Oscar Piastri sent SHOCKWAVES through F1 with his bold Alpine snub but he has EVERY reason to back himself… the Australian has already emulated Hamilton and with Webber in his corner, the young gun is set to make a splash – but will he replace Ricciardo?
- Alpine announced Oscar Piastri as the replacement for Fernando Alonso
- But Australian insisted no agreement had been reached with the team yet
- Piastri is Alpine’s reserve driver and has been with the team since 2020
- Sebastian Vettel kicked off ‘silly season’ by confirming his retirement from F1
- Alonso will replace him at Aston Martin, leaving a vacant seat at Alpine
- Piastri has also been linked with a move to McLaren to replace Daniel Ricciardo
Certainties are always a rare commodity when it comes to the annual musical chairs event that is Formula One’s ‘silly season’.
Alpine single-handedly raised the bar this week, announcing on Tuesday that Oscar Piastri had been promoted from reserve driver to partner Esteban Ocon and replace the Aston Martin-bound Fernando Alonso from next season.
The Australian, however, swiftly denied any agreement had been reached, leaving Alpine with a seat to fill for 2023 and to pick up the piece of an embarrassing PR own goal.
Oscar Piastri is Formula One’s next hot property but his future remains unclear
‘I understand that, without my agreement, Alpine F1 have put out a press release late this afternoon that I am driving for them next year,’ Piastri said in a post on his official Twitter account.
‘This is wrong and I have not signed a contract with Alpine for 2023. I will not be driving for Alpine next year.’
While it may be premature to suggest the Australian has already bagged a seat elsewhere for next season, young drivers seldom turn down offers to drive in Formula One.
Motorsport’s premier class has been in Piastri’s sight since he took his first steps in go-karting aged 10. Four years later, he left friends and family behind to move to Britain to attend boarding school and further his career.
‘That was a big change for me – moving out at 14-years-old and going off to school outside of Australia – but it was a necessary step to take in order to get to F1,’ he told FIA’s official website last year.
‘I think that I grew a lot because of it.’
Incidentally, his future could now lie with a British team.
Piastri was linked with a move to Williams to replace the struggling Nicholas Latifi mid-season and his name has also been floated as a potential replacement for fellow Aussie Daniel Ricciardo.
Piastri has been linked with a move to McLaren to replace fellow Aussie Daniel Ricciardo
Ricciardo’s future at McLaren remains under a cloud after a disappointing season so far
McLaren boss Zak Brown has hinted the team could move on from Ricciardo
The latter is under contract with McLaren until the end of the 2023 season but his future has been subject of debate after a largely underwhelming second campaign with the Woking-based outfit.
As if the prospect of Piastri replacing his compatriot wasn’t intriguing enough, a third Australian may have a significant role to play in this particular scenario.
Former Red Bull star Mark Webber is Piastri’s agent and several reports have suggested he would try to steer his client towards McLaren.
Ricciardo has repeatedly insisted he will see his deal out, but McLaren boss Zak Brown has hinted his contract includes a ‘mechanism’ that would allow the team to part ways with the 33-year-old before the end of next season.
Former Aussie F1 star and Red Bull driver Mark Webber (left) is Piastri’s agent and several reports have suggested he would try to steer his client towards McLaren
McLaren have also been rumoured to be looking at hiring Piastri as a reserve driver for 2023, before getting him to replace Ricciardo (right) the following season
Could McLaren snap up Piastri as reserve driver for 2023 and then promote him once Ricciardo’s deal expires or will he look to secure a seat for next season?
At any rate it appears a case of when not if the 21-year-old will make his debut on the grid and it was no surprise to see Alpine looking to promote him to replace Alonso.
The French team knows all about Piastri’s potential, having signed the Australian to their academy in 2020 – then under the Renault brand – after he triumphed in the 2019 Renault Eurocup series.
The Melbournian made an immediate impression, clinching the Formula 3 world championship at the first time of asking with Prema Racing.
After winning the 2019 Renault Eurocup series, Piastri moved to Formula 3 (above) in 2020
The Australian won the Formula 3 title in his rookie season, beating teammate Logan Sargeant
Piastri won just two of the 18 events on the calendar but showed remarkable consistency as he racked up four podiums and nine points finishes in the other 16 races.
He went into the final weekend of the season eight points clear of teammate Logan Sargeant, but the advantage evaporated after he finished 16th in Race 1 of the final round – each event consists of two races – in Italy.
Level on points with his teammate as the final race of the season got underway, a seventh place finish was enough for Piastri to seal the championship as Sargeant crashed out.
The Alpine reserve driver believes clinching the title was a pivotal moment in his still young career.
Piastri remained with Prema Racing in 2021 but switched to Formula 2
He clinched the title again at the first time of asking, winning six races overall
‘Coming out of that as champion was definitely a moment that has made me,’ he said last year.
‘I can still improve and handle that even better, though. But being able to do enough to come out victorious both times [in Formula 3 and the previous season in the Renault Eurocup series] has been a real confidence boost.’
Promoted to Formula 2 to replace the Formula One-bound Mick Schumacher, Piastri wasted no time to find his feet in the new series.
A win in the second sprint race on his debut in Bahrain was followed by five more victories and a further five podium finishes in eight rounds – each of them consisting of three races – as Piastri comfortably took the title.
Piastri has already got a taste of a Formula One car by driving for Alpine during testing sessions last year and ahead of the current season
By doing so, he became only the sixth driver after Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Hulkenberg, Charles Leclerc and George Russell to win the Formula 2 title in his debut season.
Hamilton, Hulkenberg, Leclerc and Russell are the only drivers along with Piastri to win the Formula 3 and Formula 2 titles in consecutive seasons.
His success in both feeder classes did not go unnoticed and the Australian was promoted to reserve driver in Formula One for the 2022 season.
Piastri has already got a taste of a Formula One car by driving for Alpine during testing sessions, but admitted the role of reserve driver was nothing more than a stepping stone towards a place on the grid.
The Australian was promoted as a reserve driver behind Esteban Ocon (left) and Fernando Alonso (middle) for the 2022 Formula One season
Alonso will replace Sebastian Vettel (right) who will leave Aston Martin to retire from F1
‘The reserve driver role is the next step towards my aim for a race seat in 2023, which is very exciting,’ he said in November last year.
‘I’ve proved myself in the junior formulas over the last couple of years and feel like I’m ready for Formula One now.’
Whether that will be in Alpine colours, in the orange of McLaren or in Williams’ blue and white livery remains to be seen, but Piastri appears set to become a mainstay of Formula One in the coming years.
Expect another dose of Aussie grit to come to the grid sooner rather than later.
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