McLaren CEO Zak Brown claims Oscar Piastri has the potential to become a Formula 1 World Champion, but says the Woking side must provide him with a faster car to ensure that he can realise that in his current environment.
Piastri became the centrepiece of the F1 driver market last season when McLaren successfully clambered to secure his services from Alpine as a replacement for the underperforming Daniel Ricciardo.
Despite enduring a year on the sidelines away from racing in 2022 and suffering from McLaren struggling for pace early in the current season, the Australian has enjoyed a solid start to his rookie campaign.
The former multiple feeder series champion out-qualified highly rated team-mate Lando Norris in only his second qualifying appearance in Saudi Arabia before putting in an assured drive to score his maiden points next time out at his home race in Melbourne.
Brown says the British side has been mightily impressed with Piastri’s approach to his debut year and is confident he has all the hallmarks of being a future F1 title winner.
“Yeah, we’re very impressed with him,” Brown said ahead of the Miami Grand Prix. “He’s very focused, as I mentioned earlier.
“He’s not really made certainly not any big mistakes. Typical exploring the limits, so the odd lock of a wheel here and there, but yeah.
“He’s never been to Miami. He’s not been to all these races, so early indications are we’ve got a future World Champion on our hands.
He added: “We just have to work to give him a faster car now.”
The American also asserts his belief that Piastri alongside Norris, encountering his fifth season in the top tier, is comfortably the best driver line-up on the entire F1 grid.
“So the combination of Lando and Oscar, I couldn’t think of a better combination of drivers,” he proclaimed.
“Oscar has done a fantastic job and he’s trading lap times with Lando now and that’s what you want.”
Having been braced for a sluggish start after conceding over the winter it had missed development targets with its MCL60 car, McLaren launched a revised package in Azerbaijan and the initial signs showed promise as both drivers secured passages into the top 10 in qualifying.
Although the team departed the weekend empty-handed, Norris expressed that McLaren’s beginning to the season had not been as bad as had been portrayed from the outside – a view Brown agrees with.
“Well, it’s a bit early. Yeah, as I explained, it’s not as bad as it looks, but it’s not as good as it should be,” he weighed up.
“And Bahrain, we were definitely off the pace. Saudi, I think we would have had two cars in Q3. Lando made an uncharacteristic, very small mistake and then Oscar got run over by Otmar’s [Szafnauer] driver. Actually, that was a racing incident, his front wing and then wipes out Lando. So I don’t think we were able to really race properly in Saudi.
“And Baku, we were much improved, and Australia was decent. So yeah, we’re not where we want to be, but it’s not been as bad as maybe people are quick to report after you have one bad race.”
Despite Baku hinting at a step forward for McLaren, the former World Champions endured an excruciatingly tough time of things in Miami. Norris classified a lowly 17th in Sunday’s race while Piastri trailed home two places further back amid a forlorn battle with persistent brake troubles.