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piastri mclaren imola f1 qualifying

Piastri grid drop P2 to P5 but McLaren closer to Red Bull than ever

piastri mclaren imola f1 qualifying

Oscar Piastri starred in Qualifying for the 2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola on Saturday, the young Australian led a McLaren charge for pole position which was denied them by Max Verstappen’s extra special lap.

But P2 on the grid, will now be P5 for Piastri after FIA-appointed F1 Race Stewards penalised him for baulking the Haas of Kevin Magnussen during Q1.

After Qualifying at Imola, the Race Stewards concluded: “The Stewards heard from the driver of Car ​81 (Oscar Piastri), the driver of Car ​20 (Kevin Magnussen), team representatives and reviewed positioning/marshalling system data, video, team provided telemetry, team radio and in-car video evidence,” read the stewards’ statement.

“Piastri was exiting the pits and Magnussen was on his fast lap. Piastri impeded Magnussen at the chicane at Turns 2 and 3.  The Stewards accepted the explanation of Piastri that because of the layout of the circuit at that location, he could not see Magnussen until it was too late, at which time he tried to accelerate away in order to get clear of Magnussen as quickly as possible.

“Magnussen acknowledged that it was difficult for drivers to see cars behind in many portions of the track, including here. However, the Stewards reviewed the team radio and Piastri’s team did not warn him of the much faster approaching car until Magnussen was too close for Piastri to do anything to safely avoid impeding.

“In fact there was an approximately 140km/h speed differential and Magnussen was only approximately 40-50m behind at the time and this meant that Piastri was in the middle of the chicane when Magnussen caught up directly behind Piastri. Further, it was clear that Magnussen was on a fast lap since his exit of Turn 19.”

Piastri: I looked in the mirror and didn’t see anyone coming

Piastri: I looked in the mirror and didn't see anyone coming piastri magnussen-penalty imola qualifying

From his perspective in the cockpit, Pastri said: “I looked in the mirror and didn’t see anyone coming. Here you are coming with such a big speed difference. I looked for a long time, didn’t see anyone, got told quite late he was on a push lap. I tried to go but he was short on options at that point.”

Although Piastri was disappointed, he saw the bright side in the McLaren team report: “I’m really happy with the performance today. We were so close to pole on track. I’ve been really comfortable with the car from the moment we put it on track yesterday and I am enjoying my first GP weekend here.

“We’ve definitely been on the pace all weekend and the confidence is high. It is a shame to lose the front row and having to start from P5 as it’s not the easiest track to overtake on. However, we will try our best to recover some positions and fight to finish on the podium,” declared the Australian, after his first F1 Qualifying at Imola.

Piastri’s misfortune promoted Norris to P2 on the grid, immediately after Qualifying, the Briton (unaware of Piastri’s penalty) said in Parc Ferme: “P3 is not a bad job at all. Within a tenth both of us for P1. Tiny margins but for us as a team we have had a great weekend. Oscar did a great job and so did Max.

“Exciting. I can’t wait for Sunday. We are getting closer. To be ahead of Ferrari is also a nice result for us. It’s going to be close, it’s going to be a good race. Hopefully it’s an exciting one. Tough, especially when the lap times are so tight.”

Stella: It’s a big positive that we have also been competitive here

andrea stella imola mclaren piastri norris

“A lot of it is down to Lap 1, strategy and the pit stops. It’s going to be a tough race,” predicted Norris the Miami Grand Prix winner, who will be looking to double his F1 career wins tally with victory at Imola on Sunday.

McLaren team principal Andrea Stella said in the team report: “After a strong performance in Miami, it was important to confirm that competitiveness was genuine. Imola has very different demands, with a fast-flowing layout and a bumpy surface.

“It’s a big positive that we have also been competitive here, and able to fight for pole position. We had a very strong result in Qualifying. Both drivers performed very well, and we were close to Red Bull, which is encouraging.

“Unfortunately, Oscar will start P5 after receiving a penalty. We respect and accept the decision of the stewards and, with a strong pace in the car, we look forward to recovering those lost positions with Oscar, while capitalising on Lando’s front-row start,” added Stella.

McLaren is now firmly second in the F1 pecking order, and arguably closer to the Red Bulls than any team has been in the past three seasons. No surprise if Norris does a Miami, or Piastri bags his first GP win. After all, it’s two Orange cars versus a Blue one…