Oscar Piastri warns Verstappen as McLaren ‘in mix’ at Austrian GP

The Australian driver is hoping to close the gap on Verstappen at the Red Bull Ring in Saturday's 24-lap F1 Sprint

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Oscar Piastri believes McLaren are well-equipped to challenge Red Bull star Max Verstappen in the Austrian Grand Prix F1 Sprint and Sunday’s race following an impressive sprint qualifying result.

Verstappen qualified on pole for Saturday’s 24-lap sprint race, much to the delight of the Dutchman’s fans and Red Bull supporters at their home race. But the 26-year-old was only 0.090 of a second ahead of Lando Norris on the front row, with Piastri in close pursuit in P3.

It capped a huge improvement from the 23-year-old, who was disappointed to qualify only ninth for the Spanish GP last time out before he came home in seventh in the race.

Piastri suggested there is room for a better lap time throughout the weekend, which can only be a positive for McLaren as they search for their second F1 Sprint victory.

Max Verstappen during 2024 Spanish GP Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Max Verstappen has McLaren star Piastri behind him at the Austrian GP Sprint | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

“The position is quite good obviously but the last lap, a couple of corners I could have certainly tidied up. That’s nice to know where the time is,” Piastri told F1 TV.

“I had a rough one last weekend but I think we are back on the pace. The new front wing was working well, so I’m excited for the rest of the weekend now.”

Piastri Austrian GP chances rest on Verstappen fight

The Papaya have appeared to be the most likely team to threaten Red Bull’s hold on F1 in the second part of the season and starting on the front row will give them confidence to take on the constructors’ champions in Austria.

Asked if McLaren were in with a chance of claiming victory at the Red Bull Ring this weekend, Piastri said: “I think so, the gap to Max was not massive. I know there were a couple of big mistakes on that lap, so we are definitely in the mix.”

His words were echoed by McLaren team principal Andrea Stella, who admitted the Woking team were not at peak performance during their sprint qualifying laps. But the Italian agreed that Verstappen will be well within their sights, especially with a possible tow giving them a pace advantage up towards Turn 2.

“We gave our best, I think. In a way, it’s been a tricky qualifying session because it wasn’t easy to deliver the laps,” Stella told Sky Sports F1. “We are happy with this kind of result and, like always, Max seems to find good performance. But it’s good we are there and we have a good chance for tomorrow.”

Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who has worked for a number of media organisations, including the Daily Express, The Mirror, Evening Standard, The Independent and Bleacher Report. Joe has been following F1 since when he watched Mika Hakkinen clinch the 1999 drivers' championship, and his first taste of real-life racing action was watching David Coulthard spin off into the gravel at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2001.
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