F1 2023: Oscar Piastri Lando Norris McLaren

Oscar Piastri’s rapid emergence as a bona fide star of Formula One his rookie season has set him on a collision course with teammate Lando Norris and could give McLaren a serious “headache” in the future.

Piastri has proved he is the real deal in the second half of the season, picking up two podiums in a row and winning a sprint race in Qatar to announce himself to the motorsport world.

Perhaps even more intriguing is the fact Piastri has now won an F1 race, albeit a sprint and not a full length Grand Prix, before Norris, who is in his fifth season.

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McLaren’s resurgence has them poised to overtake Aston Martin for fourth in the constructors’ standings, with Max Verstappen stating the papaya team are now Red Bull’s biggest threat.

Piastri recently signed a contract extension until the end of 2026 and with Norris locked in until the end of 2025, McLaren have arguably the most stable driver pairing in F1 heading into what’s expected to be a wild ‘silly season’ next year.

“I think this is a really interesting time in the driver market because we’re in a little bit of a pause until we see what happens for next year,” Sky Sports commentator Karun Chandhok said.

“I think McLaren and (McLaren CEO) Zak (Brown) have played a blinder by locking down Oscar because they got Lando for the next two years, and Oscar has proved to be a little star isn’t he?

“They got driving stability and actually, now they’re in quite a good position of strength negotiating because Lando’s now locked in for the next two years, Oscar’s beyond it.

“It’ll be fun times the next couple of seasons with all that.”

“I’d rather have this kind of headache,” McLaren team principal Andrea Stella said when asked about how the team will deal with the growing competition between the two drivers.

Norris has long been the top dog at McLaren but Piastri has shown he can match it with over one lap in qualifying and beat the Brit at the Qatar Grand Prix.

McLaren’s pit stops, tyre strategies and team orders have tended to favour Norris so far this season, but the dynamic may soon change if Piastri continues his strong form.

It’s rare for a rookie to make such an impression in their debut season but Piastri’s all-round race craft already has pundits salivating over future duels with Verstappen.

“I’m really excited to see where the next five years take him, because he’s already so close to the complete package,” Speedcafe’s Mat Coch said on the Pit Talk F1 podcast.

“How complete is that going to be? We’ve got Max Verstappen, who’s a generational talent, potentially about to face off — it’s a big call on my part — against another generational talent (in Piastri). That’s my hot take.

“That’s an extraordinary position. Not now, but let’s wait a couple of years time; we could have two properly talented drivers absolutely ding-donging it out for race wins and championships.

“This is sort of the Senna-Prost stuff at McLaren and Ferrari, those sorts of battles. The Hunt and Lauda stuff — although Hunt wasn’t really a great, like Max is; I think Max’s already better.

“It’s those sort of battles — Häkkinen and Schumacher — that we’re on the precipice of looking at, and that’s what I think we can read out of the Qatar weekend, because … I think a lot of drivers would have at least run wide or made a mistake and opened the door for an opportunity, and he didn’t. It’s brilliant.”

Norris signed a signed a $152m (AUD) deal with McLaren last year but still without a race win to his name, the Brit is at a crossroads of sorts amid ongoing speculation he could join Red Bull.

“The step Oscar takes from this year to next will be really important in that story,” Fox Sports F1 writer Michael Lamonato said on Pit Talk.

“Then it’s a matter of him having less to lose than Lando does in this situation.

“There’s no one in the paddock who doubts [Norris’s] speed or his racecraft. There’s the question about whether or not he can close out a championship — simply because he’s not been in that situation to prove otherwise — or maybe even a win.

“But if he’s beaten next year in a more competitive fight where McLaren is more regularly in the podium positions, people won’t think less of his speed but he will become a second-order driver — a driver that’s suddenly not the guy you’re going to go and pay absolute top dollar for or make absolutely necessarily your number one driver if you’re one of the top teams — because he’s been beaten by a driver who is potentially in that really top class of drivers.

“There’s a lot at risk for Lando if he were to be beaten consistently by Oscar, and I think that’s where the tension’s going to come.

“It’s an interesting moment and could be a crossroads for his career.

“It’s all completely speculative at this point, but it does just set us up really nicely.”

The F1 season continues at the United States Grand Prix on Monday 9 October (Australian time).

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