By James Broughton, September 23, 2022
Oscar Piastri has a glittering junior open-seat racing career in the bag. The 21-year-old Australian hasn’t raced or competed in Formula One but the former Alpine protege became McLaren’s Wonka golden ticket as the team sought to replace an underperforming Daniel Ricciardo with a driver who has yet to perform in Formula One. How do you assess the caliber of a driver who has never raced competitively in F1? That’s easy, you simply take a look at his junior formulae record and extrapolate.
Piastri has won the Formula 3 and Formula 2 series championships, the latter following in the footsteps of a certain George Russell. So it’s easy to assume Piastri has what it takes to develop into a formidable F1 driver. However, Formula One is ultra-competitive, and even the most talented drivers can be made to look ordinary.
When Piastri races in F1 for the first time in 2023 he will have to be quick straight away. Indeed Piastri will have to emulate Lando Norris’ first F1 season, Norris was quick almost immediately from the word go. Norris is the yardstick by which all others are measured, multiple race winner Riccardo didn’t measure up and McLaren decided it was time to release him from his 3-year contract 1 year early.
Piastri will either sink or swim, there is no option for failure because he put himself in that position. McLaren will give him two years before considering their options. Who knows what will happen in two years, perhaps Norris will have vacated McLaren by then and moved to either Red Bull or Mercedes.
Former F1 champion Nico Rosberg believes Piastri has no option to fail, every crash and failure to get close to Norris in terms of lap times will be scrutinized like no other driver on the grid. During a recent media interview Rosberg gave his thoughts:
“I really think it will be a big, big challenge for Oscar next year to be close to Lando.”
“Ricciardo is a multiple race winner, one of the best drivers in the world, and has found it unbelievably tough against Lando. Oscar is brand new to this sport!
“It is going to be tough for Oscar to do well there [McLaren]. Lando is world-class, he’s world championship material there so it’s not going to be easy to go there and do better than Daniel.”
“All the indications are that Oscar really is one of those future superstars. It is either he beats Lando or he’s out basically of the sport, so it’s really, really tough, but he believes in himself. And if you think you’re that good, you’ve got to go for it.”