McLaren team principal Andrea Stella says Oscar Piastri can only improve his race pace with experience and is showing all of the signs that he will develop quickly as a driver.

Piastri scored his first podium at the Japanese Grand Prix but was comfortably beaten to second place by teammate Lando Norris in a race of high tire degradation at Suzuka. The Australian stated he wasn’t fast enough in certain sections of the race and Stella says it’s natural for a rookie to need to experience such challenges to build up the knowledge required to handle tire-limited races.

“I think when it comes to race pace, it’s not like you learn race pace and then it’s a set of skills that you deploy for every race,” Stella said.

“So I think that’s why it’s a bit of a journey and it takes time because every situation presents its own characteristics. I’m sure Oscar will have learned things and actually I think towards the end he was already better than he was in the second stint.

“It’s just systematic work of cashing in all the possible learning. There’s not one-off learning that is applicable to every situation, it’s just a rookie element.

“But the first thing I would take is always the outright speed, which is what we saw (in qualifying), because when you have that, race pace and all these things are much easier to work on. But finding the edge on a single lap in Suzuka like was saw is more difficult to sort of work together with your engineers, that’s a gift.”

The double podium result in Japan helped McLaren closed the gap to Aston Martin in the constructors’ championship to 49 points, but Stella says he doesn’t need to openly set the team a target of winning that battle.

“I don’t even want to think that there’s anybody at McLaren that needs this kind of carrot to push any harder, because I trust and I believe that everyone is pushing at the fastest reasonable sustainable pace. That’s what I want and that’s what I think is happening.

“If you start thinking of ‘We need to finish fourth’, everyone will say ‘Andrea, we know already, you don’t need to tell us, we don’t have to declare this to the world, we’re just going as fast as we can’. That’s the attitude.”