oscar is a man of few words, but the right words,” Stella praised the newcomer at the presentation. “It quickly became very noticeable. He is definitely extremely concentrated and very demanding. You can already see those characteristics manifest: he’s demanding of the team, and he’s helping to raise the standard at McLaren.

For example, as part of some of the training tasks, we provided him with radio conversations from previous seasons, and he quickly went straight to the foundation, constantly asking “Guys, why did you do this? You could do this, you could do that.”

He very quickly reached the limit of his resources during his sessions on the simulator and hit the ceiling with a new version of the car.

He somehow constantly challenges you, but in a very polite and constructive way. He doesn’t take things lightly and doesn’t stop asking questions just to appease his environment. That’s not what we want, we want to be challenged.

That’s why I said he’s demanding and can help raise the standard – being, if I may say, almost constantly slightly disgruntled. For a pilot, this is a good approach. We’re impressed.”

As it turned out during the tests, Stella really knowingly agreed with Oscar’s dissatisfaction:  McLaren failed the goals to improve the cars , due to technical problems, a solid part of the track time was repaired instead of rolling and ended the tests with the worst personal and team mileage. Pure speed isn’t much better: the fastest laps (which only made it into the top ten) weren’t even done on the softest tires to overwhelm the bad brakes.

But the main goal is pleasure

Okay, in fact, Oscar also spoke about “learning” – but also a little peculiar:

“I don’t know yet what to expect. Personally, I will try to learn as much as possible, and good results, if I achieve them, will be a nice bonus.

In general, you just need to enjoy the performances in Formula 1, from participating in your first race in more than a year, have fun on the track and roll in.

The goal for the 2023 season is to try to learn as much as possible. I think that in the world of “Formula 1” I need to learn a lot, a lot. And, leaving the result aside, as long as I manage to do my best and work to the limit of my abilities and do everything right, the results will come by themselves. So you need to try to do everything right and enjoy the races.