Home » F1 Driver Oscar Piastri Talks About His Rookie Season, Teammate Lando Norris, and Overthrowing Red Bull

F1 Driver Oscar Piastri Talks About His Rookie Season, Teammate Lando Norris, and Overthrowing Red Bull

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Oscar Piastri is the first driver to win the Formula Renault Eurocup, Formula 3, and Formula 2 championships in consecutive rookie seasons. So the pressure was definitely there when the 22-year-old Australian made the jump to Formula 1 with McLaren. And while he wasn’t expected to drive away with another championship in another rookie season, especially at motorsports’ highest level, Piastri saw the season start off rockier than he was used to, as he only scored points in two of his first nine races.

At the British Grand Prix, though, everything changed. Backed by significant car upgrades, Piastri and teammate Lando Norris finished fourth and second, respectively, setting the tone for the next nine races, as Piastri had points in six of those, including a pair of podiums and a sprint win. Piastri is currently ninth in the Drivers’ Championship standings, and McLaren is fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, with three races to go, including the highly anticipated Las Vegas Grand Prix on November 18. 

With Norris and Piastri locked in their seats at McLaren through 2025 and 2026, respectively, the future certainly looks bright for one of Formula 1’s legendary teams. Robb Report recently caught up with Piastri to talk about his first Formula 1 season on and off the track, his relationship with Norris, and how driver stability can buoy McLaren for the foreseeable future.

Formula 1 rookie Oscar Piastri after finishing fourth at the 2023 British Grand Prix.

Formula 1 rookie Oscar Piastri after finishing fourth at the 2023 British Grand Prix.

Dan Istitene – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

What has turned the tide in the right direction for you since the British Grand Prix?

I think the biggest change has been the car. Since Silverstone, we put some upgrades on the car and really turned things around, which was a nice change from the start of the year. Also, for myself, just getting more and more comfortable with the car, knowing how I need to drive it to be quick, just getting more experience in the races, and more consistency. At the start of the season, I had some good moments, but now, Austin excluded, I’m starting to put it together a bit more. I think that’s probably been the biggest difference.

How much confidence does that give you heading into the final races of the season, and even looking into next year and beyond?

I’ve got full confidence in the team with what we’ve been able to achieve this year. For me, having upgrades to a car was quite a new thing, because that wasn’t something I had in the junior categories. Everything we’ve put on the car has worked as well as we’ve hoped, and it’s done exactly what we expected it to. In my first season, knowing we had the power and capability to turn it around so impressively, it gives me a lot of confidence for the future. I’m around at McLaren for many years to come now, which is exciting too, so confidence from a lot of angles.

I think the next few races might be a bit tougher for us, but in saying that, we were expecting Austin to be tough and we were still in the fight with Mercedes and Ferrari—a bit quicker than Ferrari—and not far off Red Bull, either. Exciting times and, obviously, [I’m] looking forward to next year as well . . . hopefully we can start off on the right foot.

McLaren F1 driver Oscar Piastri during the sprint shootout at the 2023 United States Grand Prix.

Piastri competes in the sprint shootout portion of the United States Grand Prix earlier this month.

Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

What’s been the biggest learning curve for you in Formula 1?

There’s been a lot of learning curves, to be honest. On the track, there’s been a lot of new circuits for me this season, also a lot of circuits I haven’t been to for a few years, so just getting used to that has been a challenge—I’m obviously racing against the best guys in the world, which isn’t an easy task either. I guess being a professional racing driver now instead of trying to become a professional, so all of the media attention, the partners we have onboard with the team, driving for such an iconic brand like McLaren too . . . getting used to all of that, specifically the off-track stuff, has probably been the biggest change from the junior categories. It’s not so much the difficulty of it, there’s a lot more of it. That’s probably the biggest difference.

McLaren F1 driver Oscar Piastri engages with fans at the 2023 Austrian Grand Prix in July.

McLaren’s charismatic rookie engages with fans at the 2023 Austrian Grand Prix in July.

Guenther Iby/SEPA.Media /Getty Images

Drive to Survive has shined a spotlight on Formula 1. What’s that experience been like for you, and how important is the docuseries in growing the sport, especially here in the U.S.?

