Piastri: McLaren a top F1 team again after ‘hell of a turnaround’
By Ian Parkes
Monday 13th November, 2023 - 5:00am
Oscar Piastri feels McLaren can again class itself as a top F1 team following what has been “one hell of a turnaround”.
McLaren endured a difficult 2022, scoring one podium in 22 races en route to a distant fifth in the constructors’ championship, whilst also parting ways with Daniel Ricciardo.
A hangover from that campaign spilled over into this season as the team made senior staff changes, notably with the departure of Andreas Seidl as team principal, and Andrea Stella stepping into the role, although, most crucially, it failed to hit its development targets.
In March, Stella then made changes to his technical department which saw the exit of James Key as technical director.
McLaren, and notably drivers Lando Norris and rookie Piastri had to be patient. They were rewarded with the arrival of a major upgrade ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix – albeit on the Briton’s side of the garage only.
It sparked a dramatic upturn in form, with the arrival of a further upgrade in Singapore edging McLaren ahead of Mercedes and Ferrari as the second-best team on the grid behind the all-conquering Red Bull and Max Verstappen, in particular.
From the difficulties faced during a trying 18-month period, Piastri now feels McLaren is again worthy of top-team respect.
“It’s been one hell of a turnaround, definitely,” said Piastri.
“The first upgrade we put on really gave us an extra step in performance, and everything else since has done the same.
“The most encouraging thing has been that everything we’ve wanted to put on the car, and everything we were going to change with the car, has done what it’s supposed to.
“All the numbers that we expected were basically the same in real life, which you can’t always take for granted, so it’s been remarkable.
“I always had belief in the team that if we had a car capable of fighting at the front we would be ready to do it, and we’ve been able to show that in the second half of the year.
“The development and progress from the car side of things, in particular, has been incredible, and now we’re slowly getting more and more comfortable with being at the front.
“Instead of referring to some of the other teams as the top teams, they’re our competitors now.”
McLaren’s surge has been at a rapid rate. Going into the ninth race of the season at Spielberg, it languished sixth in the standings, 158 points adrift of third-placed Aston Martin who, in turn, were only three points shy of second-placed Mercedes.
In 12 races, McLaren has outscored Aston Martin by 265 points to 86, leaping up to fourth and holding a 21-point advantage going into the final two grands prix in Las Vegas and Abu Dhabi.
Asked whether he felt going into the Austrian GP that McLaren had a chance of overhauling Aston Martin, he replied: “Until Austria? No, definitely not.
“I don’t think it was really ever a target, necessarily, to beat them. It was just about trying to improve, and whatever results we got is what we got, and the rate has been, what it has been, and it’s been enough to overtake Aston.
“Of course, at this point of the year, we want to stay ahead of Aston, but very firmly, like the teams around us, we’ve got an eye on next year.
“Hopefully, we can come out strong, but definitely at the start of the year, we didn’t expect to have the second half we’ve had.”