Oscar Piastri has hailed his tremendous breakthrough week in Japan that ended with his first Formula One podium by promising there’s plenty more to come.
The 22-year-old Australian rookie, beginning to fulfil all the promise in F1 that his glittering junior career had long signalled, completed a spectacular week at Suzuka during which his new contract extension with McLaren was announced.
He then celebrated by delivering his first top-two qualifying display to earn a maiden place on the front row of the grid ahead of teammate Lando Norris before his third place in Sunday’s race itself behind Norris and runaway winner Max Verstappen.
“It’s definitely been a pretty special week,” Piastri declared after becoming the first rookie to make the top-three since Lance Stroll six years ago. “You never forget your first podium.
“There are not many people who get this opportunity in their whole life and I’ve managed to have it in my first season,” added the man who becomes only the sixth Australian after his manager Mark Webber (42 times), Daniel Ricciardo (36), Jack Brabham (31), Alan Jones (24) and Tim Schenken (1) to make an F1 podium.
“For now I’ll enjoy the trophy. I’ve been drowned by Lando in champagne – which is a nice problem to have.”
But Piastri, who has so impressed his British team with his calm-headed approach in not getting carried away by each breakthrough he makes, was quick to declare to reporters: “There’s still a lot to learn and try and improve on.
“There are definitely a few things that, had I had this race again, I would’ve done a bit differently, but that’s all part of learning. It’s exciting to know we can finish on the podium even if I feel like there’s more to come.”
The Melbourne driver was adamant that he could have managed his McLaren’s tyres better, which he accepted would have to come with more experience.
“I just wasn’t quick enough at certain points of the race,” he said. “These races (on high-degradation tracks) are probably the biggest thing I need to try and work on at the moment.
“It’s still quite fresh for me, obviously. In all the junior racing before this there are no races like this. So the only way you can learn from it is by just doing the races.”
Piastri’s greatest fan, though, didn’t get over to Japan to watch her son’s big day.
McLaren boss Zak Brown had offered to make sure Nicole Piastri got a plane ticket after she’d enquired on social media following qualifying: “Anyone got a cheap flight to Japan?”
But she eventually politely declined Brown’s gift, saying: “Thank you for the kind offer, but I think it’s best that I have my anxiety attack in the comfort of my own home.”
It appears Piastri’s mum might have a more glamorous venue in mind as she added pointedly: “I do however intend to have mastered the art of meditation in time for the Vegas GP though.”