F1 2023, Belgian Grand Prix preview, Oscar Piastri’s rookie season, McLaren, podium battle, Lando Norris


Oscar Piastri took days to recover from missing out on his first podium chance at the British Grand Prix but acknowledges he still has work to do to maximise his chances of snagging a maiden rostrum appearance this season.

Piastri rocketed into podium contention for the first time in his Formula 1 career in Silverstone, where McLaren’s upgrades turned the MCL60 into an overnight frontrunner.

The Aussie had appeared to do enough to finish third, but a late-race safety car after his sole pit stop gifted the place to Lewis Hamilton, who couldn’t be caught with his fresher tyres.

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McLaren was again in the podium battle in Hungary last weekend, but pit stop strategy dropped Piastri from second to third behind teammate Lando Norris and car damage made him vulnerable to Sergio Pérez and Hamilton, who demoted him to fifth.

The Melburnian said the coming away without a trophy from the competitive pair of races stung, but he admitted he could have executed more cleanly in Hungary to give himself a better shot at the top three.

“Silverstone — that hurt for a couple of days, knowing we were so close,” Piastri said. “I think Silverstone as a whole was definitely my most complete weekend and my most complete race.

“In Budapest I put myself in a really good position early on in the race, gave myself an opportunity to try and get a podium and ultimately struggled a little bit with the pace in the second bit of the race, picking up a bit of damage — so a few things to learn from there.

“I think we’ve done a lot of things right to try and get us those opportunities in the last couple of weekends, and I’ve not quite been able to achieve it for myself.”

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The Hungarian Grand Prix confirmed the updated McLaren has a much wider performance range than first thought, and with this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix run on what should be a favourite track for the MCL60, another big result is being tipped for Woking.

But while Piastri thinks his first podium is within touching distance, he acknowledged that the battle for a bottle of celebratory sparkling is too tight to take anything for granted.

“The potential is clearly there,” he said. “Lando’s finished second the last couple of races; in Silverstone I was right behind him.

“We’ll see. It’s always tricky. If Red Bull have a good day, that’s first and second locked out — and Lando’s not an easy guy to beat, and Mercedes as well have also been very quick, so it’s certainly not easy to get a podium.

“The opportunity is there. Hopefully there’ll be plenty more.

“I just want to make sure I leave each weekend feeling like I’ve got most out of myself and the car, and wherever that lands me is where it lands me.”

Piastri is now past the halfway mark of a quietly impressive first season in motorsport’s top tier.

The Australian has turned heads for having pace straight out of the blocks despite having spent 2022 on the sidelines as a reserve driver for Alpine.

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His qualifying deficit to the highly rated Norris is among the smallest between teammates, sitting at just 0.18 seconds when they can be compared, and though he’s 33 points adrift of the Briton, he’s finished on average less than one place behind him across the season to date.

“Out of 10 I’m going to say 7.5,” he said, rating his rookie efforts. “There have definitely been races that have been below seven, there have been some races that have been above seven, so I feel like on average obviously it’s about 7.5.

“There have been some moments that I wish I could have had again, which I guess is bound to happen in every rookie season, and some moments I have been very proud of as well.

“I said before the year that if I had to make mistakes, I wanted to make sure I made them once and then learn from and not make them again. I feel like for the most part that’s been the case.

“There have maybe been a few more mistakes than I would have liked, but I think with being in the world F1, not racing last year, I think that’s to be somewhat expected.

“I think on the whole it’s been pretty solid.”

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