oscar piastri melbourne f1 mclaren

Hakkinen: Very motivated Piastri to produce something special

oscar piastri melbourne f1 mclaren

Mika Hakkinen predicts a fired-up Oscar Piastri will “produce something special” at this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, where the local hero will race for a second time as a Formula 1 driver.

With a stellar F1 rookie season under his belt, Piastri has usurped (struggling) fellow Aussie Daniel Ricciardo as the local favourite and now carries his country’s hopes for Grand Prix glory. And no better place to attain it than on home soil, aka Albert Park this weekend.

Writing in his latest Unibet column, double F1 World Champion and McLaren legend Hakkinen predicts good things for his former team in Melbourne: “McLaren is not planning any major upgrades until May, but both Norris and Piastri were back at the factory last week, looking at the data from Bahrain and Jeddah.

“They know where the car’s strengths and weaknesses are and, on his home circuit, I expect Oscar to produce something special. He is very motivated,” revealed Hakkien.

Last year at his home race, Piastri failed to make it out of Q3 but in the race, he showed his grit and determination to claw his way back from P16 to P8. In a McLaren that then was nowhere as good as the one he has on hand at this early stage of the current season.”

Hakkinen: A strong points finish for McLaren is available

norris piastri

Optimism continued from Hakkinen: “The great thing in McLaren is that Oscar and Lando push each other, really helping the team to maximise its potential. This means that when Oscar arrives in Melbourne with the objective of producing a strong result in front of his home crowd.”

“Lando will be giving everything to ensure he also shines. A strong points finish is available, a podium if Ferrari or Red Bull have a less-than-perfect weekend,” explained the 55 Flying Finn.

As for the pecking order after Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, ahead of Round 3 in Australia, Hakkinen ventured: “We are only two races into the season but it is already clear that the 10 teams are divided into two camps:

  • the top five who will be fighting for points and podiums;
  • the bottom five who are going to have to work very hard to qualify and finish in the top 10.

“With Red Bull Racing still the team to beat, it is left to Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes and Aston Martin to try and challenge Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez. Only one other team has scored a point so far, Nico Hulkenberg grabbing one point for Haas with a 10th-placed finish in Jeddah,” Hakkinen observed.

Red Bull on 87 points, top the 2024 F1 Constructors’ Championship standings after their one-twos in the first two races of the season thus far. Ferrari are P2 on 40 points and McLaren P3 on 22. However, it is still very early days in this 24-round F1 title race.

Can Mercedes get their act together after a poor start?

hamilton surfing melbourne

Regarding the woes at Mercedes, Hakkinen reckoned: “For the third year in a row Mercedes is admitting to have a problem with its car, which is bad news that Lewis Hamilton and George Russell. We know how difficult it can be to fix fundamental problems.

“Speed and consistency was the team’s goal for this year, even if they realised it would be difficult to catch Red Bull, but instead we see Lewis saying that he lacks confidence in the car,” explained Hakkinen, winner of 20 GPs.

This weekend, Albert Park hosts the Australian Grand Prix for the 27th time and it is a track not without perils as there have been some huge shunts at the venue over the years, including Fernando Alonso’s death-defying crash during the 2016 race.

Thus Hakkinen has a warning for F1 drivers this weekend: “Albert Park is bumpy in places and there is quite a lot of track evolution over the weekend. No matter how well the organizers prepare for a race, even with support races using the track, Formula 1 cars will go quicker and quicker as they lay more rubber down on the surface of the track and clear away the dust and dirt.

“You get this on permanent tracks too, of course, but the low grip in Melbourne can cause some problems in practice and those walls are waiting for you if you get it wrong,” concluded Hakkinen, suggesting a safet car or two could be on the cards during Sunday’s Grand Prix.

2023 f1 season after jeddah round 2 points graphic