Piastri seeking answers after McLaren struggles in Spain
By Mat Coch
Monday 5th June, 2023 - 6:00am
Oscar Piastri was left without an answer for the struggles he and McLaren team-mate Lando Norris had finding pace during the Spanish Grand Prix.
Piastri could do no better than 13th in the race after starting 10th, while Norris trailed home 18th following an opening corner clash with Lewis Hamilton.
Norris had started third but dropped to the rear of the field before the end of the opening lap as he pitted for a new front wing.
With the race running without incident or interruption through its 66-lap distance, he was never able to recover the lost ground.
At the same time, Piastri struggled for grip and fell outside of the points-paying positions.
Part of that, the Australian reasons, was a result of an unusual Saturday which saw both he and team-mate Norris higher up the grid than their pace warranted.
“Yesterday was obviously not to be expected,” he said.
“I don’t think we’re, in normal conditions, able to put the car that high up on the grid.
“Today was maybe a bit more back to reality -probably a more difficult day than what we would have hoped, even considering that we seem to switch the tyres on very well when it’s cold.”
In cool, slippery conditions in Qualifying, that trait served the team well, but was always expected to make the grand prix itself difficult.
“Even yesterday we remained, we use the word ‘realistic’,” team boss Andrea Stella said when asked by Speedcafe if the Sunday result was in line with expectations.
“I used it quite extensively because I thought, as I tried to describe yesterday, the conditions were very special, suiting our car exceptionally.
“Also, some of our competitors just under-delivered… it was just not really representative of the pecking order.
“Today, with the hotter conditions, not the benefit of new tyres, we just ended up not having enough pace, but at the same time also quite high tyre degradation.”
Piastri headed to the pits for his first stop comparatively late versus those he was running with.
That saw him lose track position to the likes of Zhou Guanyu, who’d stopped on Lap 9 and undercut the McLaren driver.
Stella however reasons even if his team had reacted to cover the Alfa Romeo Sauber strategy, the underlying lack of pace meant its chances of scoring points were still low.
“We think that the main factors are actually the pace and the degradation,” Stella reasoned.
“Even if you see with cars, like [Pierre] Gasly, as soon as guys like Gasly is able to pass Oscar, he just flies away.
“Today it was also very difficult to follow – I’m not sure if other drivers commented that – but it was very difficult to stay behind another car.
“Sometimes you see cars go together like they have similar pace, but in this case as soon as we were overtaken actually, the Alpine disappeared.
“We will have a look whether there was another option from a strategy pointy of view, but I think if we look at the pace in hard [compound tyre] and the pace on the medium, it’s just not quick enough.”
Fresh out of the car, Piastri believed his struggles were primarily driven by tyre degradation.
“I don’t have that many answers at the moment but others seem to just be able to push more when they wanted to and find the extra gear,” he said.
“We were kind of flat after that, so I think it’s something to do with that.”