Andrea Stella, McLaren’s Team Principal said Oscar Piastri has been showing strong progress, as the young driver gears up for his first Formula 1 home race this weekend in Melbourne.
Oscar Piastri qualified 18th in Bahrain but retired from the race, while on Saudi Arabia, the Australian rookie did a great job to put his McLaren MCL60 ninth in the grid in qualifying on a day when his highly rated teammate Lando Norris dropped out from Q1 after clipping the wall on the final corner damaging his car beyond repair.
Now Piastri heads to Melbourne to race in front of his home fans as a McLaren F1 race driver for the first time, and his boss, Andrea Stella is satisfied with his performance after two races with the team.
“We have seen really strong progress by Oscar,” Stella told the Motorsport network. “Obviously, Lando is a complete certainty. So we know that Lando is there.
“So there’s some positives, but for me the message stays the same. We need to work hard to improve the car and go back racing where we should belong,” he added.
No break throughs, gradual progression
Describing Piastri’s progress, Stella said: “I wouldn’t say that he took a big step. For me it’s going steady progress session-by-session.
“But like if you look back, already in FP1 he was a little bit more competitive than Bahrain, then FP2 closer, then FP3 pretty much a match for Lando, capitalising in qualifying, and then very strong in the race.
“For me, I see more the sense of constant progression, which is ultimately the plan that we have with Oscar,” the Italian maintained.
Piastri will be in the spotlight this weekend at his home race, but Stella believes his young charge will handle the pressure properly, not needing the team to place him in a bubble.
“He is a very calm guy, I think he will be able to keep himself in the bubble,” Stella pointed out. “But certainly we’ll have to make sure that he can stay focused on racing, and he can stay focused on keeping up with this exceptional rate of development session after session.”
As for the team’s prospects in Melbourne, Stella said: “As a track in in terms of tarmac grip, speed of the corners, I would say it should be more similar to Saudi then Bahrain.
“So we look forward to that place in terms of being able again to challenge for Q3, and challenge for good points,” he concluded.
McLaren have had a technical shakeup ahead of the race Down Under, as James Key left his role as Technical Director, the team announcing a new technical structure with Peter Prodromou becoming Technical Director of Aerodynamics while David Sanchez joins from Ferrari as Technical Director of Car Concept and Performance, after his gardening leave spanning till the end of 2023.