Oscar Piastri should have had the F2 championship lead, instead he’s left to rue a run-in with a British rival.
Australia’s F1 hopeful Oscar Piastri admits he probably should have backed out of the fight that saw him crash in the final race of his debut F2 weekend in Bahrain.
Piastri had enjoyed a stellar start to his first weekend in the category, finishing fifth in the opening race before winning race two. He was again in contention in the third race, eliminated three laps from the finish while in a five-way battle at the front of the field.
British driver Dan Ticktum had passed Piastri on the inside of turn one, and was half a car length ahead, although the Australian had the inside line for turn two. Ticktum turned in, and the two made contact, sending Piastri into a spin and out of the race.
“Obviously, looking back, we could have been top-five in race three without the crash, but I was having a crack,” Piastri told Wide World of Sports.
“Should I have backed out? Probably. But once I committed that was it, and once the gap closed I was in a fair bit of trouble.
“You could argue he should have left more space, but you could also argue I should have backed out earlier.
“We both contributed to it in our own way, but it happened, and there’s no hard feelings.”
The Melbourne teenager was within reach of his second win of the weekend, running third behind Richie Verschoor and Guanyu Zhou, but with Ticktum and Liam Lawson hot on his tail.
“I was kind of stuck in the middle, with two guys falling back towards me, but two guys behind me who were catching me,” Piastri explained.
“I was hoping to pass the two in front of me before I was caught by the guys behind me, but it didn’t work out like that.
“Anyway, it’s in the past now, you live and learn. If I had my time again, I’d probably do a few things differently, but in the heat of the moment I saw the win was possible and I was going to do everything I could to get it.
“I can’t say I didn’t try.”
Piastri said there were plenty of positives to take out of the weekend, noting he would have taken a win and fourth place in the championship if that had been offered to him on Friday morning.
Despite the disappointing finish to the third race, which cost him the championship lead, he said the overriding emotion was one of satisfaction.
“Mainly I’m happy, obviously I would have preferred race three to have gone differently, but apart from the end it was super positive and a very strong start to F2,” he said.
“Getting the first win will stick with me for a long time, it was very promising that we could win despite not necessarily being the quickest car on track.
“There’s a lot of positives to take out of the weekend.”
Piastri’s win in race two was the perfect start to the season for the reigning F3 champion, who immediately stamped himself as a contender in F2.
Not only did he become the first Australian to win in the category since Mark Webber in 2001 (when it was Formula 3000), the 19-year-old was happy with the way he handled the step up from F3.
“It was the first race I’d done since September, so having 20 cars around me again took a bit of getting used to,” he explained.
“The format was different, so that was unfamiliar territory for everyone. Getting the start right is a lot different, the F2 car has 600 horsepower instead of 400 for the F3 car, so that was something to learn.
“Having carbon brakes in a race situation when you’ve been waiting on the grid for a minute or so, you quickly learn they don’t work so well the first time you hit them.
“And the tyres were quite different in terms of degradation, so there were plenty of unknowns and lots of things learned.”
The victory in race two wasn’t without its moments. After a safety car restart early in the race, Piastri made a pass for fourth place into turn one, only to find himself in seventh just moments later.
“To put it simply, I nearly spun,” he laughed.
“I went around the outside of (Christian) Lundgaard into turn one, and I was on a pretty tight line for turn two. With the power of this car, it’s very easy to light up the rear tyres and have a massive snap of oversteer.
“I’m pretty sure at one point both my hands were off the steering wheel because I couldn’t physically hang on, luckily for me the car straightened up and I survived.
“But I was very close to not making it out of that corner.”
Piastri’s win came courtesy of a final-lap pass for the lead, as he battled with Zhou and Lundgaard, a move certain to have F1 team managers sitting up and taking notice.
“It was one of the best feelings I’ve had after a win. We were struggling a fair bit early in that race, and we probably weren’t even in a position to challenge for the top-five,” he said.
“Then the late pitstop brought it all together and I was able to work my way through the field and get the win on the final lap in a three-way battle, definitely the adrenaline was pumping.
“Those wins are much more satisfying than when you win easily and don’t have to fight for it.
“Coming from behind and earning the win definitely makes it better. It was certainly amongst the best wins I’ve had.”
Piastri said last week that further F1 tests with Alpine are on the radar this year, but wouldn’t be drawn on a timetable.
He indicated last week that, “I know what I have to do,” to get more opportunities in the F1 car, but when pressed on whether one of the criteria was winning an F2 race, he displayed the same evasiveness that leaves his rivals behind on the racetrack.
“Not specifically, no,” he said with a chuckle, before pausing momentarily.
“But I think I’m pretty well placed at the moment.”
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