AT THE Hungarian Grand Prix this weekend, all eyes will be on Daniel Ricciardo as the fan favourite makes his celebrated return to Formula 1. But it’s his compatriot, Oscar Piastri, that has a chance to really leave his mark. Fresh off of his best ever F1 finish at the British Grand Prix, the Aussie young gun could be ready to consistently contend for pole positions and podium finishes, stamping his place on the grid for years to come.
Piastri’s 2023 season has been something of a Jekyll and Hyde showing. One minute he’s cruising past competitors with ease and doing everything right, the next minute a shortsighted decision or car trouble costs him places. But the Aussie’s mercurial form took a turn for the better at the British Grand Prix earlier this month, where he recorded an F1 career-best fourth place finish and proved he can hang with the big boys like Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.
Prior to his performance at Silverstone, Piastri had only finished in the points twice this season. The 22-year-old’s previous best result came at the Australian Grand Prix, where he finished eighth. Although his strong showing had less to with speed and more to do with his ability to avoid a wipeout after eight cars failed to finish the race.
Max Verstappen and the Red Bull team might be soaring ahead of the pack on a far-off horizon, but the space behind them is wide open, with no team solidifying second place so far this season as the ‘best of the rest’, if you will. Piastri’s McLaren team is looking to fill that void and emerge from middle-of the-pack mediocrity. After extensive upgrades to their MCL60 car following early season issues, McLaren is primed to get back into contention and a string of recent strong performances have meant Piastri could be on the verge of something special.
Does Piastri have a chance at a podium finish at the Hungarian Grand Prix?
If his recent performances are any indication, Oscar Piastri has a genuine chance at his first ever F1 podium finish. The 22-year-old is a humble one, and while he won’t outright claim he’s about to set the track alight, it’s plain to see that the youngster is quietly growing in confidence. “We’ve proved two weekends in a row now that it wasn’t a fluke,” Piastri said, on McLaren’s recent improvement. “Will we be the second-quickest car in Hungary? I don’t know, but I think we can definitely try and aim for that.”
While Piastri seems to have found his groove, he could run into trouble in Hungary. The GP takes place on the Hungaroring circuit, which is notoriously a slow and tight course. McLaren has shown their strengths lie in high-speed tracks with faster corners, but the cars have been lacklustre on slower turns this season.
If there’s anyone who doesn’t think Piastri and Maclaren are on the verge of a breakthrough, it’s Piastri’s own teammate, Lando Norris. “We do have a poor car, I would say pretty terrible in the slow-speed corners. Extremely difficult to drive,” he said. “We’re going to go to a couple of tracks coming up where I’m sure people are going to be saying, ‘What have you done now? Like, how has it got so bad all of a sudden?”.
Talk about a hater. It’s easy to see how Daniel Ricciardo’s endless cheer and Norris’ boundless pessimism didn’t mesh well when the pair were teammates for the last two seasons.
Has Oscar Piastri been disappointing this season?
Rookie drivers rarely come into Formula 1 racing and immediately perform at a high level — much less regularly finish on the podium. While Piastri is yet to crack the top three, and has had a few DNF’s, he hasn’t done anything to show he’s not ready for the pinnacle of racing and has demonstrated uncanny maturity for a driver of his age.
It’s Piastri’s driving in races like the British GP that have shown glimpses of the phenom’s potential. For now, Piastri isn’t expected to be winning every race, his goal is to gain experience on a variety of circuits, learn the trick of the trade, and hopefully put himself in a position to be successful for years to come.
Can Daniel Ricciardo make a triumphant return?
Now to the name on everyone’s lips, Daniel Ricciardo will make his long-awaited return to F1 this weekend at the Hungarian GP — and he couldn’t have picked a better circuit to return to. Ricciardo has finished on the podium in Hungary on three occasions, winning the race back in 2014. The Hungaroring’s slow and tight structure benefits Ricciardo’s late-braking style, but given he’s driving for AlphaTauri (who are currently dead last in the constructor standings), Ricciardo’s goals are not likely to be overly lofty, any finish in range of points would be a success.
After his famous 2014 Hungarian GP win, Ricciardo could be heard speaking with his trademark humorous attitude on his team’s radio, calmly declaring “That’s how it’s done ladies,” seconds after crossing the finish line. You can’t fault the man for his charm, and if races were won by sheer likability, Ricciardo would be a shoo-in for victory.
When is the Hungarian Grand Prix?
The Hungarian Grand Prix starts at 11pm AEST on Sunday, July 23rd. Qualifying sessions will begin the day before. The Hungarian GP is available to watch on Kayo Sports and Foxtel.