McLaren Boss Webber And Stella Helped Steer Piastri Through His Rookie

McLaren Boss Webber And Stella Helped Steer Piastri Through His Rookie, In an era of no testing and with sprint events compromising track time on race weekends it’s not easy to come into a high-profile team like McLaren, especially alongside a driver of the obvious talent of Lando Norris.

In addition, Piastri had spent a year on the sidelines, having not raced since his last F2 event at the end of 2021. Private testing with an old Alpine in the first part of 2022 gave him some valuable F1 mileage, but that program came to a grinding halt after his move to McLaren was announced in the summer.

McLaren Boss Webber And Stella Helped Steer Piastri Through His Rookie

Given the tricky and uncompetitive nature of the MCL60 at the start of the 2023 season, the Australian faced a huge challenge. However, the mid-season leap in performance of the car overlapped with Piastri making a personal step as he gained experience, and he was able to take full advantage. Fourth place at Silverstone was the signal of things to come, and he followed up with third in Japan and then second plus a hugely impressive pole-to-flag sprint victory in Qatar.

McLaren Coincided With Andrea Stella’s Promotion

Every young driver needs a good team around him, and in Piastri’s case, two people in particular should receive credit for helping him to progress at such a rapid rate. His arrival at McLaren coincided with Andrea Stella’s promotion to the team principal job, and the former engineer has a great understanding of drivers and how to get the best of them. And then there was Mark Webber, who with his wife Ann Neal steered Piastri through the ranks and into the McLaren seat. The former Red Bull driver drew on all his own experience to help Piastri navigate his way through a challenging rookie season.

“Overall, of course, I’m very, very, very proud, very happy,” says Webber of Piastri’s 2023 form. “I don’t think in our wildest dreams we could have expected to start with a season like that. But having hung out with the best in the world he knows there’s work to do.

“It’s never good for a racing driver not to race, with 15 months out. He did a bit of testing, but there’s no substitute for racing. He was certainly behind the eight ball a lot for the first six months, I think, even though he doesn’t want to use that as an excuse because Oscar doesn’t make excuses.

There Was A Lot To Consider Early Doors Psychologically

“Obviously, at this level it’s not a bonus when you haven’t seen the lights for 15 or so months, pitstops and all that sort of stuff, safety cars, it’s just racing, which is what it’s about. So that was a bit of a shock, just how much the gap hurt. But he took it in his stride. And the team was struggling at the start as well. And then the third race was the home race. There was a lot to consider early doors psychologically for him, which he handled very, very well.”

As McLaren’s development programme ramped up there were occasions when Norris had the latest parts while Piastri had to wait. It would have been easy to become frustrated when the comparison with your teammate is so important, but the younger man saw the bigger picture.

“We had some offset with some upgrades, which was also understandable because the team was trying so much to get back on the right track,” says Webber. “So there was offset with priorities around that, and he handled that well. The sprint races, they’re also curly as we know, they’re very challenging, they’re very hard.

“It’s a very tyre-sensitive championship, in terms of losing a set for a session, then you’re out of sync with the big boys. There are so many things to put weekends together cleanly, it’s so technical the sport now.”

 Physical and Mental Tuning Helping Piastri Acclimatize to F1

The Qatar sprint win was the obvious highlight, especially as it was achieved with Max Verstappen chasing Piastri down. He didn’t put a foot wrong when the pressure was on.

“It was fascinating to be on the radio listening,” says Webber. “He was like, ‘Just let me know when Max clears George [Russell],’ and then that happened. And then just the way he got everything lined up ready if Max did arrive, the McLaren guys were like, ‘Okay, wow, that was third, fourth-year stuff, maybe?’

“That’s the stuff that we like about Oscar. There are still gaps, there have to be gaps. It’s obvious. But ultimately over the next two or three years, of course, we’re going to start just slowly closing those gaps down.“

One of the most impressive aspects of Piastri’s season was that he made few mistakes. He had offs in practice in Montreal and Zandvoort – the latter triggering a crash for Daniel Ricciardo, the man he replaced at McLaren   and there was the odd first-lap bump when he was close to the sharp end and racing the big boys.

By abdurrauf2930

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