Piastri hails ‘small margins’ for McLaren breakthrough
Oscar Piastri believes a greater degree of comfort and a number of small margins helped him make a qualifying breakthrough with McLaren.
A fortnight ago, Piastri was left to lament cumulative errors that contributed to his debut qualifying session in F1 ending with a failure to get out of Q1 and an 18th-place grid slot for the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Two weeks later for the one-lap showdown for the race in Saudi Arabia, Australian Piastri was a driver transformed, and in a car that offered an indication it is not as bad as was initially feared in pre-season.
Aided by a driveshaft failure on Max Verstappen’s Red Bull which meant the reigning F1 champion was unable to get out of Q2, Piastri made the top-10 shootout and will start eighth, moving up a place after qualifying ninth courtesy of Charles Leclerc’s 10-place grid penalty.
“Every time I’ve jumped in the car, I feel like I’m getting more and more comfortable,” said a delighted Piastri.
“I feel if you can get yourself comfortable with the car, then no matter what track you go to, it makes life easier.
“From Bahrain to here, it feels like I’ve made a good step in being comfortable with the car, even throughout this weekend and overnight.
“And compared to Bahrain, I don’t think I did anything massively different or changed anything, it’s just that it all came together better and better and I made no mistakes.
“It’s still incredibly tight but I was just at the right end of the pack this time. I felt like I put everything together much better and it made a lot of difference.”
Piastri aware of fine line between disaster and being a hero
Piastri finished just 0.020s behind Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and half-a-second adrift of third-quickest Fernando Alonso in his Aston Martin.
The 21-year-old is aware, however, just how fine the margins are at a track such as the Jeddah Corniche Circuit where even the slightest error can have major consequences.
“The difference between being in the top 10 and being out was two-tenths,” said Piastri.
“You make a small mistake, or a couple of small mistakes, and it looks like a complete disaster. You put a really good lap together and you look like a hero.
“So we’ve really got to tackle those really small margins, which I think we’re doing a very good job of.
“What we did overnight (in terms of set-up) really helped quite a lot. Even if it was not revolutionary.
“But we were much more optimistic after P3 (final practice) than we were at this point last night (Friday night).
“So just those small margins again really made a difference.”