McLaren CEO Zak Brown is confident that Oscar Piastri can reach the same level of performance as teammate Lando Norris, despite his inexperience.
Piastri’s journey to F1 has been more controversial than most, with the 22-year-old embroiled in a dramatic battle between Alpine and McLaren for his services in 2023.
The Papaya squad was eventually successful in signing Piastri, putting the young Australian against the steadily improving Lando Norris for his rookie season.
Immediately after this move was confirmed, debate followed about the difficulties Piastri might face in the same machinery Norris.
These fears were fueled further by the sustained struggles of 8-time race winner Daniel Ricciardo.
Despite criticisms about the drivability of McLaren’s latest F1 cars, the team’s new arrival has performed well – especially considering the circumstances.
Piastri out-qualified Norris in only his second F1 race weekend, proving himself capable of extracting the potential of the MCL36.
Points at the Australian GP were an added bonus, rewarding the rookie for avoiding the mistakes that proved costly for the drivers surrounding him.
Zak Brown is pleased with the level of competition between his two drivers, confident he will be able to rely on both throughout the year:
“What we want to have… is two drivers that are pushing each other.
“And I think early indications are that Oscar will be on the same pace as Lando, and the two of them will push each other hard.
“And that’s what you want out of your two drivers, to know that it’s down to you, as a team, to provide them with a car to get to the front.
“So I’m confident when you look down the list of things you need to have a winning team, having two Grand Prix drivers is critically important – and I think we’ve got that.”
After two difficult rounds in Bahrain and Jeddah, the papaya squad secured a points finish at the Australian GP.
Amidst the collisions and reliability issues in the early rounds, McLaren finds itself in a reasonable 5th place in the standings – a significant turnaround after their worrying start.
The MCL36 is certainly more competitive than it appeared in pre-season testing or the opening two Grand Prix, a machine capable of fighting for points at least.
Unlike other teams in the midfield, McLaren was on track to secure points without the last-minute red flag via Lando Norris – confirmation of their progress.
Team principal Andrea Stella has spoken extensively about the upgrade package planned for the Azerbaijan GP, which he expects will address the team’s early weaknesses.
Even before pre-season testing began, senior personnel at McLaren were open about the team’s failure to hit their development targets over winter.
Stella seems confident mid-season development will steer his team back on track, although any progress in F1 is always relative to the improvements made elsewhere.
McLaren’s driver pairing gives similar feedback about the characteristics of the car (unlike Norris and Ricciardo’s last year), which should simplify the engineers’ efforts in terms of their development direction.
Aston Martin’s outstanding jump up the field has exposed the inability of other midfield teams – including McLaren – to break into the front of the grid.
Therefore, amidst the finalizing of a new wind tunnel and internal restructuring of the technical squad, McLaren is under pressure to deliver on its ambitions of becoming a top team.