Piastri: First F1 front row a privilege
By Mat Coch
Saturday 23rd September, 2023 - 6:38pm
Oscar Piastri has described qualifying on the front row of the F1 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka as a privilege.
Piastri qualified his McLaren second fastest to become just the fifth Australian to start from the front row of a world championship grand prix.
He joins Jack Brabham, Alan Jones, Mark Webber, and Daniel Ricciardo in that exclusive club.
“It’s nice to have that,” Piastri said when asked about the milestone by Speedcafe.
“Obviously, there’s not been that many Australians in F1 full stop.
“Of course, it’s not a record I’m trying to chase, being the fifth front row from Australia, but nice just to have that success.”
Piastri’s rise in F1 has been rapid.
In his rookie season, McLaren had a sluggish start to the campaign after the car missed its development targets over the European winter.
However, since the Austrian Grand Prix, the squad’s fortunes have transformed, coinciding with a significant upgrade to the MCL60.
That brought with it stronger performances, with Piastri starting third for the British Grand Prix, where Piastri was unlucky not to claim a maiden podium.
In Belgium, he finished second to Max Verstappen in the Sprint, the first taste of F1 success for the unflappable 22-year-old.
Such has been his development that on Thursday, McLaren announced it had inked a new two-year deal with him, retaining his services until at least 2026.
But while taking the progress in his stride, Piastri is also acutely aware of the opportunity he currently has.
“I think in particular, so early on in my f1 career, some people don’t get this opportunity in their whole career,” he reasoned.
“So for me to have it in my first six or seven months is a privilege.
“Of course, I want to try and be the next Australian to break some other records or be added to those lists.
“It’s a nice start but I guess I want to be able to do more.”
Piastri secured second on the grid with his first flying lap in Qualifying 3, a 1:29.458s.
That left him a narrow 0.035s faster than his McLaren team-mate Lando Norris, and less than a tenth ahead of Charles Leclerc.
A faster first split on his final attempt was promising, only to lose that through the remainder of the lap to end up slower.
Luckily for Piastri, neither Norris nor Leclerc were able to go faster to secure his first F1 front row start.
“I was about two-tenths up after the first sector, but I wasn’t going to find six [tenths],” Piastri said of his lap, and the gap to pole-sitter Mercedes.
“In the end, it didn’t make much of a difference but of course when you’re up on your lap before of course you want to keep going that way.
“Just a little bit frustrated I didn’t manage to improve on the second lap, but in the end, it didn’t matter.”