Piastri focused on ‘big gains’ in Bahrain

Oscar Piastri is still focused on "big gains" on his debut F1 weekend in Bahrain

Oscar Piastri is still focused on “big gains” on his debut F1 weekend in Bahrain

Oscar Piastri says there are “big gains” more to come from himself following his first day as an official F1 driver at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Piastri officially became the 20th Australian to take part in a world championship grand prix weekend when he rolled out of the McLaren garage for Free Practice 1 in Bahrain on Friday.

When he takes the start of Sunday’s race, he’ll be just the 18th Australian to do so.

He ended the day with the 15th-best time in Free Practice 2, just over a second off the pace set by Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.

Piastri had been 12th best in Free Practice 1, held in unrepresentative conditions in the afternoon sun.

It proved a day of exploration and education for Piastri, who had a near miss with Lance Stroll in Free Practice 2, and a slide through Turn 7 in Free Practice 1.

“This morning was pretty, low grip out there for everyone – maybe just a little optimistic with how much I could push,” he said of his first day as an official Formula 1 driver.

“The car seems to be performing reasonably well, feels like it’s in a pretty good window, it’s just me trying to push a little bit, and an F1 car, they bite back.”

Learning weekend

Piastri has gone into this weekend open about his desire to embrace every aspect of it as a learning opportunity.

Sunday’s race will be his first since December 2021, his last race in Formula 2, while there’s much to get to grips with in Formula 1.

Importantly, his McLaren proved reliable and ran without incident, which saw him log just under a full race distance across Friday’s two 60-minute sessions.

Time at the wheel is important after a stunted pre-season test as McLaren nursed issues that limited his mileage.

“I don’t think it feels that different from testing,” Piastri said.

“Obviously it’s gone much smoother than testing did, but I feel like the car is still how we expect it to be.

“We don’t quite know where we are until tomorrow night when everyone turns up for qualifying,” he added.

“We’ll see where we are. I think for me, at the moment, there’s still some big gains to [be had] from myself in terms of driver, so that’s what I’m focussed on.”

A final hour of practice remains in Bahrain, beginning at 14:30 local time (22:30 AEDT) on Saturday before the first qualifying session of the season.

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