Stella says rapid learning key to 'exceptional' Piastri season

Oscar Piastri (AUS) McLaren MCL60. 28.11.2023. Formula 1 Testing, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, Tuesday. -, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images
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McLaren's rookie driver Oscar Piastri came into Formula 1 with a lot to prove after the controversial way he gained his seat with the squad for 2023, but the talented Aussie has more than proved up to the task.

Former F2 champion Piastri had been a reserve driver for Alpine, but turned down a full-time seat opting instead to move to McLaren alongside Lando Norris, once the team negotiated an early end to Daniel Ricciardo's contract.

The early part of the season was a fairly typical campaign for a newcomer and he finished in the points only twice in the first nine races.

But after that his growth trajectory went exponential and by the end of the season he had won the sprint race in Qatar, been runner-up in the grand Prix the following day, and was on the podium in Japan.

In total he scored 97 points in his maiden campaign putting him ninth in the final drivers standings putting him ahead of more experienced drivers including Lance Stroll, Pierre Gasly, Esteban Ocon, Yuki Tsunoda and Valtteri Bottas.

McLaren team principal Andrea Stella suggested that the secret to Piastri's outstanding success this year had been the speed with which he had been able to pick up new skills in the F1 car.

"Our analysis is that Oscar's season has just been exceptional, and when I say exceptional I mean beyond our expectations," Stella explained in Abu Dhabi last week.

"It's the rapidity with which he learns that I think makes him exceptional," he continued. "This has been true in whatever scale you take: within the timeframe of a race, within the timeframe of an event, within the timeframe of the season.

Oscar Piastri (AUS) McLaren at a team photograph. 26.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 23, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Coates / XPB Images

"His gradient is so impressive, which obviously creates expectation for next season, and expectations require work to be confirmed," Stella acknowledged.

"But the other good thing with Oscar is that he's such a grounded person, he's so committed," Stella noted. "If anything, working with him will be more about what we need to do to confirm this gradient.

Stella added that the work has effectively already started in terms of planning ahead onto the winter. Stella said that the 22-year-old driver's calm and mature nature was a major asset.

Oscar Piastri (AUS) McLaren MCL60 makes a pit stop. 26.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 23, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

"He's so calm, he's so good at keeping himself in a status in which he can use the best of his talent," Stella said. "This seems to come quite naturally for him. Or maybe he worked throughout his young career on that.

"I don't know, but certainly it is remarkable," he said. "I don't have that quality: I have to think about my psychology to actively keep myself in the most productive state!

"Even when I've seen great drivers - currently, or in the past - all of them sometimes underperform because they don't stay in the state in which they give their best," he added. "But for Oscar, this is quite natural."

(L to R): Oscar Piastri (AUS) McLaren celebrates his third position with Andrea Stella (ITA) McLaren Team Principal and second placed team mate Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren. 24.09.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 17, Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka, Japan, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

Piastri was one of three official full-time rookies taking part in this year's F1 season. Logan Sargeant also completed all 22 races, but earned just a single point for Williams by comparison.

Nyck de Vries was pointless when he was dropped by AlphaTauri after the British Grand Prix and replaced by Ricciardo who had been sitting on the sidelines since leaving McLaren.

When Ricciardo injured his hand in a practice accident he was replaced for five outings by newcomer Liam Lawson, who took his first f1 points in Singapore where he finished in ninth place.

Lawson was overlooked for a full time seat in 2024. Piastri and Sargeant will undertake their sophomore seasons with their respective teams, with no rookies slated to join the unchanged grid.

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