Leclerc: Piastri ‘impressive’ in Jeddah qualifying
By Mat Coch
Sunday 19th March, 2023 - 7:02am
Charles Leclerc was left impressed by Oscar Piastri after the McLaren driver qualified nine for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
Piastri progressed to the final phase of qualifying in just his second F1 appearance to record the ninth-best time.
That will see him start eighth after a 10-place grid penalty for Charles Leclerc, who qualified second fastest.
Piastri was the sole McLaren to reach the final stage of the session.
It also comes a day after he admitted he was targeting simply to progress beyond Qualifying 1.
“It’s impressive,” Leclerc said when asked by Speedcafe about the young Australian’s performance.
“Especially after a year off and [this is his] second race, in a street track, in a very challenging one – probably one of the most challenging of the season.
“To see him have such a performance is great, however, it’s not really a surprise with what he has shown in the past,” he added.
“I was pretty sure that he was extremely talented and he showed that today.”
The Ferrari race winner wasn’t isolated in his praise for Piastri, with Fernando Alonso speaking highly of the Melburnian.
“I think there is nothing new; he has this huge talent,” the two-time world champion said.
“Very tricky place, so I’m happy for him and happy for McLaren as well.
“We need a strong McLaren as well in the fight.”
Piastri is one of two rookies on the grid this season, the other being Logan Sargeant at Williams who failed to set a time after his Qualifying 1 effort was deleted.
They are the latest members of F1’s next generation, arguably headlined by Leclerc, Max Verstappen, Lando Norris, and George Russell.
“I think the grid is in a really good place at the moment with all the drivers there,” Leclerc noted.
Sunday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix begins at 18:00 local time (04:00 AEDT Monday).
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