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Piastri still mystified by F2 qualifying turnaround after F3 struggles

by Ida Wood

Photo: Formula Motorsport Limited

McLaren’s Oscar Piastri says he still does not know what caused him to go from qualifying no higher than third in Formula 3 to taking five Formula 2 poles.

Piastri won the 2020 FIA F3 title as a rookie despite being 10th fastest on single-lap pace over the season and never qualifying on the front row, but in F2 the next year he was the benchmark driver over a lap, taking five poles in a row and converting four of those into feature race wins to become champion.

After a year on the sidelines, Piastri is now a Formula 1 rookie and recently joined the championship’s Beyond the Grid podcast where he was asked what happened over the winter between F3 and F2 that improved his qualifying form.

“To be completely honest, I still don’t know to this day,” he admitted. “I went through F3 with no pole positions, not even a front row, and then in F2 I qualified seventh in Bahrain on the first race, third at Monaco and Baku, then I was on pole for the next five rounds. So I don’t know what I changed really, I think I was just very in sync with the car – with the tyres as well.

“My understanding of the F2 car was just better than what I had in F3 from whether it was slightly better work ethic; I think having COVID-19 [pandemic] in the F3 season didn’t help as well because we had the pre-season test, about four months off, and then straight into it.

“So I’d never really got that much of a chance to develop myself through testing. Because we didn’t have any.

“Whereas F2 we had a little bit more testing time, the races were a bit more spread out as well so I had a bit more time to think about it, and I was just very in sync with the car. There was some qualifying sessions where I could almost, after the first lap, go: ‘okay, I know that car is good enough for me to get pole, I just need to do my job correctly and we should be able to do it’.

“I think when you can go into every qualifying session with that mentality of ‘if I just do my job properly it’s going to be enough’, it’s a massive confidence boost.”

Piastri said he felt more at home in the Formula Regional car he was 2019 Formula Renault Eurocup champion in than the Dallara F3 2019, but F2’s car suited him “very well”.

“A big difference [from F3 to F2] was the carbon brakes, coming from steel brakes, which took a little bit of getting used to,” he added. “But getting on top of that, getting on top of the tyre management, doing pitstops, different compounds and stuff like that, adding in all those variables, I think for me plays to my strengths.”

Piastri previously credited his Jeddah F2 pole to “growing more balls”.