Oscar Piastri says his long-awaited public test debut for McLaren was a special day and gives him a head start on 2023 after completing more than 100 laps at the Pirelli tire test in Abu Dhabi.
Teams could run two cars during Tuesday’s test, provided one was for race drivers carrying out tire testing and the other driven by a rookie. Piastri will race for McLaren next season but ticked the latter box by virtue of not yet made a race start, and after an agreement was reached with Alpine he was able to make his first public appearance for his new team at the Yas Marina Circuit.
“It’s a cool feeling,” Piastri says. “A very different feeling to the Young Driver Test that I did last year because I knew that was a day to have fun in an F1 car whereas this year, it’s a building block towards next year.
“But it was awesome to have my first day with McLaren, get to know everyone in the team and try and improve, get back up to speed for next year. A pretty special one.”
Piastri was on track at the same time as Lando Norris, ending up 0.5s quicker than his new teammate but on a different program – and said being able to see how he performs in the same car on the same day was an important learning experience.
“I definitely was able to have a look at how he drives the car,” he said. “He’s made it work well this year so that was nice to have that first reference of how Lando drives the car and seeing what he does differently and the same in some places. It was good to have that reference.
“We had two sets of C5 (ED: tires – the softest compound) at the end, so it wasn’t a qualifying sim, but you’re on soft tires and doing one or two push laps on the tires. In my position, I’m certainly pushing as close as I can to the limit. I certainly wasn’t driving around, just putting around.
“We tried a lot of different things. Did some longer runs, getting used to that and just some driving techniques. Some things that are maybe different to cars I’ve driven before. That was the main aim of today.”
Ahead his first visit to the McLaren factory next week, Piastri says having experience of the current car and what he will need from it to be more comfortable gives him plenty to work on over the off-season.
“It’s really, really positive,” he said. “Driving the car today was the most positive thing, and you obviously can’t substitute anything for track time. So having today was really important; a really positive thing. And then working on the peripherals and getting to know my engineers better and everyone in the team better, and if there’s a few things that I want to change for next year, I can talk to people about that.
“Quite looking forward to being able to design some of my own little things if I want to, all of that kind of background stuff that doesn’t necessarily get seen. That’s all stuff I can work on in the next six weeks.”