I think it’s been a massive influence for the U.S. followers, especially. It’s shown the U.S., in particular, what Formula 1 is about. But for everyone who follows the sport, it gives them a behind-the-scenes view of what drivers do, what we go through. I don’t know what the crowd figures were like in Austin, but there were a lot of people watching when we went on the drivers’ parade before the race. I think it’s been a massive positive for the sport, and it’s introduced Formula 1 to a lot of new fans as well.

Oscar Piastri (left) and Lando Norris (right) greet the crowd during the drivers' parade prior to the 2023 United States Grand Prix.

Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris greet the crowd during the drivers’ parade prior to the 2023 United States Grand Prix.

Speaking of the United States, the Las Vegas Grand Prix is approaching. What are your expectations for that race experience?

It’s going to be a really cool weekend. Racing down the Strip in Las Vegas is going to be very unique, so it should be exciting. I don’t know if the track will suit us as a team that well, if I’m honest, but it will be a unique experience nonetheless . . . even just some of the simple things, like racing on a Saturday, having qualifying at midnight. It’s also going to be pretty cold, from what we’re predicting, so that could add another challenge, for the tires in particular. A lot of unknowns, but what is known is that it’s going to be a pretty crazy and mega event.

How would you assess this season from both an individual and team perspective?

For myself, it’s been, on the whole, a year I’ve been happy with. After not racing last year, I think I got up to speed as quickly as I could have hoped. My biggest thing I’ve been trying to work on is being consistent, which has definitely been stronger in the second half of the season, though I still think it’s an area to improve on. I also think just being able to deliver when we’ve had the car there. Like Qatar, for example; it was really the only opportunity we had to win a sprint and start at the front. So, to be able to come through with that and deliver was a very big confidence boost.

As a team, obviously the start of the year was tricky and difficult. We kind of knew that before the season started—we weren’t particularly happy with how the car was looking, but we’ve managed to turn it around. We identified the problems and things we wanted to change very quickly and we’ve backed it on the track as well as we can. To now be fourth in the Constructors’ [Championship] is a massive turnaround. Of course we want to be closer, but it’s exciting to be able to have this form at the moment, and hopefully it’s something we can carry into next year.

The start of the sprint-race portion of Formula 1's 2023 Qatar Grand Prix.

Starting in pole position, Piastri (No. 81) goes on to win the sprint race at the Qatar Grand Prix this year.

Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images

What’s your relationship like with teammate Lando Norris, and does it help that you’re so close in age?

I think we’ve been getting on well the whole year. We’re still getting to know each other better and better, but from the beginning of the year, we’ve always worked well together in terms of trying to help the team and understand what we want from the car. We’ve always given similar feedback, so, from that aspect, it’s been really good. 

He’s got a lot of experience at a young age. It’s been nice having him as a teammate and reference. He’s definitely established himself in the last five years as one of the top drivers in Formula 1, so to be able to see how he drives and see how he works with the team has been very useful for me as well. It’s an exciting teammate pairing, certainly for years to come.

McLaren's Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris celebrate finishing second and third, respectively, at Formula 1's Qatar Grand Prix on October 8, 2023.

Piastri and Norris celebrate finishing second and third, respectively, at the 2023 Qatar Grand Prix on October 8.

Clive Rose/Getty Images

You recently signed an extension with McLaren through the 2026 season. How much pressure does that take off your shoulders?

I was never really that concerned with the weight on my shoulders. I knew I was already signed up for next year, so in some ways it was a pleasant surprise when we started talking about an extension already. It was a no-brainer for both sides. I can’t be happier with the team, with how they’ve welcomed me in the first place, how they’ve continued to welcome me throughout the season, and the progress we’ve been able to make. It’s always nice to have stability. For everyone back at the factory, especially, having a stable driver lineup . . . I think that’s always a good show of confidence for the team.

McLaren's F1 driver Oscar Piastri celebrates his third-place finish at the 2023 Japanese Grand Prix.

The 22-year-old driver enjoys his spot on the podium at this year’s Japanese Grand Prix.

Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images

How does McLaren catch up to Red Bull and supplant them as champions next season?

We’re all working to beat them, that’s for sure. We’ve still got tracks that suit us better and tracks that don’t suit us as well. Qatar and Japan really suited us nicely. In some ways, that was one of the only slipups they’ve [Red Bull] had, and we managed to capitalize in the sprint. We’re definitely getting closer; the pace is getting stronger. I think a lot of teams have basically shifted towards next year’s car now. We’re definitely getting there. There’s no magic bullet . . . there’s still a lot of hard work to go.

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