No penalty for Piastri for alleged impeding incident


McLaren's Oscar Piastri scored a brilliant third place on the grid for tomorrow's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but had to head to the stewards office and mount a defence of his session to ensure that he kept it.

Piastri was placed under investigation over an incident that took place in the third round of qualifying. he was on a slow lap when he moved from the right hand side of the track to the left at turn 4.

He did so as Pierre Gasly came over the crest of turn 3 while on a high speed flying lap, and there was a scary near-miss moment for both drivers. Fortunately there was no contact, although Gasly's flying lap was affected.

Stewards noted the incident for further investigation after the end of the session, but concluded that no penalty was appropriate on this occasion, as Gasly himself said he was not impeded.

The Alpine driver kept 100 per cent throttle throughout, and had set his fastest mini-sector as he passed the McLaren. Gasly went on to finish the session in tenth while Piastri will start from P3.

Piastri was delighted with his final lap in qualifying, after admitting it was the first all weekend where he hadn't made a mistake.

"It's extremely tight this weekend, it's been a bit of a messy one. The pace has been there, just a lot of mistakes," he explained to the media in the paddock.

“I think before qualifying I hadn’t done a lap without quite a major mistake this weekend," he said. "I was struggling to get everything together. I think I did a much better job of that in qualifying.”

Oscar Piastri (AUS) McLaren in qualifying parc ferme. 25.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 23, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, Qualifying Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

“I was struggling a little bit in the first two parts of quali, or certainly the first part," he continued. “We’ve been quick in sector 1 all weekend, that seems to just be our happy place here, but everything else is a bit up and down.

The up-and-down nature of practice and qualifying meant that the outlook for tomorrow's race is very much open to doubt. Max verstappen and Charles Leclerc will start ahead of Piastri, with George Russell alongside on row two.

“Russell’s been looking extremely quick in all of the practices and Max said he was struggling a bit, so it’s been a bit hard to get a read on where everyone actually sits," Piastri acknowledged.

He's hoping that Yas Marina is more to the McLaren's liking that last weekend's race in Las Vegas.

“We knew Vegas was going to be a bit of a struggle for us, going into the weekend,” he said. “We got a few things wrong in qualifying [in Vegas] that made it seem worse than it actually was, but we knew here would be a lot better.

(L to R): Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari; Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing; and Oscar Piastri (AUS) McLaren, in the post qualifying FIA Press Conference. 25.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 23, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, Qualifying Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Coates / XPB Images

"The normal stuff that we like – the medium-speed corners, high-speed corners – is where I think we’re strongest, and the slow stuff is where we struggle a bit more.”

“The pace has been good the whole weekend [but] it was a bit of a surprise for me just how tight everything was at the start of qualifying. I think it was like four-tenths from first to 15th in Q1.

"It would have been one last corner to get to the front, so happy with that the car is very quick this weekend compared to Vegas.

"You couldn’t afford to make a mistake, but no - we’re at the pointy end and nice to be back in the top three.”

Piastri's team mate Lando Norris had looked on course to secure a front row spot before making a costly slide in turn 13 on his final run of the day. “I don’t know what happened to Lando on the last lap,” Piastri commented.

As a result, Norris didn't improve his existing lap time and will start tomorrow's final race of the season from fifth place, immediately behind Piastri.

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