After 0 Wins in 5 Years, McLaren Boss Snubs Lando Norris for Oscar Piastri’s Glorious Reckoning

Published 09/01/2023, 9:00 AM EDT

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To be Formula 1 world champion. That’s every driver’s dream. The first step to achieving that is having a car capable of competing for wins; the second step is actually winning races. When Lando Norris joined McLaren as a 19-year-old in 2019, he was instantly tipped as a future world champion. Five years into his career, the young Brit still hasn’t won a race (even though he’s had chances), let alone a championship. Although it’s McLaren who’s been unable to give Norris the machinery he needs, his “golden boy” status at the Woking team has been snubbed to make way for Oscar Piastri.

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Since 2021, Norris has been the top dog at McLaren. When Daniel Ricciardo joined the team, Norris outperformed him more often than not. Now that Piastri—a driver just as talented as Norris, if not more—is alongside him and is keeping up with the Brit, his championship potential has come into question as well.

What made McLaren believe Oscar Piastri has champion potential?

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When the season started, McLaren was almost at the back of the grid, with Norris and Piastri fighting amongst the backmarkers. Given the situation, it was difficult to compare the two drivers because the MCL60 didn’t allow them to show their talent. But ever since the upgraded MCL60 graced the race tracks, Piastri has been up there with Norris at every possible opportunity, sometimes even outperforming his more experienced teammate.

When Team Principal Andrea Stella discussed Piastri’s recent performances in an interview with Speedcafe, he said, “Drivers who have the potential to become world championship material need to have a natural speed, which we saw straightaway. They need to have the head—the capacity, the capability to use their talent, which Oscar establishes in an interesting way. He keeps his head very clean of noise and disturbances.” If you need proof of how calm Piastri is, rewatch the first lap of the Belgian GP and listen to his radio message after his race-ending contact with Carlos Sainz.

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Stella added, “So it’s a natural talent, a capability to learn, and then he’s a good person, with a set of values, ethics, ethos. It is these three elements that are part of the race craft, that world champion craft, that we can see in Oscar.” Considering Piastri joined F1 after a 15-month break, got into a car that his experienced compatriot, Ricciardo, couldn’t get a handle on, and was instantly on par with Norris is confirmation enough that the rookie has something special. Stella isn’t the only McLaren key figure who thinks so.

After Lando Norris’ Expletive Laden Flare-Up, Oscar Piastri Exposes McLaren Over Missed Opportunities

Zak Brown showers praise on Oscar Piastri

It’s not common for people to expect a rookie to join F1 and immediately rake in good results. But Piastri isn’t just any other rookie. Before joining McLaren in 2023, he won the Formula Renault Eurocup, F3, and F2 titles in consecutive seasons from 2019 to 2021. Those results are primarily what got CEO Zak Brown interested in the young Aussie. So when he replaced Ricciardo at McLaren and instantly showed his potential, Brown couldn’t help but heap praise on Piastri.

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In an interview toward the end of the first half of the season, Brown said, “Lando has out-qualified him nine to two, but from Silverstone, he’s on the same tenth. He’s able to do that by not making mistakes on Friday and not putting the car in the gravel. He studies, and then he is fast through the fast stuff. So what we’re seeing in him is a very mature, very patient, very studious, big b**ls driver.” Even though he crashed during Free Practice 3 at the Dutch GP, that was just a tiny blip in a rookie season that’s turning out to be one of the best F1 has seen in a while.

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Do you agree that Oscar Piastri is championship material? Can he win one before Lando Norris?

WATCH THIS STORY | How Oscar Piastri Has Made a Scintillating Rise to the Pinnacle of Motorsport 

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Written by:

Aditi Krishnan

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One take at a time

Aditi is an F1 writer at EssentiallySports and is essentially a sportsperson. She fell in love with F1 in 2020. It happened when her brother tuned into that first race weekend in Austria, and she knew right then and there that she had to learn everything she could about the sport.
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Edited by:

Aishwary Gaonkar

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