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Oscar Piastri

Piastri downplays McLaren chances in China

Oscar Piastri has tempered expectations for McLaren ahead of the first Chinese Grand Prix, comparing it to other circuits the team has struggled at. However, he does feel the sprint provides opportunities.

Piastri China
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Oscar Piastri has moved to limit expectations for the McLaren team at this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix.

The Australian drew comparisons with other circuits the Woking-based outfit has struggled at in recent years, suggesting the characteristics do not suit the McLaren MCL38.

McLaren has enjoyed a strong start to the season, cementing itself comfortably in third position in the constructors’ standings, despite having fallen behind Ferrari on pace – a team it had managed to get the better of towards the end of last year.

However, Piastri believes the upcoming grand prix could be a “tough” event for McLaren, pinning expectations to the first round of the season in Bahrain, where he and Lando Norris finished in eighth and sixth respectively – their worst combined results of the year.

“I think it'll be one of the toughest circuits for us so far,” the 23-year-old told media including RacingNews365 when asked about McLaren’s prospects at the Shanghai International Circuit.

“I think, Bahrain, there's a lot of low-speed corners there as well, and we were not as competitive there as some of the more recent circuits. So, I think it'll be a tough weekend for us, to be honest,” he said, before adding: “I think there's still opportunities for us, given it’s a sprint.”

'The sprint makes it the same for everybody'

With the Chinese Grand Prix hosting the first of six sprint weekends in F1 this year, additional points will be up for grabs on Saturday morning, before focus pivots to grand prix qualifying and the main event on Sunday.

However, this also means teams and drivers will be afforded just the one hour of practice before Friday’s sprint shootout. When whether the format would be an advantage or disadvantage for himself and McLaren, Piastri stayed neutral on the matter, judging most to be in the same situation.

“I think there's things for and against,” he replied.

“Given that nobody's been here for five years, it kind of is difficult for everybody, and also for the teams - not coming here in this regulation of cars makes life tough for them. Yeah, I think for me, the sprint makes it the same for everybody.”

However, the one-time sprint race winner did highlight past experience as being an advantage to some of the veteran drivers in the field.

“Obviously, people that were here before 2019, Fernando [Alonso], Lewis [Hamilton], for example, have still got over 10 years of experience of coming to this place. So, I'm sure that will come in very handy for them,” he suggested.

“At least it's not just me, who's not been here before, I think there's five or six of us. So, yeah, that will make things a tiny bit easier for me, but it still looks like a very difficult track to get used to.”

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