Oscar Piastri has vowed to return to the Formula One grid in 2024 a better driver after admitting he was relieved to avoid more 'crazy' drama in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The Aussie driver capped off an impressive debut season in the F1 with McLaren by finishing sixth in the final race of the year, having started third on the grid.
Red Bull's triple world champion Max Verstappen continued his dominance after claiming a record-extending 19th win in 22 races, having already wrapped up the championship. Sergio Perez crossed the line in second for Red Bull but dropped off the podium and into fourth after copping a five second post-race penalty for insulting stewards on team radio over a collision with McLaren’s Lando Norris.
NEW DETAILS: Daniel Ricciardo apology that rejuvenated F1 career
The penalty for Perez meant Charles Leclerc scored the points for second place, with Mercedes' George Russell third and Norris behind Perez in fifth. The sixth-placed finish for Piastri was good enough for the Aussie driver to finish his debut season in ninth on the overall driver standings.
The Australian scored a breakthrough podium finish when third in the Japanese grand prix in late September and followed that up with a second podium finish in Qatar. Piastri said while there were "definitely some things to work on" ahead of the 2024 season, he was "happy overall" with his first foray into F1.
"There's been a lot of highlights, a lot of moments I have been proud of," he said after the race. "I have two podiums, a sprint win in my first season - they're proud moments, definitely.
"With how competitive the sport is at the moment, you really can't take those things for granted. So to have those in my first season is an honour and hopefully we can try and make it a more regular occurrence next year.
"We want to aim for more than that next year. But I have enjoyed my first year of F1 a hell of a lot. There's been some great highlights, some trickier moments, but it's all part of the experience."
Oscar Piastri happy to avoid more 'crazy' drama
Piastri - who replaced fellow Aussie Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren this season - admitted he was relieved to finish the season by avoiding some of the many unfortunate incidents that have dogged his debut campaign. The 22-year-old has been caught up in on-track incidents with rivals in his previous four races.
The Aussie was forced to retire after 10 laps of the United States GP after a tangle with Alpine’s Esteban Ocon on lap one, while he collided with Ricciardo's AlphaTauri teammate Yuki Tsunoda the following week in Mexico. At the Brazil GP it was damage from debris after a crash involving Kevin Magnussen and Alex Albon that cruelled his chances, while the Aussie was forced to pit after a collision with Hamilton at the inaugural Las Vegas GP before finishing 10th.
“It feels like it’s been a while since I’ve had a race without contact or something crazy going on,” Piastri said after the finale in Abu Dhabi. “The race was maybe not as strong as we would have liked as a team. I think my first and second stints weren’t my best of the year, but I think the final stint looked quite strong, so it was nice to end on a decent note. We had hoped for a bit more pace but we know our car is still weak in a few areas, and this track definitely exposed that in places.”
Piastri's display in Abu Dhabi largely summed up much of his season, where the Aussie was impressive in qualifying and strong in the race but ultimately lacked the pace of his McLaren teammate, Norris. The McLaren pair combined for an impressive fourth place finish in the constructors' championship.
Piastri's compatriot Ricciardo finished 11th in Abu Dhabi to complete a season when he started without a seat but finished with AlphaTauri. The veteran Aussie driver is set to remain with Red Bull's sister team in 2024 despite constant speculation that he could replace Perez as Verstappen's teammate once again.
"Part of me is happy to go on a break to prepare for a full season but I would also like to continue racing," Ricciardo said after the season-ending race. "It's exciting having a proper off-season and knowing I want to be here. I was happy with the races I have done." Ricciardo's best finish was seventh in Mexico late last month after a broken hand limited him to just seven races in 2023.
Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.