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Formula 1

Our verdict on Piastri's win and the McLaren power balance

5 min read

"First win – earlier than mine..." said Lando Norris of Oscar Piastri right at the start of his post-Qatar sprint interview as he watched his McLaren team-mate celebrate a first Formula 1 race win.

The potential significance of it being Piastri not Norris who got McLaren winning again, if only in a sprint for now, wasn't lost on the man who's seemed like McLaren's big future hope for so long, and surely played into Norris's strong self-criticism on Saturday night.

Are we starting to see a shift in the McLaren power balance? Or is Norris being too hard on himself?

Here are our writers' thoughts:


Ben Anderson

Norris will definitely be feeling the heat from having a properly quick team-mate in the other car, and the self-flagellation he's showed in Qatar suggests he is maybe over-reaching a bit under that pressure because he's having to push much harder to stay ahead.

For Piastri to be this quick and composed already, with so much room to improve too, is going to put serious pressure on Norris to find another gear from somewhere after a couple of seasons of being quite comfortable versus Daniel Ricciardo.


Edd Straw

A sprint-race victory is the latest box ticked for McLaren during its outstanding past four months, all of which are consistent with a team on a trajectory to be able to fight for more than the odd Saturday victory in the future. That heightens the intensity of battle between team-mates.

Regardless of how good relations are between any pair of team-mates, the competition is always keenly felt - and as the stakes in terms of results get higher, so it is magnified. There's potentially a lot more than just de facto team leadership to fight for here.

That's not to say there's any indication the intra-team battle is going to erupt imminently - and it might never come to that - but it has an amplifying effect as the two jostle for position.

Performance will decide who prevails, it always does, but Norris vs Piastri is going to be a fascinating subplot for a team reaching for the final few footholds it needs to haul itself back up to F1's top table on a permanent basis.


Jack Benyon

This is bordering on slander now!

Yes, Piastri has won McLaren’s first race in ages and before Norris. But this was a sprint race and at the unfortunate time a rare Norris mistake allowed a chance.

If you’ve been good enough to make it to F1, you should be capable of isolated instances of performances that beat your team-mate immediately, that’s the level you are holding yourself to. Especially a driver of the calibre of Piastri.

Doing it consistently is where the greats butter their bread, and Norris has had the measure of Piastri so far this year, rookie or not.

We can’t use Piastri’s unfulfilled (because he hasn’t had time) potential as a stick to beat Norris with, when he’s been the outstanding performer consistently.

Ricciardo won at Monza in 2021, but where is he now in comparison to Norris? Beaten.

What this does show is that Norris can’t afford to keep making errors that gift other top drivers opportunities to beat him. It doesn’t feel like something regular, but with Piastri appearing to be a cut above his previous team-mates, momentum could build against Norris with more errors.

Luckily he hasn’t seemed prone to those. He’s still an outstanding and consistent talent that Piastri will need to do a lot more than win one sprint race against to match.


Josh Suttill

The Qatar GP weekend so far hasn't changed anything nor told us anything new about Piastri.

Winning the sprint race might not even break into the top 10 best performances of Piastri's rookie year so far. That says a lot about the quality of Piastri's start in F1.

In the sprint he had a clear tyre advantage over George Russell and started from the clean side of the grid and had the space (albeit well-earned space) to protect himself against the soft tyre runners at the start, unlike Norris.

He executed it well and held Max Verstappen at bay when he needed to in the final four laps but there were similar short bursts of frontrunning ease at Silverstone and Suzuka too.

We already knew Piastri was capable of this. What remains to be seen is whether he can show this relentless pace over a proper race distance stint after stint.

He was found slightly lacking at Suzuka on Sunday, not unexpected for an F1 rookie but something he'll be expected to have addressed by this time next year.

You'd have to bet on him doing just that though given how rapidly he's learned the rest of the key skills. That's when Norris will really have a problem.


Glenn Freeman

While McLaren is a team on the rise, this is the perfect driver line-up. Young, hungry drivers with their best years ahead of them.

The motivation levels are through the roof. And with Piastri proving he was worth all the effort it took to get him last year, he and Norris will be able to keep pushing each other to new heights. There’s nowhere to hide for either of them, but that’s great because McLaren will know the car is being maximised every weekend.

This only becomes a problem if McLaren gets itself into title contention. When the stakes are higher there’ll naturally be more tension between two drivers who view themselves as future world champions. And if other teams are in the fight, there’s the added drawback of having two top team-mates taking points off one another.

Right now McLaren would probably view that as a nice problem to have.

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