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Oscar Piastri

How Piastri plans to turn around weakness exposed in Japan

Oscar Piastri grabbed a maiden F1 podium in the Japanese Grand Prix but in a sign of his growing maturity, was rather non-plussed about it.

Piastri Japan
To news overview © XPBimages

Imagine this, you are one of the most highly-rated junior drivers to graduate (eventually) to Formula 1, your team-mate is in the handful of elite drivers on the grid and has banked three podiums in a car that has been transformed from also-ran midfield fodder to the second best package on the grid.

Now add in that you've out-qualified that team-mate by just 0.035s around a track you've never driven before and is regarded as one of toughest in the world.

The final piece to factor into our sum is that you then claim a maiden podium finish with third place to cap off a stunning weekend. This is what happened to Oscar Piastri over the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.

But, rather than being cock-a-hoop after his first top three finish in a Grand Prix, Piastri was immediately trying to square the fact that he had finished 17.107s behind Lando Norris in the sister MCL60 depsite having race factors in his favour.

The cause of Piastri's frustration was his struggles with managing tyre degradation over the race - with the hot conditions in Japan exacerbating tyre wear. It has been a weakness that has plagued the Melbourne-native all season, but the very fact this was his major thought post-race and not the podium is an encouraging sign.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Piastri's struggles

There are plenty of drivers who after recording second on the grid and third in the race would have considered that "job done, thank you very much and see you next time in Qatar."

But also immediately after the podium, Piastri was straight into: 'Yeah, that was good, but I've got problems I need to work on' mode.

"It's special wherever you get a podium, I think. To get the first one, I don't think it really matters where, it's always going to be special," he told media including RacingNews365.

"For myself, it probably wasn't my strongest Sunday, from that side of things, there's still a few things I want to work on.

"I just wasn't quick enough at certain points of the race. You know, these high-deg races are probably the biggest thing I need to try and work on at the moment.

"It's still quite fresh for me, obviously. In all the junior racing before F1, there are no races like this, so the only way you can learn from it is by just doing the races.

"So, definitely, [there are] a few things, had I had this race again, that I would have done a bit differently, but that's all part of the learning. I'm excited to know that we can finish on the podium, even if I feel like there's more to come."

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Why does Piastri say that?

The first signs of Piastri struggling to master managing the tyres in such a way as to protect them without yielding too much race time came at the Hungaroring in July.

There, a lightning start had him running second behind Max Verstappen, but a combination of damaged and inability to manage the tyres meant he dropped to fifth-place by the flag.

At Suzuka, Norris got the jump on Piastri off the line, sweeping around the outside to take second as the race then settled down into Verstappen leading Norris leading Piastri with it quickly becoming apparent that these three cars would fill the podium slots.

Piastri was called in on Lap 13 for his first pit-stop, fortunately shaving off half the time needed as the Virtual Safety Car was deployed for Sergio Perez's clonking into Kevin Magnussen at the hairpin.

This, coupled with Norris losing time behind the slow Red Bull under VSC conditions when he was unsure as to whether he could pass meant that a chunk of race time of over 10 seconds swung to Piastri, with Norris estimating his time loss behind Perez to leader Verstappen being about four to five seconds.

Norris himself would eventually pit four laps later, and cruise up to the back of his team-mate, showing how much of an advantage even just four lap younger tyres had on the day.

Over being waved through at the start of Lap 27 of 53, Norris pulled away at an average of 0.657s over the course of the remaining 26 laps, although this does include the final round of pit-stops.

Indeed, Piastri was closer to the late squabble between Hamilton and Carlos Sainz in terms of race time than he was to Norris.

McLaren boss Andrea Stella generally agreed with Piastri's assessment, believing that tyre management would only come with time and real-world experience of doing it as opposed to in the simulator.

Can do attitude for Piastri

It would be more of a concern if Piastri did realise and note the problem and brush it off. Instead, he fessed up to his struggles and is determined to work with his team to find solutions.

They might not come in the next high tyre degradation race or maybe even the one after that, but as with any rookie driver in the Pirelli era, Piastri is slowly building up his knowledge bank, and one day, will make a pretty large withdrawal if his career trajectory goes the way most expect it to as a potential World Champion.

"You never forget your first podium regardless of whether it's been a strong performance or not," he said.

"It'll be a special day and I won't forget it, also ticking the first podium off the list is always a nice achievement to have.

"There are definitely some things I want to try and improve on and still work on but yeah, for now, I'll enjoy the trophy.

"I've been drowned by Lando in champagne which is a nice problem to have, and I'll try and work out how I can do better next time."

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages


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