McLaren driver Lando Norris has hinted at some frustration with a team order late in the Saudi Arabian GP which saw Australian F1 teammate Oscar Piastri overtake the British star late in the race. Piastri had started eighth on the grid, but a tangle in the opening corners of the race saw him require a replacement front wing.
Piastri's tangle in the opening laps saw his impressive qualifying performance came to nought, and also inadvertently affect Norris' race after collecting some of the debris. Already behind the eight-ball in 2023 with significant upgrades to the McLaren not due until the Azerbaijan GP later this year, having both cars forced to pit in the first five laps was not what the team was hoping for.
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Both Piastri and Norris were stranded down the bottom of the running order, fortunate to be able to rejoin the pack after the safety car was brought out on lap 18 after the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll broke down. When the race resumed, Piastri was ahead of Norris but was ordered to move aside with his teammate having stopped for fresh rubber under the safety car.
The McLaren teammates would remain in that running order until the third to last lap, when Norris was asked to let Piastri by into 16th place and give him a chance to overtake Williams driver Logan Sargeant - which he managed to do, finishing 15th. However Norris said after the race that he felt he still could have gotten past the American rookie, despite being stuck behind him for more than 20 laps.
"I could have quite easily probably kept the position at the end and got past the Williams but yeah, I just let him go in the end," Norris said. "It would be different if I was fighting for points, but 16th and 17th, it doesn't really matter."
Piastri was frustrated by his lap one contact with Alpine driver Pierre Gasly, but was optimistic about the rest of the season. He viewed the race to 15th as a crucial opportunity to get to grips managing the battery and overtake systems in F1, which aren't available in the F2 and F3 championships which he won in back to back years.
“I think it was really just one of those Lap 1, Turn 1 incidents,” the 21-year-old said. “I was honestly quite surprised to have damage.
“The rest of the race was reasonable. Some good experience with learning how to use the battery then with overtakes and stuff like that. Nice to see the end as well, but it’s a shame.”
Oscar Piastri recovers well after lap one contact in Saudi Arabia
The Melbourne-born F1 rookie was complimentary of Norris after the race, saying it had been good to get past without taking unnecessary risks and having a good chance to race fellow rookie Sargeant.
“We kept it sensible, obviously battling for those positions there’s not much to gain,” Piastri explained. “I think there was a call for Lando to, if I had the chance, not make it too difficult.
“In the end, it led me to have a shot at Logan, which paid off, so nice bit of teamwork at the end, really. Next time, hopefully, it’s a bit further up!”
The grand prix was won by Red Bull's Sergio Perez, who started from pole position but was overtaken by Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso on lap one. He later recovered and finished ahead of teammate Max Verstappen, with Alonso having his third place controversially stripped and reinstated in the hours after the race was won.
The 41-year-old thought he'd repeated his third-place finish from Bahrain two weeks ago, but received a post-race 10-second penalty for an incorrect starting position during a five-second penalty early in the race. The penalty dropped him to fourth position and initially denied him the 100th podium of his career, with Mercedes driver George Russell promoted to third as a result.
But in a huge twist after the race, officials reinstated Alonso at 1am local time after Aston Martin lodged a protest. Alonso initially said he wasn't too disappointed to lose the podium finish, but questioned why it took so long for the stewards to apply the second penalty.
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