Piastri: McLaren ‘not a complete disaster’ around Las Vegas
By Ian Parkes
Sunday 19th November, 2023 - 5:00am
Oscar Piastri has insisted his McLaren is not “a complete disaster” around Las Vegas after he and team-mate Lando Norris were both knocked out in the first period of qualifying.
Piastri had finished second quickest in final practice, seemingly negating comments from CEO Zak Brown that the MCL60 was not suited to F1’s latest circuit due to its long straights and slow corners.
In qualifying, however, both Piastri and Norris used just one set of soft tyres apiece, rather than taking on a new set to get into Q2, leaving them down in a miserable 16th and 19th on the timesheet.
For the grid, the duo will move up a position due to Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll serving a five-place penalty for overtaking under double-yellow flag conditions in final practice.
Reflecting on a woeful session for the team, Piastri added: “In hindsight, maybe using the one set of tyres wasn’t the right decision.
“But from practice, and even during the session, there was nothing to really indicate that putting a second set on was going to be the best way forward, so that was one element.
“I think we were damaging the tyres quite a lot, which we didn’t really see in practice earlier, either. The tyres are just the name of the game this weekend.
“We’ve seen that across a lot of teams. Some are making it work, some aren’t. It’s just not really worked for us that much this weekend.
“Honestly, the pace in the car was not bad. If we had got through (into Q2) then we had the potential to be in Q3 and perform decently.
“So I don’t think the car is a complete disaster. It’s just the circumstances didn’t really work out for us, and maybe there was a feeling we could have done better.”
Team principal Andrea Stella indicated that was the case, with a number of factors counting against McLaren.
“We can say this weekend has been a bit of a struggle in terms of car performance,” said Stella.
“This wasn’t unexpected because looking at the track layout, we have many low-speed corners in which the car doesn’t perform very well in general.
“It is a layout that features long straights, therefore, you need to use a lower rear-wing configuration, which as we said in Spa and Monza, is one where we haven’t developed the car at all.
“We have also been surprised by how low the grip on the Tarmac is, which is a condition where we struggle to get the tyres to do a good job, so the fact we were not performing very well left us on the backfoot because we were very focused on trying to squeeze some performance out of the car.”
Although Stella said changes were made to the car overnight did add “some performance”, there was a lack of understanding in how to make the tyres work for qualifying as not enough work had been done behind the scenes, particularly given the much cooler temperatures this weekend that have required warm-up of the rubber over a number of laps.
“We saw it was difficult to do the first lap because the tyres weren’t ready so the second was better,” said Stella.
“In P3 (final practice) we saw with Oscar that actually the third lap was faster, with the fourth as fast as the third.
“So we kind of convinced ourselves that the tyres could have repeated the lap time, and that was plan A into Q1.
“In reality, we also considered pitting for a second set, but at the time we checked with the drivers, they were both happy that the tyres were in good condition, and therefore we stayed on the same.
“At the time of the third lap, we kind of realised the tyres were going off, but then it was too late to pit.”
Stella feels operationally McLaren was below par which, in turn, did not help the drivers get the best from their cars.
“I would say the main reason why were knocked out in Q1, definitely it’s not car performance because thanks to the work done overnight, the performance improved.
“But the choices in terms of how to use the tyres in Q1, and the execution of the plan, wasn’t ideal, so plenty to review for us from an operational point of view.”