McLaren Formula 1 rookie Oscar Piastri has revealed that he had always been optimistic about McLaren’s 2023 season despite a disappointing start to the year.
McLaren began the season on the backfoot after missing performance targets during the development of the MCL60 over the winter.
When McLaren launched it’s 2023 challenger in February, Team Principal Andrea Stella admitted to not being “entirely happy” with the MCL60. After a slow start to the season in which results were inconsistent and points a rarity, the team enters the summer break as a serious podium challenger following an intense development program.
The turning point came at the Austrian Grand Prix following the introduction of upgrades to Lando Norris’ car. Norris finished the Grand Prix in fourth, with the B-spec version of the car demonstrating a great upturn in pace and no signs of tyre degradation struggles that hampered the team earlier in the season.
The British Grand Prix affirmed McLaren’s change of fortunes as Piastri also received the latest upgrades. Norris claimed second at his home race while Piastri had to settle for fourth
The Hungarian Grand Prix yielded another podium for Norris as Piastri finished fifth on a weekend where the rookie was deserving of a podium but missed out after picking up damage mid-race.
“When we started the season, obviously, we weren’t particularly happy with where the car was at,” Piastri said looking back at his season so far.
“We obviously made a lot of changes within the team but of course, the upgrades we put on the car, they don’t just happen overnight.
“We’re developing them and seeing the numbers for them for weeks if not months in advance, so there was a sense of optimism of what was coming.
“But there’s always nervousness about whether it’s going to deliver on track, and I think it was very encouraging that delivered as much as it did.”
McLaren have shown the greatest improvement since the beginning of the season, and the Belgian Grand Prix, although not reaping the same results as rounds before, only proved that further.
Piastri qualified just 0.011s off Max Verstappen in the wet Sprint Shootout, and maintained second in the Sprint itself. The Australian’s hopes of another good result were dashed at the first corner after making contact with Carlos Sainz. Both drivers retired as a result of the incident, however the weekend still showed signs of promise for the Woking-based team.
“I think it [the upgrades] maybe gave us even more than we thought in terms of lap time, but also protecting tyres,” Piastri continued.
“Budapest was, I think, a very good test for our car. We had similar-ish conditions in say, Miami, where it was very hot, and we were quite literally the slowest.
“In Budapest, we were still second or third quickest team.
“So I think the turnaround’s been pretty remarkable.
“There’s always been a sense of optimism within the team that we could turn around, maybe not the extent we have but to where McLaren has been the past couple of seasons.”