After failing to qualify on pole during his Formula 3 title winning campaign last year, a maiden FIA Formula 2 pole position has come as somewhat of a surprise to Oscar Piastri.
A dominant display to go two-tenths clear around Silverstone has seen the PREMA driver take the four additional points awarded, closing UNI-Virtuosi driver Guanyu Zhou’s title lead to one point.
Yet the Aussie was shocked to discover his margins out front, having been half a second quicker that the rest of the field following the first stints.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been on pole so I’m pretty happy with that. To be honest, I didn’t know till after the session that I had gained so much time in Sector 2. It felt good but I didn’t realise it was that good.”
Although he has had two second row Feature Race starts so far this season in Monaco and Baku, some questioned whether he had the outright pace compared to some of his rivals. Piastri last qualified on pole during Round 7 of the 2019 Formula Renault Eurocup season at the Hungaroring.
Nevertheless, the 20-year-old does not believe this would be a weakness to his F2 campaign this time around.
“I think last year was a bit of an anomaly. To be honest, in previous years my Qualifying has been quite strong so it’s just nice to be backing that up and qualifying well again. I think today I hope I proved a few people wrong with my one lap pace.”
“It’s nice to be qualifying consistently at the front so far compared to F3. I think we’ve well and truly proved we’ve got a very fast qualifying car as well as fast race car. The car was really mega today so thank you to PREMA.
“We started the day strong in Practice and clearly, we kept that pace for Quali, so I don’t really know what the secret is. I don’t think I’m doing much different to last year, it’s just all clicking at the moment.”
Heading back to a more traditional race circuit after a month away was not an easy task, with many drivers getting caught out throughout Practice and Qualifying, including his team mate Robert Shwartzman and ART’s Théo Pourchaire.
Finding the limits around the 5.891km circuit proved to be a challenge for the pole-sitter himself despite clocking in the only sub-1:40 lap of the session.
A drift in Practice was followed an off-road excursion on the exit of Becketts [Turn 13] during the final minutes, leaving him unable to improve. Piastri acknowledged the fact that drivers cannot underestimate the task ahead of them racing around Silverstone.
“I think everyone’s been making a fair few mistakes and I think with the tailwind we had through Copse, Maggots and Becketts [Turns 9 through 13] it didn’t make life any easier either. I think also the six-week break definitely didn’t help.
“It’ll be tricky in the races. Now everyone’s probably a bit more used to the car and done some more laps of the track, who knows, maybe there’ll be less mistakes, but Silverstone is always tricky regardless of all the other variables.
“I think that’s part of the key of Silverstone, there’s so many places where it can go wrong in the high speed that probably staying under the limit a tiny bit is the way to go and it worked out well today.”
Adopting a “no unnecessary risks” approach for Sprint Race 1, he will be hoping to climb his way through the order from 10th on the grid to snatch the championship lead away from fellow Alpine Academy member Zhou.
Can Piastri take the driver’s championship lead this weekend?
Image Credit: © Prema Racing