Oscar Piastri remains on top as championship enters final stages
Australian racer Oscar Piastri secured his eighth podium of the season as he continues to lead the Formula Renault Eurocup standings with just four races left to run. It wasn’t an easy weekend for the R-ace GP driver as he had to fight from the back of the field after being tapped into a spin in race one, and needed to muscle his way past rivals in race two to claim further silverware.
The 18-year old narrowly missed out on pole position on Saturday morning, qualifying a mere 0.010s behind title challenger Victor Martins on the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Getting off the line without drama for race one, he looked to be consolidating second place into the first turn, but contact from Petr Ptáček caused him to spin, leaving him several seconds off the pack.
Despite being at the back of the field he then put in a spirited drive, slicing his way through with a number of impressive passes despite knowing the championship was on the line. He eventually fought his way up to sixth on track but was handed a further position after the contest when the stewards penalised Ptáček for his role in the first lap incident.
A day later, despite an uncharacteristic qualifying performance where he could only grab sixth place, Oscar made a strong start to the race and was up to third position by the end of the opening lap. Unfortunately, his progress stalled behind Ptáček as the Czech driver, running greater downforce levels, was able to get through the corners faster than Oscar, meaning he could not find a way past before the end of the race.
With two excellent recovery drives, however, he leaves Spain 12.5 points ahead in the championship standings with a one-week turnaround before the penultimate meeting of the season at Hockenheim in Germany this weekend (October 6-8).
“The whole team expected MP Motorsport to be more competitive this weekend as they were strong in pre-season testing, so P2 in qualifying was a good effort. To be so close was frustrating but we were pretty confident heading into the race. Getting turned around in turn one meant there wasn’t much I could fight for. I knew I had a fair few laps to start picking people off but at the beginning it was looking difficult so getting into the top-ten would be a decent result. However, I think Colombo had some damage and was holding the pack up which helped. I didn’t have to do anything too crazy, just pick the moments and make some moves. There was one pass which was on the edge, but I was in control, and a bit of overtaking practice is fun.
“There was a combination of things which didn’t help for Sunday’s qualifying. We went a bit in the wrong direction on setup and it was a little cooler which also caught us out. There was some slow traffic which didn’t help our session, so I didn’t get a full lap until my last lap, which was frustrating, especially when Alex [Smolyar] was P2, so I knew the car had the potential to be further up. I made up for it in the race though – I was pretty pleased with how it went. I was hoping turn ten was going to be a place I could pass Ptáček but his extra downforce helped him through turns seven, eight, and nine, and the combination of dirty air for me and having less downforce meant I couldn’t catch him down that straight.
“If I was going to make a move it would have been in to turn one. I got close once and had a fake move, but it was going to be risky if I was going to fully commit, so I thought it was better to have 15 points rather than zero and I took it a bit cautious. It’s a lot closer in the championship now but we have the lead and Martins has to beat me more than I have to beat him. Hockenheim will be interesting, especially to see if MP is as competitive as they were in Barcelona.”