FormulaNerds Cut To The Race Podcast

Oscar Piastri

F1 season review: Oscar Piastri F1’s greatest rookie since Hamilton

Piastri found himself in a contract battle in pre-season but unquestionably found a home at McLaren for the future

Latest Episode | Cut To The Race Podcast

Oscar Piastri had to fight off a potential legal battle to race in F1, but once he made it, he showed how much he deserved it, giving McLaren a glimpse of a successful future.

Oscar Piastri of Australia and McLaren F1 Team celebrates his sprint pole position in parc feme during the Sprint Shootout/Sprint ahead of the F1...
LUSAIL CITY, QATAR – OCTOBER 7: Oscar Piastri of Australia and McLaren F1 Team celebrates his sprint pole position in parc feme during the Sprint Shootout/Sprint ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Qatar at Lusail International Circuit on October 7, 2023 in Lusail City, Qatar. (Photo by Qian Jun/MB Media/Getty Images)
Rookie of the decade

After winning the Formula 2 Championship in his debut season, Piastri took a year away from the sport as he began his search for an F1 seat for 2023. He was Alpine’s test driver and McLaren’s reserve during his year without a full-time drive. However, this split between the two teams would come to cause a contract clash later down the line.

In August 2022, Alpine announced that Piastri would replace Fernando Alonso at Alpine for the next season. Despite the Australian being offered an F1 seat, the rookie quickly turned down the offer, announcing he would not be driving for the French manufacturer.

Piastri and his manager, former Red Bull driver Mark Webber, decided that the perfect place for Piastri to start his career would be McLaren, replacing fellow Aussie Daniel Ricciardo.

The opening race of the season was beyond disappointment for Piastri, with his debut Grand Prix in Bahrain coming to a premature end after an electrical issue saw him retire, which eventually contributed to an opening double DNF for McLaren.

The McLaren driver only managed to score five points in his opening nine races. Meanwhile, his teammate Lando Norris had more than twice that amount, and the Alpine team he had turned down were out scoring points; it seemed as if the Aussie’s season was heading downward, spiralling out of control.

But then his season completely changed. When the team from Woking brought upgrades to the MCL60 at the British Grand Prix, Piastri and McLaren’s season was turned around. Piastri had gone from the border of scoring points to standing on the podium.

Arguably, if you didn’t know Piastri was a rookie, there would be no way of telling.

What went well?

There are a multitude of positives regarding Piastri’s season alongside a few negatives. Yet, if you look at the overall picture for a rookie season, it wasn’t too bad of a start to his F1 career.

Despite a slow start to the season, by the time F1 made it to Singapore, Norris already had three podiums under his belt, and it was becoming clear that the Australian would have to start pumping in some good results to prove his worth at McLaren.

So, this is what the young prodigy did. He scored back-to-back podiums in Japan and Qatar, making him the first rookie to score multiple podiums in a F1 season since seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton.

Not only did he finish on the podium twice, but he also finished in the points 11 times, and with a car struggling to get anywhere near the front at the start of the season, you might believe that this is where his successful debut story ends.

But no, it continued; despite being a winless season in terms of Grand Prix, Piastri managed to get one up over his teammate by winning a Sprint Race in Qatar after battling off the dominant force of Max Verstappen to take the chequered flag.

What could have gone better?
18th placed qualifier Oscar Piastri of Australia and McLaren walks in the Pitlane during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain...
Oscar Piastri walks in the Pitlane during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 04, 2023 (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

It wasn’t all sunshine and roses for Piastri. In his opening race in Bahrain, he failed to make it out of Q1 after a series of errors on his lap led him to start 18th on the grid for the opening race.

Although part of the issue could be blamed on the lack of pace in the car, there is no hiding from the fact that later in the season, Norris’s classy race craft paid off, as the Brit took seven podiums, with Piastri only taking two.

However, heading into 2024, a more consistent qualifying performance will be required from the 22-year-old, with the qualifying head-to-head between the two McLaren drivers being 15-7 in favour of Norris.

It was the same story regarding the race finishes, with Piastri losing out again, 17-5, in terms of finishing positions again in favour of Norris.

Low points and highlights

One area which was a clear low point for Piastri was the lack of pace in the car at the beginning of the season, after so much hype in the pre-season regarding his contract and where he would be racing. Then, for the Australian to be so slow, it brought into question whether he had made the right decision.

The MCL60 suffered from a lack of downforce and aerodynamic efficiency with excess drag, leading to poor results in the early stages.

However, the turnaround in form when the new upgrade package arrived for the Silverstone Grand Prix has to be one of the highlights, with Piastri qualifying third for the race. Despite missing out on a podium and crossing the line fourth, it was clearly a turning point in his season.

Alongside these accomplishments, Piastri won the Autosport award for Rookie of the Year, which speaks for itself in terms of how successful his debut season was. As well as getting awards, getting an F1 win in a debut season, even if it wasn’t a Grand Prix victory, will undoubtedly boost his confidence going into next year.

Improvements
Image
Piastri will need to match Norris consistently in 2024 to impress (Image credit:@McLarenF1 on X)

If you look at the season as a whole, you can only see a few improvements that are needed for Piastri after one of the most successful debut seasons since Lewis Hamilton in 2007.

It’s understandable that Piastri would be behind Norris throughout the season as the young Australian gets to grips with new circuits and a completely different racing set-up. Heading into next season, however, Piastri must take his game to a new level to match Norris.

There was over a 100-point difference between the two McLaren drivers at the end of the season, and with F1 being such a cutthroat sport, if you are not performing to the level which the team wants, you can quite easily be shown the door. This treatment is something we saw with Piastri’s predecessor Ricciardo, who had his contract ended early after a series of lacklustre performances even with his history in the sport over the last decade.

So, for Piastri to take the fight to the top drivers, he will need to find his ability to consistently finish high up in the points throughout the course of a season, or at least the bare minimum, which is to be able to match his teammate.

Conclusion

Overall, I don’t believe Piastri could have much of a better season, especially on a calendar where he has faced several completely new tracks in Qatar, Brazil, and Mexico, to name a few.

It is remarkable when you look at what the rookie has achieved in a season in F1. By achieving two podiums and sprint race victory, the young Aussie has adapted well to life in the pinnacle of motorsports.

Speaking to Autosport, McLaren Team Principal Andrea Stella said: “Our analysis is that Oscar’s season has just been exceptional”, and for me, that sums up his rookie season. Exceptional.

Season rating 8/10

Feature image: Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.

Back to the top