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Stella singles out "exceptional" Japan F1 podium as Piastri's 2023 highlight

McLaren team boss Andrea Stella has singled out Oscar Piastri's Japanese Grand Prix podium as the standout performance in his rookie season.

Oscar Piastri, McLaren, 3rd position, lifts his trophy on the podium

Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Piastri delivered one of the most impressive debut seasons in recent years, taking two podiums and a pole-to-flag win in Qatar's sprint as his McLaren team hit a purple patch of form after the summer break. 

While still some way off the race performances of his more experienced team-mate Lando Norris, who grabbed six podiums and scored over twice the number of points, the unflappable young Australian impressed with his maturity in his first year in F1. 

McLaren team principal Stella was delighted with Piastri's performances and demeanour across the whole season but singled out his maiden podium at Suzuka as the main highlight. In Japan, Piastri outqualified Norris by a tenth to take second on the grid behind poleman Max Verstappen

After ceding second to Norris at the start, Piastri drove a controlled race to third, comfortably keeping Ferrari's Charles Leclerc at arms’ length. 

According to Stella, the fact that Piastri had never seen the challenging Suzuka before made his maiden podium even more impressive. 

"On a track like Suzuka he put it in P2 on the grid, we really need to reflect for a second on the extent of this result," Stella pointed out. "A track like Suzuka – not only is it high-speed, but it’s a very narrow track, it’s a very unforgiving track as soon as you go too wide because you have the gravel in some places. 

"In terms of speed, in terms of capacity to learn very rapidly, in terms of collaborating with his engineers and extracting the information that he needs to grow so rapidly, in terms of his own awareness of where he is in the various stages to go from: ‘I know nothing about this track, first time in a Formula 1 car' to being P2 on the grid.  

Oscar Piastri, McLaren, 3rd position, celebrates with his team on arrival in Parc Ferme

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Oscar Piastri, McLaren, 3rd position, celebrates with his team on arrival in Parc Ferme

"And also the way he keeps himself calm, controlled – therefore always capitalising on his potential because he doesn’t create any unnecessary stress - that’s quite exceptional. And I can see why he was so successful in junior categories." 

Piastri enjoyed an extensive testing programme with a previous spec Alpine during his year on the sidelines in 2022, which helped flatten the 22-tear-old's learning curve on tracks he hadn't raced in F3 or F2, such as Qatar's Lusail circuit where he won the sprint. 

Stella felt there was always going to be a difference in performance between new and familiar tracks, especially once sprint weekends were thrown into the mix. 

"On tracks with which Oscar had a certain familiarity or on which Oscar could do FP1, FP2, FP3 sessions and the full [schedule], he was very competitive.  

“But on tracks which he had never been to before, [where] you only do a P1 and then you go and do a sprint, then you can see that the level you need to achieve to be very competitive is very high. 

"So, we are extremely pleased with the level of performance that Oscar has been able to deliver once he had a fair amount of practice, which most of the time just means three hours before you go into qualifying." 

Additional reporting by Alex Kalinauckas

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