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Why McLaren isn’t setting ‘rusty’ Piastri’s targets too high

McLaren Formula 1 boss Andrea Stella says the team has to manage expectations around Oscar Piastri ahead of the Australian’s rookie season.

Lando Norris, McLaren, Oscar Piastri, McLaren

Stella says the team will try not to focus initially on direct comparisons with Lando Norris, who is heading into his fifth year of F1.

Instead the team will concentrate on ensuring Piastri is as prepared as possible for the challenge of his first season at the top level.

“Let's say the way we set this topic up internally is not much in relation to Lando when it comes to Oscar, but it's in relation to making sure we have strong processes and let the result take care of itself, essentially,” said Stella.

“So if on day one you start comparing and saying that we are not achieving this performance, I think this is a way which you can put your drivers off. So we are careful with that.

“We are aware that Lando is one of the quickest drivers on the grid, but at the same time I have to say that what we have seen so far with Oscar is quite impressive. So we have to manage that carefully.

“We'll definitely use the comparison for the benefit of both, because there's always something to learn. There's enough corners in a track to see who is quicker in braking or if the other is quicker in high-speed.

“So you just have to combine that, but do it very constructively, focussed on the process. Let the result take care of itself.”

Andrea Stella, McLaren Team Principal, Oscar Piastri, McLaren

Andrea Stella, McLaren Team Principal, Oscar Piastri, McLaren

Photo by: McLaren

Piastri has admitted to having a bit of “rust” having not raced at all last year, having won the Formula 2 title in 2021.

In 2022 the Australian did some testing for Alpine and drove for McLaren in the post-season Abu Dhabi test, while this year he has done some private running in a 2021 car and had a brief run in this week’s shakedown of the MCL60 in Bahrain, ahead of official testing.

Piastri admits that it will take time to get fully up to speed, but he doesn’t know how long it might take.

"I think putting a number on how many races it will take is a hard task,” he said. “In Bahrain, I'll have a good idea of where I'm at.

"I think coming into F1 from any racing, there was always going to be a period of adaptation. The cars are much faster, the people I'm racing against are the best drivers in the world.

“So regardless of whether I had a year off, that was always going to be a challenge that remained. And I think in terms of up against Lando, there's going to be natural comparisons being in the same car.

“But I think we're obviously at very different stages of our career. Lando is entering his fifth year, I'm entering my first. I'm not drawing on that too much.

"I think it'll be good to have him as a team-mate and a good benchmark, as well as he has obviously established himself as a great driver in F1. And I'm sure I'll be able to learn a lot from him.”

Oscar Piastri drove the  McLaren MCL36 in the post-season test at Abu Dhabi

Oscar Piastri drove the McLaren MCL36 in the post-season test at Abu Dhabi

Photo by: Michael Potts / Motorsport Images

Piastri stressed that his quick and successful progress through the junior ranks shows that he can easily adjust to different cars.

“I'm not concerned about that aspect of things and the lack of experience,” he noted. “I think through my junior career, I've had to change car every single year, I've never driven the same car for more than a year. So adaptation is a big strength that you need in the junior categories.

“I've obviously done a bit of testing in the 2021 car, and the post-season test last year with McLaren. So I know a little bit of what to expect. But I think as a driver you always need to adapt, there's always going to be certain things that are maybe not going to suit you quite as well as you want.

“As a racing driver you always want more grip and more power. So I think there's always some limitations. It's just how you can drive around those."

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