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Piastri enjoys ‘very, very special’ Friday practice in front of capacity home crowd in Melbourne

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Despite a day punctuated by red flags in FP1 and rain in FP2, McLaren rookie Oscar Piastri thoroughly enjoyed his run in front of his home fans at Albert Park – while team mate Lando Norris said he had a “productive” pair of sessions as the 2023 Australian Grand Prix weekend got under way.

In his F1 debut at home, Piastri finished 12th in FP1, which saw two red flags emerge after a data issue and a stoppage for Williams’ Logan Sargeant, before the Melburnian finished 14th in the second session, which was peppered by rain.

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“Very, very special obviously to be here at home,” said Piastri after emerging from the car. “Nice track. The walls are a bit closer than they look on TV! I feel like it was a good day. FP1 went pretty well; FP2 was the first time on the [intermediate compound], which was some useful learning. So, it feels like we are in a pretty decent place, and we will see how we go tomorrow.

“It’s hard to get a read on every Friday, where everyone else is; with the weather today, I think some of the more quali-style runs were probably cut short for most of us. Hopefully tomorrow is dry; I think it’s going to be very cold – typical Melbourne. But I’m looking forward to it. I think we are in a reasonable place [relative] to where we have been the last few races,” he added.

Norris reveals he ’sacrificed’ a lot of FP1 to carry out development runs as McLaren look to find more pace from the MCL60

Team mate Norris finished seventh and eighth in the respective two sessions, but he explained that some running in FP1 was set aside for some laps to test McLaren’s aerodynamic upgrades as the team look to update their car and work their way back into the midfield fight.

“Actually, it was a productive day,” said Norris. “FP1, we kind of sacrificed a lot of it just to do some aero runs. That’s why I didn’t do a lot of running for the first half, more [to] future work that stuff for this weekend. But apart from that FP2 was my first proper few runs on the hard tyre, which is a tricky tyre.

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“So far, so good. Hard to say because I didn’t do the most amount of running. But, from the little I did, I think it was a good reading, good understanding, and decent feeling for tomorrow,” he said.

McLaren look to open their account in Melbourne after two non-scoring races that have left themselves and AlphaTauri as the two teams yet to score ahead of the 2023 Australian Grand Prix.

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