Is Norris trying too hard? Will an unfazed Piastri cause a change in McLaren’s power?

Piastri put in his latest outstanding performance during the Qatar Grand Prix weekend, taking both a maiden pole position and a sprint race win before finishing second behind Verstappen’s dominant Red Bull on Sunday.

The Australian defeated teammate Norris in a private battle with McLaren, leaving the latter angry and frustrated, further highlighting his growing reputation as an F1 star.

Piastri’s personal victory over Norris has sharpened the prospect of a wider power struggle at McLaren that is sure to intensify as the team continues its extraordinary climb.

Norris can’t hide his frustration

Saturday’s sprint race was the second time Norris was beaten by an Australian team-mate to claim his first F1 victory, finishing second to Daniel Ricciardo at Monza in 2021.

It’s true that this last opportunity was *only* a sprint triumph and not the prestige of a full Grand Prix victory, but the 23-year-old Briton couldn’t hide his frustration at a clearly missed opportunity in Qatar.

“If I want to be honest with myself, I should have been fighting for two pole positions and potentially two wins this weekend,” admitted Norris.

“I know it’s a big thing, but I think if everything had gone well, if only I had done better and not made the mistakes that I made the last two days, and that’s why I’m so frustrated, because I knew what was on the cards, what potentially we are able to achieve. And these were victories, both yesterday and today.

“So I feel like it was a weekend of missed opportunities to fight Max and at least give myself that chance.”

The theme throughout the weekend was Norris criticizing himself.

After a restriction penalty in Friday qualifying cost him a front-row start for Sunday’s Grand Prix, Norris squandered the chance to beat Piastri to pole position in the sprint with a last-corner error on his final lap in Q3. In the sprint itself, Norris finished lower than he started and then made a highly self-critical assessment of his performance.

Norris was probably too hard on himself. He has performed at an incredibly high level this season, scoring five podiums and sitting seventh in the Drivers’ Championship, ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell.

However, he seems to be increasingly irritated by his super-fast teammate’s gimmicky performances and is making uncharacteristic mistakes along the way. A sign that maybe he’s trying too hard?

The next race in Austin will be Norris’ 100th Grand Prix. Only Nico Rosberg waited so long to win the race and won the world championship.

Is this burden – combined with the demons of his heartbreaking defeat in Sochi 2021 – starting to weigh on Norris?

Is Piastri F1 the best rookie since Hamilton?

Meanwhile, Piastri’s stock continues to rise. He achieved more milestones in his career in Qatar and cemented his position in the top ten of the Championship in a hugely impressive rookie campaign.

There hasn’t been a moment since 2007 and Lewis Hamilton’s breakthrough season in F1 where a novice driver won a race. The 22-year-old made his transition to top motorsport look easy, scoring two podiums in just 17 grands prix.

Aside from his on-track performance, Piastri’s cool, calm and collected personality will only serve him well in the future. He seems less short-tempered than his teammate, who often wears his heart on his sleeve. This could be a useful tool that Piastri can use to get under Norris’s skin.

By no means is Piastri the finished article (nor would anyone expect it to be). Some question marks remain about the consistency of his pace and tire management over the Grand Prix distance. However, these are areas that Piastri needs to work on.

“There are still some improvements that need to be made,” he said. “I think this race was very different from the race in Japan, obviously with three stops. I think we were basically going flat out the whole race. But I think there’s still some work to be done.”

He added: “It was just a different type of tire degradation. I think the front was much more limited this weekend. I think the most important thing by far was the left front and trying to protect it.

“So yeah, just a different learning experience. But it’s still good to have it in the bank.”

McLaren pulled off a masterstroke by tying Piastri down to a new long-term contract, and teams like Alpine and Red Bull are surely looking back with a tinge of regret at Piastri’s stunning trajectory after missing out on his signature.

What’s most exciting about Piastrim is the level he’s already at and the ceiling of potential he still has to reach. It will only get better and better, and will it help him achieve the status of “golden boy” Norris at McLaren?

This will be an interesting story to follow as the Piastri-Norris intra-team battle unfolds in the coming years.

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