Piastri revels in ‘day I won’t forget’ after leading laps for first time in his F1 career
McLaren rookie Oscar Piastri took a moment to process another landmark moment in his burgeoning career after he led a lap in Formula 1 for the first time during Saturday’s Sprint at Spa-Francorchamps.
With a shower delaying the start of the encounter, drivers eventually headed out behind the Safety Car on the full wet tyres, but a drying track led a strategic dilemma when the action properly got under way following several formation laps.
While pole-sitter Max Verstappen continued on wets for the first racing lap, Piastri led a train of cars into the pits to switch to intermediates – with that one quicker tour giving him P1 when Verstappen pitted.
As the Sprint settled down, and immediately after a Safety Car period caused by Fernando Alonso’s trip into the gravel, Piastri was overhauled by Verstappen and had to settle for second, but he nonetheless took plenty of positives out of the experience.
“I’m very, very happy,” said Piastri after the race. “We tried our best. We boxed when the Safety Car came in, led a few laps, but we were no match for Max.
“It’s nice to be up there in P2. I think apart from Max our pace was really strong. Full credit to the team again. The last three weekends we’ve had have been pretty special compared to where we have been, so I can’t thank them enough for the car.
“We’ve still got a little bit of work to do, clearly, to get right to the top, but it’s a lot nicer to be up there. To lead my first laps was a day I won’t forget.”
Expanding on the wet/intermediate split and the moment Verstappen reclaimed the lead down the Kemmel Straight, he added: “I thought the Safety Car was going to be in my favour, it meant less laps to try and hold him behind.
“I looked out of Turn 1… I feel like I got a decent restart, I looked at the top of Eau Rouge and he was basically on top of me already. I couldn’t keep him behind on the straight.
“But I’m very happy to get the good points. [It’s my] first top three in [an F1] race, so I’ll enjoy it and hopefully we can have a good race tomorrow.”
Piastri is due to start Sunday’s main Grand Prix from fifth on the grid, with Verstappen lining up just behind him after dropping from P1 to P6 due to a gearbox penalty – while Piastri’s team mate Lando Norris increased McLaren’s points haul in the Sprint with a run to P6.