By James Broughton, August 5, 2022
The odd thing about the Oscar Piastri saga is that the young Australian is not even competing in Formula One. So why has he become the knot in a middle of a tug of war between McLaren and Apline F1? Piastri must be exceptional if two teams are after his services. A brief history about Piastri. He won the 2019 Formula Renault Eurocup, the 2020 FIA Formula 3 Championship and the 2021 Formula 2 Championship. Piastri currently serves as the reserve driver for Alpine F1 Team, having previously been in the team’s driver academy.
Piastri is very much an Alpine F1 protege and became the first choice to replace Fernando Alonso who unexpectedly jumped ship to Aston Martin in the middle of contract talks. Alpine subsequently released a press statement confirming Piastri as Alonso’s replacement for 2023. A few hours later Piastri released a counter statement denying he ever signed a deal with Alpine F1 for the vacant seat.
It turns out that Piastri was in negotiations with Mclaren F1, and it appears the 21-year-old is going to take Daniel Ricciardo’s seat for 2023. And if the entire saga wasn’t already strange enough, McLaren are prepared to release Riccardo 1 year early from his lucrative 3-year contract. This serves as a reminder that contracts mean nothing in Formula One.
Ricciardo is underperforming at McLaren and Zak Brown, the CEO, is eager to replace him because he commands an expensive salary. As of today, rumors and reports are circulating that Ricciardo will effectively be sacked at the end of the season. Either way, McLaren is obligated to pay Ricciardo his salary as per contract, otherwise, Riccardo will launch an expensive countersuit.
The disappointment for Ricciardo will be dampened somewhat by Alpine who are ready to sign the castaway driver at a moment’s notice. However this saga ends, Piastri is now under pressure to perform the moment he gets on the grid as an official Mclaren F1 driver. Formula One is a different level of single-seater racing, plenty of talented drivers have flunked their F1 careers.
Will Oscar Piastri flunk, float or fly if he is confirmed as a McLaren driver? Does he have the depth of talent, skill and fortitude to become part of Formula One’s next-generation pool of talent? Only time will tell.