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Oscar Piastri

Piastri completes McLaren's rebuild - there are no excuses anymore

Oscar Piastri is going nowhere after McLaren tied him down to a long-term deal into the next set of regulations, and time for excuses has run out.

Piastri Sprint Shootout Belgium 2023
To news overview © XPBimages

When Zak Brown became CEO of McLaren in early 2018, it was a team at rock bottom as the realisation that ditching Honda power units would not solve all the problems.

Instead, the change to Renault power exposed the deficiencies in the technical structure masked by the failure of the Honda project as McLaren went from being considered a fallen giant to midfield runner aiming to break into the top teams.

Sweeping change has blown through the good ship Woking which is now unrecognisable to the team that reached its nadir just five years ago.

Granted all of the changes have not quite worked as well as hoped, see James Key as technical director and the signing of Daniel Ricciardo, but those are only minor hiccups, with Oscar Piastri being signed for 2023 to partner Lando Norris - firmly a 'Brown' driver who has been around since 2019 and carved himself into the Lewis Hamilton/Max Verstappen elite on the grid.

The pressure was on for Piastri to deliver in his rookie season given the lengths McLaren had to go to extract him from Alpine over the summer of 2022, with RacingNews365 exclusively revealing the Contract Recognition Board's scathing indictment of Alpine's failings when handling the 2021 Formula 2 champion.

Piastri has now been handed a multi-year deal to take him to 2026 by McLaren as it ties down one of the hottest prospects on the grid.

Rookie highs and lows

He was dealt a tough hand to start the season with the team realising late in the development process of the MCL60 that other routes offered more scope for progress and so started the season half on the back foot.

Piastri reached Q3 in Saudi Arabia and bagged his first points at home in Melbourne before a tough run through the early summer as he adapted to F1 in a tricky car on a tough calendar while blowing the cobwebs away after a year on the sidelines.

But he was unleashed when he received the first full upgrade from McLaren at the British GP - the race after Norris.

Only the fortunate timing of the Safety Car at Silverstone allowed Hamilton to steal a well-deserved maiden podium from Piastri's grasp, but fourth place was a positive building block - as was the second in Belgian Sprint qualifying and Sprint itself, including leading the event at Spa.

That's not to say he hasn't made mistakes. Flooring it too early on the Safety Car restart that Saturday in Belgium and trying to pull a fast one on Verstappen was only ever going to end one way - you've got to get up very early to put one over on the soon-to-be triple World Champion.

The Monza scuffles with Norris when he was exiting the pits was clumsy, but rough edges in a rookie season faced with scenarios never encountered before in Grand Prix racing are only to be expected.

Then in Singapore, Piastri was unlucky to be booted in Q1 after Lance Stroll's crash and qualified 17th. But in all the chaos of Red Bull's meltdown, Ferrari winning and George Russell's last lap crash, Piastri made up 10 places to bag seventh place. That's mightly impressive.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

No excuses

McLaren now has all its ducks in a row.

The new wind-tunnel at the McLaren Technology Centre is being used for the 2024 car, with the second big infrastructure project being a brand-new driver simulator.

In 2023, the team has introduced two huge upgrade packages that has propelled it from backmarker to podium-contender and in the right conditions, perhaps a race-winning machine.

It has managed to poach key technical staff - including Adrian Newey lieutenant Rob Marshall from Red Bull - from other teams and has one of the strongest driver line-ups on the grid, one that will only continue to grow and develop.

The goal for 2024 must be to fight for regular wins, even if a title-tilt might yet be a step too far, but by '25 when Norris and Piastri would have gelled together, the technical team got its feet under the Woking desks, there are simply no excuses for McLaren as it heads towards 30 years in '28 since the last Constructors' title and 20 since Hamilton's first Drivers' title in '08.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages


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