Young Australian defender Oscar Biastri says he does not expect to fall into the same trap Daniel Ricciardo has fallen into as he prepares to make his Formula 1 debut with McLaren.
Piastri has replaced Ricciardo in Woking’s squad this season after his compatriot struggled for two years to adapt to a range of difficult cars to drive.
Ricciardo was defeated by younger teammate Lando Norris over two grueling campaigns as he tried unsuccessfully to change his driving style to suit his machine.
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The job has been so grueling that the 232-race veteran is spending 2023 on vacation as Red Bull Racing’s third driver.
The combination of Norris’ rise and the odd car make for a potentially diabolical combination for Piastri’s first season, which comes after a year on the sidelines as a reserve driver at Alpine in 2022.
But the 21-year-old Milburnan says he did not expect to be caught in the same way as Ricciardo when he lined up on the net for the first time in Bahrain.
“Firstly, it’s obviously a shame that things didn’t work out between the team and Daniel,” said Piastri at the launch of McLaren’s 2023 car, the MCL60. “But I think for me personally I’m not interested in that side of things and lack of experience.
“During my young career I have had to change cars every year. I have never driven the same car for more than a year.
“Adaptation is a huge strength that you need in the junior classes, and I think that was a highlight in my [career]. So I guess I’m not worried about that aspect.”
Piastri boasts one of the most decorated rookie careers on the grid, having won back-to-back Formula Renault Eurocup, Formula 3 and Formula 2 championships on his way to Formula 1.
Each category represents a huge step up from the previous one, particularly in terms of strength.
The Australian, too, will not be quite up to the challenge. McLaren entered him in two private tests late last year and another earlier this month using the 2021 car, and he scored 123 laps in the 2022 machine in season-ending testing in Abu Dhabi.
While the focus has been on team inclusion rather than pure performance, Piastri hinted that some tweaks will be required to get the most out of McLaren if the 2023 car maintains the idiosyncrasies of its predecessors.
“Obviously I did a little bit of testing in the 2021 car and post-season testing last year with McLaren, so I know a little bit about what to expect,” he said.
“But I think as a driver you always need to adapt. There will always be certain things that may not fit you quite as well as you want. As a racing driver you always want more grip and more power.
“I think there are always some limitations. It’s just how you can drive around those.”
What percentage of the car’s contribution to Ricciardo’s downfall compared to Norris’ hot form in the past two years as he established himself as an elite driver remains an open question that Piastri’s results for his new teammate could go some way to resolving.
Critics of the young Brit claim he only drove McLarens in Formula 1, tarnishing the advantage he had over Ricciardo.
Supporters point to the fact that the 23-year-old has had to change his driving style to get the most out of the car in recent years.
While it is too early to say how their driving styles will compare, Piastri said both Norris has a similar modus operandi that should position him well to make the most of his opportunity at McLaren.
“Obviously we didn’t really do a lot of driving side by side, just post-season testing, and even then we had a completely different operating plan,” he said.
“We also don’t know exactly how this new car will behave, so there may be some driving differences that both of us need to make from last year.
“I think we’ll be able to work well together. You don’t necessarily need to have the exact same style of leadership to make things work, but I think from the feedback I’ve had so far we’re working in a very similar way, so I’m relieved we’ll be able to move the team forward.” .
“The goal at the end of the day is to try to push the team forward and try to fight for wins, for podiums and championships eventually, because I think everyone on the grid wants to try and win. That’s why we’re here.”
Piastri will get his first taste of the MCL60 in a rage during pre-season testing on February 23-25.
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