Oscar Piastri returned to earth with a thud at the United States Grand Prix, the Australian forced to retire just 10 laps into Sunday’s 56-lap race with accident damage after contact with Esteban Ocon’s Alpine on the opening lap.
The McLaren driver, on his first visit to the Circuit of the Americas after back-to-back Grand Prix podiums in Japan and Qatar and a Sprint race win in Lusail, left Texas pointless after finishing just 10th in Saturday’s Sprint before becoming an early spectator on Sunday.
As the field thundered through the sweeping set of corners that begin the 20-turn lap at COTA following Sunday’s start, Piastri’s right-rear tyre collected Ocon’s left sidepod, causing a slow water leak from a holed radiator on Piastri’s car.
Ocon limped around for five more laps and fell to the back before retiring, while Piastri pulled into the pits four laps later for his first non-scoring weekend since the Italian Grand Prix in early September, and for only his third DNF of the season.
“It didn’t seem like a massive incident, just a bit of a touch, but it broke one of the radiators so the engine was getting very hot,” Piastri explained.
“When the engine is overheating on lap 10, it’s not going to do another 45 laps. I was surprised it was damaged, but it is what it is. I’d managed to get off to a good start, and there’s plenty of lessons to take away from the last couple of days, I’ve gained decent knowledge about this circuit from my first racing here.”
Sunday’s early exit punctuated a tricky weekend for Piastri at a circuit he didn’t know, with just one practice session before Friday qualifying not playing into his hands as he qualified eight places and six-tenths of a second adrift of McLaren teammate Lando Norris, who went on to finish third in Sunday’s Grand Prix after being fourth in the Sprint.
Piastri was less than impressed with being overtaken by George Russell on lap three of the Sprint for seventh place, the Mercedes driver running all four wheels off the road at Turn 18 and copping a five-second time penalty after the race that only cost him one position and ensured he remained in the points.
“I don't think you can get close to arguing that was a 50-50," Piastri said, adding: "the five seconds made a bit of a difference to his race, but not much.
“That’s the kind of thing you can do when you're in a faster car in a situation like that. I don't think it's great for everyone."
Oscar's United States Grand Prix by the numbers
- Sprint (19 laps): Started 5th, finished 10th
- Race (56 laps): Started 10th, did not finish (accident damage, lap 10)
- Fastest lap: 1min 42.705secs (19th), lap 5
- Points this event: 0
- Points this season: 83 (9th in world championship)