Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo at 2022 McLaren launch
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Oscar Piastri has admitted it was “unfortunate” he has to replace compatriot Daniel Ricciardo to secure an F1 drive. The highly-rated rookie revealed his love and respect for the former Red Bull driver but added he “can’t not take an opportunity” because Ricciardo was at the helm.
McLaren parted ways with Ricciardo ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix, leaving the Australian frantically searching for a seat for next season. His sacking comes months after McLaren boss Zak Brown suggested Ricciardo was not meeting the team’s expectations after struggling to match team-mate Lando Norris.
Piastri said: “As a fellow Australian, it’s unfortunate that of all people on the grid, it’s Daniel who I will be replacing. Daniel is someone who I have watched as a fan for over 10 years, since I started racing effectively.
“I have immense respect for Daniel. His achievements in the sport – his race wins and podiums – but also his personality he brings to the sport, I think he’s a fantastic personality for the sport. I wish him all the best for whatever his future holds. That being said, I don’t get to choose which driver I replace.
“I can’t not take an opportunity because the previous driver in that seat was Daniel. McLaren were extremely keen to have me onboard and it was an opportunity that was too good to refuse.” In Belgium, there were rumours that Piastri and Alonso had been involved in a “conspiracy” to leave Alpine empty-handed.
However, the speculation was killed after the CRB report admitted McLaren had signed their deal with Piastri almost two months ago. The CRB report showed Piastri had signed with the team on July 4th, just after the British Grand Prix.
At the time, Alpine were still looking to sign-up Fernando Alonso for another season meaning Piastri saw this as his only realistic chance of an F1 drive.
Lando Norris outlines issue with McLaren car as Piastri decision due [INSIGHT]
McLaren boss Zak Brown fires shots at Otmar Szafnauer in Piastri row [ANALYSIS]
Lando Norris comments on Daniel Ricciardo replacement at McLaren [COMMENT]
However, it has tarnished McLaren who didn’t tell Ricciardo his F1 future at the team was over until the Hungarian Grand Prix. Ricciardo even posted special media updates on July 13th saying he was committed to McLaren for 2023 when the team knew he would be leaving,
Piastri added: “I hope now more of the facts have come out, it makes things a bit clearer to the fans.” Alpine conceded defeat last night despite team boss Otmar Szafnauer’s confidence the French manufacturer would win the case.
They posted: “BWT Alpine F1 Team thanks the Contract Recognition Board (CRB) for convening on Monday and we acknowledge the decision they have made. We consider the matter closed on our side and will announce our full 2023 driver line-up in due course.”
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