Oscar Piastri described achieving his maiden Formula 1 podium finish as “special” but admits that the Japanese Grand Prix was not his strongest Sunday of the season.
McLaren’s recent upgrades and the return to a high-speed circuit enabled the team to be the second-quickest side at Suzuka behind Red Bull, who bounced back emphatically from its Singapore struggles to seal the title.
After pipping his team-mate to a place on the front row, Piastri was instantly demoted down to third, having been pinched on the approach to Turn 1 by Max Verstappen.
Piastri remarks he “was in the perfect position” to replicate the first corner incident that took Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna out of the 1990 grand prix, something which Norris pre-empted post-qualifying yesterday.
“Well I mean, yeah, I mean, looking back on it now, I was in the perfect position to emulate Senna and Prost! Like, literally perfect!”
“But no, I saw I got a good launch, got a bit too excited on the throttle pedal in the second part of the start,” he continued.
“At that point, I wasn’t far enough alongside Max. I could see Lando was coming around the outside. I think settling for third was definitely the safest option at that point.”
The Australian emerged ahead of Lando Norris once more when his first pit stop coincided fortuitously with a brief Virtual Safety Car period, with the Briton also losing time behind the slowing Sergio Perez.
However, Norris regrouped to rapidly reel in Piastri at around half a second a lap, calling for McLaren to instruct the latter to move aside at Turn 1 on Lap 27.
Piastri would eventually wound up 17s behind his team-mate at the chequered flag, leaving him to concede that he wasn’t entirely pleased with his race pace.
Asked if it was sweeter to get his first-ever F1 podium on a proper driver’s track like Suzuka, Piastri replied: “Yes and no. It’s special wherever you get a podium I think. To get the first one, I don’t think it really matters where. It’s always going to be special.
“I think for myself, it probably wasn’t my strongest Sunday. So from that side of things, there are still a few things I want to work on.
“To get the first podium, like Lando said, on pace as well, is a very exciting moment.”
Piastri asserts that managing the tyres better in high-degradation races like today is one aspect that he is striving to improve upon – something, he acknowledges, that can only come with more experience.
Pressed on whether he was nursing any issues, he explained: “I just wasn’t quick enough at certain points of the race. These high-deg races are probably the biggest thing I need to try and work on at the moment.
“I think it’s still quite fresh for me, obviously in all the junior racing before, there’s no races like this, so the only way you can learn is by doing the races. Definitely a few things.
“Had I done this race again, I’d have done it a bit different. But that’s all part of the learning. Yeah. Exciting to know we can finish on the podium even if I feel there’s more to come.”
Reflecting on the weekend in its entirety, Piastri summarised that it had “definitely been a pretty special week” amid the announcement that he had extended his McLaren contract through 2026.
“It’s been a very fun week,” he added. “Enjoy it, and still a lot to learn and try and improve on. But yeah, I’ll enjoy the moment for now.”