Oscar on how he's approached his first tests with McLAREN
Adjusting to his new machinery is key, but Oscar's main focus has been on fostering relationships
The first weeks in a new job are never easy. So many new faces and names to remember, procedures to pick up, tasks to manage, and even a new papaya-coloured uniform to boot, but Oscar Piastri's not let it faze him, settling snugly into his office at testing.
Oscar enjoyed just his third experience of McLaren machinery on Monday and Tuesday at a private test in Barcelona, completing 150 laps in the cockpit of the MCL35M, before travelling back to the UK for a tour of the McLaren Technology Centre and to meet the remainder of his new team.
Piastri spent plenty of time behind the wheel of F1 machinery in 2022 as part of his testing programme before joining McLaren, but hasn't raced since the 2021 Formula 2 season finale in Abu Dhabi nearly a year ago.
"It was good to get back into the swing of things with some race-specific stuff," Piastri says. "We covered a lot of things, and I feel like I am making some good progress. We revisited some old topics that I haven't had the chance to explore for a while, and I learned quite a lot about different driving techniques.
"The conditions were pretty cold, and we even got a bit of wet running in as well, so I was adapting to all of that and trying to soak up as much as I could and get back into the swing of things because there is a bit of rust.
"My neck is pretty sore, but it always takes a while to get used to an F1 car. I am getting there, I am holding on, and I should be good to go with some more training over Christmas."
Piastri won six times, took 11 podiums and claimed five poles on his way to the 2021 F2 title, his third consecutive junior championship win, following on from the 2020 Formula 3 title and the 2019 Formula Renault Eurocup crown.
His junior single-seater success earned him several chances to test F1 machinery, both during his 2021 campaign and since then, but it is only recently that he has been able to drive knowing he has a seat on the grid secured.
Asked whether it felt any different, Piastri says: "Since the end of F2, the aim has always been to get to F1, so I think all of the F1 testing that I have done has always been in preparation for getting a seat, so I don't think that my mentality has changed."
Instead, it was the chance to continue working with his new team that Oscar believes made the biggest difference. The Young Driver Test in Abu Dhabi and the test at Barcelona were his first opportunities to work with the race crew.
He continues: "Being able to work with the engineers and the race team that I will be working with next year is a massive help. It is really useful to start that relationship.
"Now that I have got a seat and will definitely be going back racing, we can focus on a few of the specifics of a race that I wouldn't normally do in testing - there has been more focus on that because the season is coming around quickly."
This focus began with work towards extracting the most out of the car and the differences between our machinery and anything Piastri has driven previously. This transitioned into tyre management and strategic work, with a mix of longer, race-style runs, short, qualifying simulations with low-fuel, and even a Safety Car simulation.
Piastri's Race Engineer Tom Stallard was among the race team overseeing the process and tells us that he was impressed by the Australian's demeanour and work ethic.
"He is incredibly calm all of the time," Tom says. "He is very calm, very mature and very unfazed. Oscar is also very adaptable, and it is very impressive how he has been able to modulate his inputs and adjust his braking and turning to get the best out of the car.
"He has made a lot of progress, and I think he now understands very clearly what the car needs. He has been able to deliver that very effectively, and we are very excited by that."
Having enjoyed his third F1 test with the team, and his first day at the factory, Oscar will now head back to Australia for the winter, with some homework to complete over the off-season, before returning in January, ready to hit the ground running.
Oscar has an extensive programme of preparation with the team ahead of him, with a view to getting him up to speed by the official pre-season test in Bahrain on 23-25 February.
"I'll be seeing family and friends whilst I am back in Australia and enjoying a bit of sun while it is available," Oscar continues. "Mainly, I will focus on being as physically fit as possible for the start of the year. Then I'll be back, continuing to build my relationship with the team and learning what the car will be like."
Discussing the plans for the new year, Tom adds: "We’ve got plenty of work planned after he has returned from Australia - by the time we get in the new car in Bahrain, we want to have finished all of the Oscar prep so we can focus on understanding the new car and what the new car needs."
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