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Piastri ‘excited for the future’ after McLaren’s performance in Imola as he rues impact of penalty

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IMOLA, ITALY - 2024/05/19: McLaren Formula 1 Team's Australian driver Oscar Piastri looks on during

Oscar Piastri feels confident that McLaren will be racing “towards the front” at most upcoming races following another strong performance in Imola, with the Australian left to question what could have been after a grid penalty saw him lose his front-row starting position.

It was a good Saturday for the Woking-based outfit at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix as Piastri and team mate Lando Norris qualified in P2 and P3 respectively for Sunday’s race. However, Piastri was handed a three-place grid drop for impeding Kevin Magnussen during Q1, leaving him to start the event in P5.

READ MORE: Verstappen thrilled to take Imola victory as he reflects on ‘very difficult’ issue during late-race challenge from Norris

After struggling to overtake the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz for some time during the race, the McLaren driver gained a position thanks to pitting before the Scuderia and ultimately went on to cross the line in fourth.

Given that Norris was chasing down Max Verstappen for victory during the latter stages, Piastri was pleased with the team’s pace at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari but felt that his own race was compromised by his grid penalty.

“I think the whole weekend has been really strong, for both the team and myself,” said Piastri after the event. “I think I’ve been confident from the first lap of practice and had a really good qualifying.

Piastri ‘very excited for the future’ after McLaren’s Imola performance

“It was just a shame about the penalty because I think it unfortunately limited what we could have done. I think we had a good strategy to get in front of one of the Ferraris.

“I tried my best to get the second one, but it’s just so tough to overtake that you spend a couple of laps trying, you overheat the tyres quickly and then it’s game over. I think that was the most we had today.”

READ MORE: Norris says he needed ‘one or two more laps’ after agonisingly missing out on Imola victory to Verstappen

Asked if it feels like McLaren are currently the closest challengers to Red Bull – and, as such, he could fight for P2 results or race wins going forwards – Piastri responded: “Yeah, I think definitely. It’s exciting for the future.

“There’s a few ‘ifs’ leaving this weekend, especially on our side of the garage. But I think it’s very, very encouraging. Miami has been a track we’ve struggled at a lot in the past and we were incredibly strong.

“Here we’ve been pretty good at it in the past and we were very strong again, so I think we can be pretty confident wherever we go that we’ll be somewhere towards the front. We’ll see if Red Bull find a bit more pace again, but [I’m] very excited for the future.”

IMOLA, ITALY - MAY 19: Oscar Piastri of Australia driving the (81) McLaren MCL38 Mercedes on track

Piastri ended the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix in fourth place, making up one position from his grid slot of fifth

McLaren CEO Zak Brown echoed Piastri’s comments about what might have been, with the American suggesting that the squad could have scored a double podium had the circumstances worked out better.

“Unfortunately we had the mistake with Oscar in qualifying,” Brown explained. “He came through, was faster than Carlos, probably could have been quicker than [Charles] Leclerc if we’d got him the track position, but we’ll take a second and fourth.”

HIGHLIGHTS: Relive the action from the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix as Verstappen wins in nail-biting finish

Acknowledging that the circuit is a “difficult track to pass on”, Brown added that the team “owe” Piastri following the error in qualifying.

The next chance to make up for this will be in just a few days’ time when the Monaco Grand Prix weekend takes place from May 24-26, and Brown is hopeful about what McLaren can continue to achieve going forwards.

“We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing, but we know [in] Formula 1 nothing ever sits still,” he added. “I think we’ve just got to keep doing everything that the men and women at McLaren are doing. If we keep pushing hard and we keep out-developing the competition, maybe we’ll finish seven tenths ahead next time.”

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