Oscar Piastri escapes F1 'carnage' to out-perform Lando Norris

After a shocking F1 debut, Oscar Piastri has proven why he was so highly rated by McLaren.

Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris.
Oscar Piastri will start from 8th in the Saudi Arabian GP, with McLaren teammate Lando Norris crashing out in Q1. Pictures: Getty Images

Australian F1 driver Oscar Piastri has out-qualified McLaren teammate Lando Norris at the Saudi Arabian GP, lining up eighth on the grid after his horror debut in Bahrain. Piastri made it through to Q3 on merit, but was aided by an error from teammate Lando Norris and engine trouble for reigning champion, Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

Electrical problems brought Piastri's F1 debut in Bahrain to a premature end, and the outlook for McLaren was seemingly dire after they were well off the pace in the season opener. However the extremely fast circuit for the Saudi Arabian GP has agreed with the McLaren, allowing Piastri to prove why he was such a highly touted prospect.

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The qualifying performance was a substantial turnaround from the second free practice session, where for all money it looked as though McLaren were in for another tough weekend. Piastri was second-slowest in the last practice session before qualifying on Saturday, but managed to find the extra pace when it counted most.

An uncharacteristic error from Norris saw him eliminated in Q1, the British driving brushing the inside wall and damaging his front left suspension. The error left him starting Sunday's grand prix in 19th position.

For Piastri though, it was a crucial first breakthrough in a sport where outperforming your teammate carries significant weight - as fellow Aussie Daniel Ricciardo found out in 2022. “It was a very, very good session obviously, I’m very happy,” Piastri said.

“We could have just as easily been out of Q1 with the tightness of the field. (But I’m) very happy to get into Q3. It’s nice to be starting in the points and hopefully we finish there.”

Meanwhile, Norris was absolutely kicking himself for his crash, as based on his previous times he would likely have either beaten Piastri or potentially joined him in Q3. The 23-year-old said he had simply misjudged the corner.

“Just a misjudgment to be honest, nothing much more – mistake on my part,” Norris said. "A mistake that I should not have made to be honest with you.

“It’s probably one of the easiest corners on the track in terms of judgment, and I just got it wrong. No excuses."

Red Bull's Sergio Perez on pole in Saudi Arabia after Max Verstappen drama

The second race of the season looms as a tantalising one, with a mixed up grid thanks to misfortune affecting the likes of Max Verstappen and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc. The latter of the two will start from 12th on the grid thanks to various penalties being applied after Ferrari opted to entirely replace the engine that failed Leclerc in Bahrain.

It was a more frustrating Saturday for Verstappen, who looked to be headed towards another pole position before his engine gave up the ghost in Q2. A drive-shaft failure was later revealed to be the cause.

“It happened without any warning and we have had no trouble before,” Verstappen said.“It’s the first time it’s happened.

"And it’s very annoying because we were having such a good weekend. "It will be tricky now to get to the front so we have to concentrate on points, but anything is possible at this track.”

Sergio Perez celebrates with Red Bull mechanics.
Sergio Perez claimed pole for Red Bull in Saudi Arabia after teammate Max Verstappen suffered a drive shaft failure. (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images) (AFP via Getty Images)

Verstappen's teammate Sergio Perez picked up the pieces to claim pole position, with surprise packets Aston Martin again featuring at the pointy end of the grid. Fernando Alonso, who finished third in the Bahrain season opener, will line up second alongside Perez. Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said he was confident Verstappen could pick his way through the predicted 'carnage' from his 15th place starting spot.

Leclerc qualified second fastest but he has a 10-place grid penalty that will drop the Monegasque to 12th place. Perez's best time of one minute 28.265 seconds around the floodlit Corniche street circuit was more than a tenth quicker than Leclerc's effort.

"You really feel the Formula One cars coming alive in this place and maximising that lap was very important," said Perez of what was also his second career pole.

"It's a shame," he added of Verstappen's early departure. "Max has been really strong the whole weekend so hopefully tomorrow we can have both cars up there."

Alonso will be the first Aston Martin driver to start a grand prix on the front row since Britain's Roy Salvadori at Silverstone in 1959. Mercedes' George Russell and Ferrari's Carlos Sainz will share the second row.

With AAP

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