McLaren Team Principal Andrea Stella believes that Oscar Piastri has been able to “show what he is capable of” since the side’s on-track performance improvement.
Piastri arrived in F1 amid lofty expectations, having been the subject of an intense legal battle between McLaren and Alpine for the 2021 Formula 2 champion’s services.
However, the Australian was unable to fully exploit his true potential in the early stages of his rookie campaign, with McLaren struggling for speed after admitting it had missed development targets over the winter.
But an array of upgrades to its 2023 car from Austria onwards has catapulted the Woking side into podium contention, with team leader Lando Norris recording successive second-place finishes at the British and Hungarian Grands Prix in the revised MCL60.
Meanwhile, Piastri, who was denied a maiden podium at Silverstone by an ill-timed Safety Car, registered a second-place finish in the Belgian Grand Prix Sprint Race.
Stella contends that Piastri’s level has remained consistent since the start of his rookie season but only now does he have the machinery underneath him to showcase it.
“I think where he is at the moment is part of the gradient that we saw right from the start at testing and the first races,” Stella said via Autosport.
“I’m not sure [Piastri’s progression] has actually accelerated. I think he just took benefit from the car being more competitive, therefore there are more opportunities to show what he is capable of.
“I think this is in line with kind of what we saw at the start. It wasn’t easy to get into a McLaren car. We’ve been here commenting about the characteristics of this car and how much it created issues for drivers and actually feels uncomfortable.
“So, this was apparent already at the start of the season to us, but less apparent outside just because the car wasn’t very competitive, so I would say he’s consolidating the gradient that we saw at the start.”
After being outclassed by his more experienced team-mate in Hungary, Piastri upheld the edge over Norris throughout the weekend at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit.
While the 22-year-old narrowly fell short of landing pole position in the Sprint Shootout, he inherited the lead in the Sprint Race through an optimally timed switch to the Intermediate tyre as the track dried.
Despite being overhauled by Max Verstappen’s Red Bull, Piastri survived the damp conditions to comfortably achieve his first top-three race finish in the top tier.
“The interesting point of Oscar is that he’s making all this look simple,” Stella explained.
“He’s making it look simple that in these conditions you pit, you lead the race, and you go from inters to dry [conditions] and you never kind of make a mistake or so.
“I think this is the most impressive thing that I can witness. And all this is achieved with a pretty unique approach in terms of how calm and considerate he is. And so far, indeed quite impressive.”