Driven to succeed: ‘Introverted’ Piastri on the F1 bubble, Monaco and his slow McLaren

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Australian Oscar Piastri is learning in real time not to underestimate the challenge of competing in Formula 1, as he heads into Monaco this weekend sitting 14th of 20 in the driver standings.

It was the biggest piece of advice he received from his manager, ex-Formula 1 driver Mark Webber, after he took the Formula 3 and Formula 2 titles back to back, before a season on the sidelines as Alpine’s reserve driver.

It’s been a hit-and-miss rookie campaign for Australian Oscar Piastri.Credit: Getty Images

While Piastri didn’t set his expectations high, things have not gone his way in his first season in the lead seat for McLaren.

The car has failed to keep up with Red Bull, Aston Martin, Mercedes and Ferrari, who have opened up a gap on their rivals.

But Piastri says he hasn’t let the team’s results affect his emotions, instead focusing on his own goals, like keeping up with teammate Lando Norris.

“I think as a team we’re not as competitive as we’d like to be at the moment, but going to my personal development, I don’t think the competitiveness of the car or the team should impact my personal goals of what I want to do,” Piastri told this masthead.

“I think I’ve been learning as much as I can. I think my consistency is probably the biggest thing I want to keep learning, and I feel like I’ve had good sessions and good showings, but they’ve been a little bit hit-and-miss.

“Just getting those consistently strong is probably the thing I’m trying to work on at the moment.

“But considering I haven’t raced for a year before this season, new team environment, new category in Formula 1, I think I’ve been quite happy with how it’s all gone so far.”

At the most recent grand prix in Miami, Piastri had to deal with a brake issue, but showed resilience to finish the race, even though he had no chance of winning.

Oscar Piastri finished the race at Miami despite dealing with brake issues.Credit: Getty Images

“Miami was difficult with the brake-by-wire failure,” he said.

“I guess it could happen again at some stage – obviously we’re very hopeful it doesn’t, we’ve analysed what went wrong – but hopefully if my F1 career is as long as I would like it to be, it’s not going to be the only issue I’ll have.

“Learning to drive in those situations and even simple things like doing all the switch changes on the steering wheel that we had to do, efficiently, without losing time, it’s all part of the learning curve. In some ways, it was nice to see the end of the race, even if it was uncompetitively with the issues we had, but I think I still learnt about the tyres, which you can’t do without doing laps and race distances.

“Obviously, we’re hoping for some more successful times.”

Living the F1 life

Piastri lives by himself, in an apartment in south-west London, no more than 45 minutes from McLaren’s Technology Centre in Woking.

It’s a different home environment to where he was brought up, in Melbourne’s south-east, and a lot quieter than his years boarding at Haileybury in the UK.

But aged just 22, it’s given him plenty of life experiences.

“It’s nice, I enjoy spending time by myself,” he said.

Piastri’s McLaren has been off the pace in season 2023.Credit: Getty Images

“My girlfriend [Lily Zneimer] comes and visits when she’s not at uni as well, so she spends quite a bit of time there as well. I’d say I’m reasonably introverted so for me, I’ve spent the last three years living with a flatmate, but with the schedules we had, he was another racing driver as well, and we would be alternating who was there on different race weekends, so it’s something I’m used to now.”

Growing up a Richmond supporter, Piastri hasn’t been able to watch much of the Tigers in the past few years, but last weekend’s postponed Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix gave him a rare opportunity to watch the Dreamtime game, only to see his beloved side fall by a point, days before coach Damien Hardwick resigned.

“That’s one of the only games I’ve watched in years,” Piastri said.

“That was painful, and now Hardwick’s left as well. I’d obviously prefer he didn’t, but he’s been a very big help to the club with three flags, so I hope he has a good time in whatever he does next.”

Competing at Monaco

Webber won twice at Monaco, fellow Australian Daniel Ricciardo also won there, and Piastri has featured on the podium there in F2.

But while Monaco – arguably Formula 1’s most iconic track – poses no greater challenge than those Piastri has faced in previous races, there’s still too great a gap between the speed in his car and those at the top of the driver standings.

“We’d like to be fighting for higher up, but there are 19 guys out on track that are wishing they were higher up in every session, so I’m not the only one,” he said.

Australian Formula 1 legend Mark Webber with rising star Oscar Piastri.

“There’s plenty I need to work on to keep myself occupied and motivated, and quite frankly, I’m just very happy to be in F1, being a professional driver after sitting out last year. It’s just a nice feeling to be back in a race car again.

“I think I’ve got a lot to keep myself busy with in terms of my own development, so results are just secondary to that, but we all want to be fighting for more points and at some stage more than that.”

Asked when upgrades might be coming to the car, Piastri said he wasn’t expecting any shock improvement this weekend.

“I think reaching the top four teams is still going to be very, very, very difficult, but I think we can still fight for the back end of the points as we have done in Baku, Saudi Arabia our pace was looking quite strong in qualifying, and Melbourne as well,” he said.

“That’s the aim at the moment, but we don’t have anything to vault us up further at the moment.”

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