Piastri predicts ‘much more competitive’ weekend for McLaren amid Aston Martin battle
Oscar Piastri is confident that McLaren can hold onto fourth place in the constructors’ championship ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, despite an increasingly close challenge from Aston Martin over recent weekends.
While the latter team experienced a much stronger start to the season – having proven to be Red Bull’s nearest rivals in the opening rounds – their charge lost momentum as the campaign progressed. McLaren, meanwhile, enjoyed an opposite trajectory, bouncing back from a difficult beginning to 2023 to become one of the fastest cars on the grid in the second half of the year.
Despite this, things haven’t always been smooth for the Woking-based outfit, with a challenging weekend last time out in Las Vegas. Aston Martin, meanwhile, have experienced an upturn in form in recent races, allowing them to close the gap to McLaren in the championship fight to just 11 points.
After their struggles at the Las Vegas Strip Circuit, Piastri expects his team to have a much better outing in Abu Dhabi.
“I think we should be much more competitive,” the Australian said ahead of the season finale. “I think, being a new circuit, at a drag range that we’ve struggled at through the year, we knew it would be a tough one for us [in Las Vegas].
“I think the pace we had in the race was much more representative of what we had available through the whole weekend, we just got a few things wrong, in qualifying in particular, so that [race result of P10] was a decent way to end the weekend. I think we should be more competitive here than that, hopefully, and hopefully we can be fighting back at the front properly.”
Asked whether he is confident that McLaren can remain ahead of Aston Martin in the constructors’, Piastri responded: “Yeah, I think definitely. I think we’ve got the pace to be able to do it. I think the sentiment is quite similar to what George [Russell] was saying, that if we go out and do what we’re capable of and what the car’s potential is, then we should be okay.
“But we still have to go out there and do our job and get the most out of what we’ve got. Hopefully we can be quick, fighting well and truly at the front, and then a result will take care of itself.”
Over at Aston Martin, Lance Stroll is hopeful that the team can continue to be competitive at the Yas Marina Circuit off the back of several stronger performances.
“We’ve had a good run,” the Canadian reflected. “Vegas was a fun race, and we’ve picked up a lot of points over the last few races. [The] car’s been feeling good.
"I think we definitely made some progress with the car over the last month, just kind of understanding it a little bit better, and some of the things that maybe we got a little wrong over the last few months, I think we’ve learned from that and kind of got back to our stronger ways over the last few weeks, which has been good.
“Tight battle now in the championship with McLaren. They’re probably going to be quick this weekend. I think they had an off weekend in Vegas, but I do expect them to be good. They’ve been good throughout the whole second half of the year. We’ll see what we can do though – it’s pretty tight now, and hopefully we can have a strong result here and make something happen.”
On whether he now has more confidence in the AMR23, Stroll added: “I think it’s much better, for sure. There’s still some weaknesses in the car.
"I don’t think we’re super quick in a straight line, we’re not very efficient – like Vegas, I don’t think we were actually that quick, but a lot of things worked out in the race and we have good strategy and all that stuff and we managed to get a good result, but we weren’t as quick as we were in Brazil, just general speed.
"But I do think we’re much stronger than we’ve been in a while, so that is good and I’m hoping we can be strong this weekend.”
While he anticipates a good weekend for McLaren, Stroll acknowledged that there could still be a chance for Aston Martin in the final event of the year.
“If they’re fighting for the win this weekend like they were the last few weeks I don’t think [beating McLaren is] possible, because I think they’ll be super quick,” he conceded. “But maybe something happens and we’re in a good position. Last race of the year, anything can happen.”