Oscar Piastri claims he was taken aback by how much damage the nearly imperceptible first lap contact he had at the start of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix did, prompting a pit stop for a replacement front wing.
Piastri had a successful qualifying session on Saturday, making it to Q3 and starting in eighth place on Sunday’s grid. But as soon as his McLaren was pushed on the exit by Pierre Gasly’s Alpine, the gains of his efforts the day before were completely lost.
“I think it was really just one of those lap one, turn one incidents,” said Piastri after the race. “The contact felt really small so I was honestly quite surprised to have damage.”
The McLaren driver improved slightly after the initial lap, but he still finished among the lower-tier competitors, along with his teammate Lando Norris, who had also pitted for a replacement front wing after one lap after unfortunately hitting Piastri’s car’s debris.
The Australian spent the majority of the evening trailing Norris, but he eventually overtook him and finished his debut Grand Prix in 15th place.
“The rest of the race I think was reasonable… Some good experience with learning how to use the battery at the end with the overtakes and stuff like that,” Piastri said. “Nice to see the end as well, but it’s a shame.”
When asked if he could have earned points if the first lap chaos hadn’t happened, Piastri wasn’t confident that his McLaren had the speed to push him into the top ten.
“I’m not sure how great our pace was anyways,” he said. “I think doing 49 laps on the hards is never going to be great for your race pace but we’ll have to sit down and have a look at how it was.”
McLaren’s season has gotten off to a bad start, but team boss Andrea Stella says his squad will “face it head-on” and fight.
“We’re racers, we take these things on the chin, and we will be even more determined to succeed when we get to Australia,” said Stella. “Before we go to Melbourne, we know we have work to do to improve our car, and that will be our immediate focus.”