Preparing to race on a street track for the first time on the Road to F1, Oscar Piastri will be largely freed from the shackles of tyre degradation around Monaco, where he believes the ‘biggest limiting factor’ will be the fear of crashing – a feeling you simply cannot replicate on a simulator.
Piastri previously competed at the circuit during his Formula Renault Eurocup days, but has never tackled the historic track with the quicker, more powerful machines in either the third or second tier.
In fact, only four members of the field have previously run F2 machinery in Monte Carlo, while some have never previously experienced it, so Piastri says he’ll be trying to make the most of his ‘real-world experience.’
“The simulator is the only way we can really prepare for Monaco because we can’t test there,” said Piastri. “So, I will be relying somewhat on my previous real-world experience, but otherwise, driving on the sim is the only practice we can really get. In saying that, you don’t have quite the same fear of crashing in the sim.
“I haven’t been here with F2 before so I don’t really know, but compared to Bahrain, there should be much less deg and hopefully that means we can push for most of the race. Monaco is unique in that the biggest limiting factor in terms of whether you can push or not is crashing, more than the tyres falling off.
“I think that naturally, driving on a street track, in qualifying we will be pretty much on the limit, but in the races, I am not expecting everyone to be pushing flat out because of the risk of crashing. We are all good drivers and we’re the step below F1 for a reason, but it is a real possibility, and I think that will be the biggest limiting factor.”
Up until the recent tests in Barcelona, the 20-year-old had exclusively driven his F2 machine around Bahrain, and while this was beneficial for the season opener in Sakhir, the PREMA racer says he was glad to gain some experience around a different circuit.
Not that anything can prepare you for driving around Monte Carlo, he reaffirms. “It isn’t an F2 related thing, it is more about Monaco being such a unique event,” he explained. “It is not like Barcelona or Bahrain where you can lock a brake and run a bit wide, in Monaco you do that and you’re in an Armco barrier. Not pushing too hard, too early, is a big key because 99% of the time that ends in disaster. It’s always pretty unique preparing for Monaco.
“Having the three days in Barcelona was a big help. It is obviously not similar to Monaco, but in terms of having to adapt to somewhere new, having only driven in Bahrain up until that point.
“It was almost nice to unlearn some muscle memory of Bahrain and learn some new muscle memory, putting myself in a situation where I had to adapt to a new track.”
Still searching for his first pole position since stepping onto the Road to F1, Monaco would be the ideal location for Piastri to achieve the feat, given that Qualifying tends to prove crucial.
The Australian also weighed in on how the new format may affect the event.
“I think overtaking will be extremely tricky,” he continued. “Overtaking was pretty much impossible in Formula Renault, which was a smaller car, so I think Qualifying will be super important, as will staying out of trouble in Race 1.
“I think it would be quite easy for whoever gets pole to start 10th in Race 1 and then end up finishing out of the points, because they can’t overtake. I think it will be a bit trickier starting at the back in Race 1.
“If you’re starting in the top five, then you’re probably going to go for the safer strategy, whereas if you’re a bit further back, you might take a bit of a risk and pull of a Monaco miracle. After all, standing on the podium at Monaco would be pretty cool and the trophies are pretty cool.”