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Norris insists strategy gamble worth a shot as Piastri left ‘very happy’ with P4 in Saudi Arabia

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JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 08: Sixth placed qualifier Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren

Oscar Piastri delivered the maximum he felt was on the table in Saudi Arabia, with a fourth-placed finish, while Lando Norris could only finish eighth on a mixed day for McLaren. But those positions don't tell the full story of a race where both drivers had their work cut out.

Piastri made a brilliant start, managing to get past the obdurate Fernando Alonso early on and, as the lead car, was called in when the early Safety Car came out for some fresh rubber. But interestingly, McLaren didn’t opt to double stack their drivers, and left Norris out where he wound up leading for a handful of laps.

READ MORE: Bearman ‘destroyed’ after points-scoring Ferrari debut as he reflects on ‘good showing’ in Saudi Arabia

But with the field tightly bunched and no late Safety Car appearing, when Norris did eventually pit, he fell down the order to eighth. Despite having soft tyres to work with, he couldn’t make inroads to catch up to Oliver Bearman’s Ferrari ahead.

“We took a bit of a gamble to try and go long on the mediums and hope there was a Safety Car or something but it never came,” Norris said afterwards.

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Norris explains strategy ‘gamble’ that didn’t pay off

“We gave it a good shot, we could have just boxed in the beginning with everyone else but I thought we’d try something a little bit different, could have worked, it didn’t, that’s how it is sometimes.

“I’m happy, the performance of the car was good, in the end, yes I think we missed out on a couple of points on my side but we did what we could with the strategy we chose to do so I’m happy with that.”

FACTS AND STATS: Bearman makes it four Brits in the points for the first time since 1968

With Norris conceding that there is nothing in it pace-wise between McLaren, Mercedes and Aston Martin, Piastri's P4 looks an even more impressive result as he came home as the lead car from those three teams. But his race wasn’t straightforward, as he found himself stuck behind Lewis Hamilton for much of the evening.

Hamilton was on the same strategy as Norris, but on fresher tyres Piastri still couldn’t find a way past the Mercedes for lap after lap – then later, Hamilton couldn’t find a way past Norris after both had pitted, showcasing just how closely matched those two Mercedes-powered teams are.

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 09: Oscar Piastri of Australia driving the (81) McLaren MCL38 Mercedes

Piastri came home an impressive fourth in Jeddah

“I think that was the most we could have done so leaving Jeddah very happy to be honest,” said Piastri. “I got past Fernando [Alonso] early on, got stuck behind Lewis [Hamilton] for a long time, then once he pitted I was okay.

“Still definitely showed some things we need to improve for next time, I think that was definitely the most we could do at the moment.”

HIGHLIGHTS: Watch the action from the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as Verstappen takes the win and Bearman shines

McLaren delivered the most impressive upgrade trajectory last season, and they might need something similar to break the deadlock that is emerging between themselves, Mercedes and Aston Martin. As for what awaits, Melbourne as a fast track could well suit the McLaren.

Piastri certainly sounded excited about the prospect of returning home when asked, although he conceded that his biggest concern will be adjusting to the time zone.

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