Oscar Piastri has put aside a disastrous Formula 1 debut earlier this month to qualify in an impressive fashion for Sunday’s Saudi Arabia Grand Prix (Monday morning AEDT).
The Australian – who failed to finish his first race in Bahrain – qualified ninth for McLaren but will start in eighth on the grid after a 10-place penalty was handed to Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
It was a quality turnaround from Piastri, who had been the second-slowest driver during initial practice.
MORE: Who is Oscar Piastri? The latest Australian to join the F1 grid
In the end, the Aussie finished 10 places higher than teammate Lando Norris, who was 19th fastest.
Red Bull’s Sergio Perez snared pole position, while Leclerc was second-fastest but will start 12th on the grid because of his penalty.
The Monaco driver was given the penalty after Ferrari broke rules regarding the use of power units in their vehicles – using a third one with only two changes allowed for the whole season.
Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso will start second on the grid, while George Russell from Mercedes is alongside him in third and Carlos Sainz is fourth.
Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) begins the main event seventh on the grid, while reigning champion Max Verstappen (Red Bull) endured a nightmare qualifying to finish in 15th.
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Oscar Piastri’s next F1 race and results
Piastri will be hoping for a better performance in Saudi Arabia after failing to finish his debut F1 race in Bahrain.
The race start is scheduled for 4:00 am AEDT on Monday, March 20.
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Oscar Piastri’s career highlights and progression
Piastri began his racing career in 2011 as a go-karter.
The Melbourne-born racer worked his way up through divisions in Australia and Europe, finishing third in the Australian Kart Championship in 2015.
The next year he transitioned away from karts, earning a spot in the Formula 4 UAE Championship.
Piastri then moved to the United Kingdom to compete in the Formula 4 British Championship where he came second in 2017.
The Australian’s first major racing championship victory came in 2019 when he emerged victorious after the Formula Renault Eurocup season.
He progressed to Formula 3 in 2020, followed immediately by a move to Formula 2 in 2021. Impressively, he won both of those championships.
Why did Oscar Piastri leave Alpine for McLaren?
Prior to his move to McLaren, Piastri was a member of Alpine’s driver academy.
The young Australian was selected as the Renault-owned team’s reserve driver for the 2022 season and was heavily backed to fill the 2023 seat of the departing Fernando Alonso.
In August last year, Piastri was initially announced as an Alpine driver, but he publicly disputed the matter on social media.
“I understand that, without my agreement, Alpine F1 have put out a press release late this afternoon that I am driving for them next year,” Piastri wrote.
“This is wrong and I have not signed a contract with Alpine for 2023. I will not be driving for Alpine next year.”
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Piastri was then announced as a McLaren driver, resulting in Alpine taking the matter to the Contract Recognition Board, arguing they already had a valid contract in place.
However, McLaren were deemed to have secured a legal contract with Piastri, locking him in for 2023.
Daniel Ricciardo mutually agreed to cut his three-year contract short with McLaren amid the debacle.
Piastri explained his decision to depart Alpine to Formula1.com.
“I was free to choose my destiny — and I felt McLaren was a great opportunity,” he said.
“They were very straightforward and very keen and enthusiastic to have me.
“To be completely honest, there was a lack of clarity around my future at the team at Alpine.”
What is Daniel Ricciardo doing this season?
Despite being replaced at McLaren and not securing a spot on the 2023 grid, Ricciardo will still be involved in F1 this season.
The Australian has returned to his former team Red Bull, signing on as their third driver.
His role is flexible, but key responsibilities include testing, simulator work and commercial activity.
This will likely see him become the face of the team if the full-time drivers – Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez – are unavailable for certain promotional events.
Ricciardo drove for Red Bull from 2014 to 2018, picking up seven wins during that period.