Oscar Piastri says simply being more comfortable in the McLaren MCL60 Formula 1 car was the reason for his strong qualifying performance in Saudi Arabia.
McLaren looked good in Saturday’s FP3 session after overnight changes, with Lando Norris seventh and Piastri backing him up in eighth.
Norris’ qualifying session was ruined by a contact with the wall in Q1, but Piastri reached Q3 and secured a solid ninth place.
This will result in an eighth place on the final grid for his second F1 start thanks to a penalty for Charles Leclerc.
“I think every time I jumped in the car I felt more and more comfortable,” said the Australian. “I think compared to Bahrain, I don’t think I did anything very different or changed anything.
“Everything was falling into place better and better, and no mistakes today. It’s still incredibly close. But I was on the right side of the pack this time. So I felt like I got everything right. put together better today. And that made a big difference.”
Oscar Piastri, McLaren
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
Piastri admitted he was careful to increase his speed on the tricky Jeddah street circuit, despite knowing this from his F2 days.
“I think in the first practice laps on Friday everything was going a bit faster than I remembered from F2!” he said when asked by Motorsport.com if he had paced himself.
“So it took a bit of getting used to, obviously. I think more than anything, being more comfortable with the car has been beneficial. I feel like if you can put yourself comfortable with the car, no matter what track you go on, it makes life easier.
“Even from Bahrain to here, I feel like I made a good step, and throughout this weekend and the night. I think this morning was a good session, and obviously qualifying went well too. So yes, just build.
“I think a bit of track knowledge maybe helps, but to say that I did a lot more laps in Bahrain than here! So I don’t really think it’s that, I think it’s just more and more comfortable with the car.
Asked if the car’s one-lap pace was better than expected, he said: “I think our general pace just seems a bit stronger. I don’t think we really expected that. that a lap is better than our race pace, if anything Friday was almost the opposite to some degree.
“So we’ll see what we have on Sunday. But yeah, I think when we have high grip, when we take the fuel off, I think for everyone the car feels a bit better.
“But for us it was good. I think what we did overnight really helped a lot. While it wasn’t groundbreaking, I think we were a lot more optimistic after P3 than we were last night at this point.
“So again, those small margins really, really make a difference. And Sunday is going to be a close race, I’m sure. A lot of other cars have different strengths to ours. So we’ll see how that goes. will take place tomorrow.
Piastri conceded the team can now be more optimistic about what could be achievable this year.
“Yeah, I think so,” he said. “It’s so close. Even in Q1, I think the difference between being in the top 10, I think where I was, and being knocked out, was about two tenths.
“So you make one little mistake, or a few little mistakes, and it looks like a complete disaster. And you did a really good lap, and you look like a hero.
“So we really have to tackle those very small margins, and I think we’re doing a really good job. And obviously we’ve got some updates in the works throughout the year that will help, but I’m sure everyone else will too.
“And just managing to win a little bit more wherever we can, especially with such a tight field that it is now, is going to make the difference.”