Preseason testing ahead of the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship is currently underway, and we’re getting some promising first looks at this year’s cars as well as this year’s drivers… But F1 rookie Oscar Piastri’s first outing has been less than smooth.
It’s fair to say that we all have high expectations for Oscar Piastri, the 21-year-old Australian young gun who’s replacing Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren this season. Piastri’s junior career has been nothing less than stellar, but he’s only had limited experience driving F1 cars.
That lack of F1 experience was laid bare during day one of testing in Bahrain yesterday, with timesheets at the end of testing revealing Piastri recorded the 18th slowest best lap of the 19 drivers testing on the day, only outperforming Haas’ Kevin Magnussen. (Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez didn’t drive yesterday). Fellow F1 rookies Logan Sargeant and Felipe Drugovich were significantly faster than Piastri, too.
In comparison, Piastri’s teammate Lando Norris was fifth-fastest on the day, outperforming big names like Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, and was over a second faster than Piastri (a big margin in F1). Piastri also had a bit of a bungle, locking up coming off turn 10 on one lap and running wide, narrowly avoiding a bigger incident.
WATCH Oscar Piastri’s first lap in McLaren’s 2023 F1 car, the MCL60, below.
Superficially, this isn’t a very good look for Piastri, especially considering how much faster Norris was as well as how much better Sargeant and Drugovich did on the day. But let’s not write off Piastri just yet.
Should we be worried about Oscar Piastri?
Preseason testing timesheets are rarely indicative of how fast either cars or drivers will be once they hit the track for real. For instance, Daniel Ricciardo topped the timesheet on day two of testing last season, but as 2022 eventually showed us, neither Ricciardo nor the McLaren MCL36 were very fast last year.
On top of that, McLaren will be running all sorts of testing regimes and devices as Norris and Piastri run their laps, so all-out speed might not be their goal. You might have noticed that Piastri’s car was running aero rakes for part of day one, for instance. These wouldn’t have helped him much in terms of getting a hot lap…
And let’s not forget – Piastri is still really green. He hasn’t had that much time in an F1 car, so these first few laps are still him getting used to the whole experience. We can’t expect him to beat proven race-winners and World Champions straight out the gate, especially when McLaren still has such a performance deficit from the top teams.
It’s also worth pointing out that Piastri only completed 52 laps yesterday, so he had less of a chance to record a flying lap. Max Verstappen, who topped the time sheet, completed 157 laps, for comparison.
So let’s just wait and see. We’ve got another two days of testing, and then the first race of the season, the Bahrain Grand Prix, next weekend.