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Piastri reckons McLaren ‘definitely in the fight’ at Imola as they look to build on Miami GP win

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IMOLA, ITALY - MAY 17: Oscar Piastri of Australia and McLaren walks in the Paddock prior to

Oscar Piastri is confident that McLaren can convert their strong practice form into an equally competitive qualifying display at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix after ending Friday’s running at Imola second on the timesheets.

Following a low-key start to the weekend for McLaren, with Piastri and team mate Lando Norris finishing at the tail-end of the top 10 in FP1, the Australian stormed up the timing screens during FP2 – behind only Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

FP2: Leclerc stays in front during second practice in Imola from Piastri and Tsunoda

It continues the Woking team’s recent upward trajectory, after Norris claimed his maiden F1 victory – and McLaren’s first since the 2021 season – at the Miami International Autodrome last time out.

Asked to assess his and the team’s start to the weekend in Italy, Piastri said: “I think honestly it’s been an encouraging day for us. The pace has been good, both in the qualifying runs and the race run, so I’m feeling pretty happy.

“I felt pretty comfy with the car from the moment we got on track so yeah, [we’ll] try and find a bit more overnight and see what we can do tomorrow.”

IMOLA, ITALY - MAY 17: Oscar Piastri of Australia driving the (81) McLaren MCL38 Mercedes on track

Piastri wound up second to Leclerc in the second session of the day at Imola

Pushed on where he and McLaren might shake out in the qualifying order, with championship leader Max Verstappen appearing out of sorts, Piastri added: “Hard to know; it is very tight out there. Red Bull have looked a bit up and down, which is a bit unusual for them.

“Ferrari have looked quick, Mercedes looked quick as well at points, but I think we are definitely in the fight. We’ll try to find a bit more tomorrow, but where we were today is not unrealistic.”

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Norris was also encouraged about McLaren’s prospects this weekend despite a compromised opening day that involved some gremlins in FP1 and an abandoned soft-tyre run in FP2.

“I think on the whole a pretty reasonable day,” he reflected. “A little bit of a messy FP1, we had the rakes on the car as we were doing some aero testing, then we had a couple of issues with the car after that, so not the most clean and straightforward day.

FP2 Highlights: 2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

“But I think we made a really good step from FP1 into FP2. Once I got comfortable, I felt really good out there. I think we are in a good position… [it was] tricky, [as] it was quite gusty, and then it calmed down a little bit, but on the whole a good start to the weekend.”

Asked what’s needed overnight from McLaren to unlock some more pace, he continued: “Right now, I’m not sure. We need to look at the data and compare ourselves to others.

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“[We need to] compare ourselves to Red Bull, to Ferrari, to Mercedes, who seem also pretty quick. [We’ll] just try and understand a little bit where we stand relative to them.

“We are putting little bits here and there, I think we seem relatively quick. I didn’t get my lap in at the end, but we are in a good position. I don’t think we need to change very much, just small little tweaks and bringing it all together, simple as that.”

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