Oscar Piastri sees no reason why McLaren cannot challenge Ferrari for third place in the F1 constructors’ championship in the wake of the team’s recent resurgence.
Following Carlos Sainz’s victory in the Singapore Grand Prix, with team-mate Charles Leclerc fourth, such a prospect seemed unthinkable as Ferrari emerged from that race with a 126-point cushion over McLaren.
Over the course of the Japanese and Qatar Grands Prix, however, McLaren has outscored Ferrari 80 points to 33 to close the gap significantly to just 79 with five grands prix and two sprints remaining.
Whilst overhauling Aston Martin for fourth position is far more realistic given the 11-point gap between the teams, Piastri is not ruling out reeling in Ferrari at this stage.
After claiming third in Japan, winning the Qatar sprint and then finishing second in the main race at the Lusail International Circuit, Piastri said: “Suzuka and Qatar have probably been tracks we’ve been looking at for quite a while in terms of what’s going to favour us.
“I think there are going to be some races (coming up) that are going to be more difficult than Qatar, and probably will suit other teams a bit better.
“Seventy-nine points in five races and a couple of sprints is a big challenge but we’ll give it a go.
“Obviously, the gap to Aston now is very achievable, but hopefully we can do it.”
Crucial for Piastri to maintaining his stunning run of form is his race pace, an area he highlighted after the Japanese GP given how he found himself cut adrift of team-mate and eventual runner-up Lando Norris over the course of the race at Suzuka.
The three pit-stop race in Qatar, mandated after concerns were raised about Pirelli’s tyres, dramatically altered the nature of how the drivers tackled the event, with Piastri claiming that every lap felt as if he was running in qualifying as he knew he could push throughout.
As to whether he was happier with his race pace, he said: “A little bit. I think still some improvements to make.
“Obviously, with three stops, we were basically pushing flat out for the whole race, so a very different kind of race to Japan, and I think still some work to go.
“It was just a different kind of tyre deg as it was much more front limited. The front left and trying to protect that was by far the biggest thing.
“Just a different learning experience, I guess, but still good to have it in the bank.”
Piastri felt the mandated stint length certainly “helped rather than hindered”, leading to him finishing just under five seconds behind race-winner Max Verstappen.
That raised eyebrows in some quarters, although Piastri added: “It ended up being a race where we could push flat out the whole time, or very close to, which I don’t think I’ve been able to say in an F1 race before, so it (the set stints) probably helped us a bit.
“Normally, the Red Bull is a step ahead in terms of tyre degradation, and maybe we didn’t see that as much with the rules.
“But also our car pace was very strong, so I think that was another factor.”