Formula 1: Oscar Piastri joins the Alpine F1 team, replacing Fernando Alonso


Mark Webber knows a thing or two about the temperamental world of Formula 1. He lifts the veil on why Australian star Oscar Piastri will have to wait a little longer for an F1 start.

Mark Webber has warned that young Aussie Oscar Piastri will be “dangerous for a lot of guys on the grid” next year when his rising protégé heads for an F1 racing seat.

In what nine-time Grand Prix winner Webber described as a “huge step forward” for Piastri’s goal of a F1 grid position in 2023, the Formula 2 championship leader notched a reserve driver role for the Alpine F1 team next year.

After having dominated the junior categories on the F1 stepladder, Piastri will become the test driver of Alpine and the replacement of Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon.

Webber, who manages Piastri, expected the 20-year-old to confirm to Alpine that he had obtained an “absolute cracker in him” when he graduated from his Academy.

The former Red Bull star has said Piastri is ready for a full-time stint in F1 now if there had not been limited opportunities on the grid for next year.

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But he said Piastri would threaten to go into hiding as a reserve driver in 2022, a year in which new F1 regulations will come into play.

“I think he’s ready now, but the opportunities weren’t quite there,” Webber said.

“Formula 1 can sometimes be extremely delicate. We’ve seen Fernando Alonso go a year away when he was ready, sometimes it’s the siege cycle and how it works.

“We are currently witnessing a fairly heavy commercial phase and sometimes lighter or more important in terms of the composition of the grid … for the moment, it is quite heavy for the drivers who are commercially able to make the difference to obtain seats.

“But it comes and goes and it won’t be like that in the short term after this one because it will be a long year in 2022 for a lot of riders and Oscar is very dangerous for a lot of guys on the grid which is a good thing. thing.”

ALREADY ON THE TRACK

Alpine has already started to evolve Piastri into his new role and he will join the team at the Qatar Grand Prix this weekend before aiming to seal the F2 crown in the final two rounds.

Webber said Piastri’s loyalty was to Alpine – for whom he has been an Academy member since 2020 – as he seeks a seat in F1, but the young gun team will keep their “eyes open” for any reason. opportunity that would present itself for him to secure a place on the grid.

Two-time world champion Alonso, who turns 41 next year, is under contract until the end of next year with Alpine while his French teammate Ocon is linked until the end of 2024.

“Alpine is in a good position, obviously they have a world champion there at Fernando and the contracts in sport are very important, but performance is also essential,” said Webber.

“Obviously Fernando is never short of that, depending on motivation levels.

“Alpine is definitely where Oscar’s loyalties lie and they’ve believed in him from a young age and they really enjoy working with him, so capitalizing on the last move would be nice someday.

“But there’s going to be a lot going on in the sport next year, and between Alpine and all of us, we have our eyes peeled for any opportunities that could arise for Oscar.

“We have to have our eyes wide open and ready to have him on the grid in any way.”

LIVING THE DREAM

Webber said it would have been an “absolute dream” for Piastri to secure a seat in F1 next year, but was convinced his manager’s alpine route would come in handy.

“There has been a seat available this year, a guy has moved (from F2, Chinese Guanyu Zhou to Alfa Romeo) and we know the level of funding that has been around that,” Webber said.

“Timing in sport is crucial as we know and I think we are only looking at the positives of his season now and what we have with Alpine because there are no real negatives in all of that.

“I think in the long run what we’re eliminating is that it will be the right decision for Oscar.

“It’s a huge step forward on the way to its final destination.”

SIGNATURE ON THE DOTTED LINE

Young pistol Oscar Piastri has secured a stint through the Formula 1 ranks as a reserve driver for Alpine next year, bringing Australia closer to two full-time F1 drivers.

In a major step towards Piastri’s goal of joining compatriot Daniel Ricciardo on the F1 grid, the Formula 2 championship leader will become the test driver of the Alpine F1 team and the replacement for Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon .

Piastri’s graduation could open the door to an F1 seat with the French team in 2023 as a potential replacement for two-time world champion Fernando Alonso if the 40-year-old does not continue beyond the end of 2022 when it is at the end of the contract. Ocon is signed until the end of 2024.

There was only one seat left on the F1 grid for next year at Alfa Romeo, but it should go to Piastri’s Chinese F2 rival Guanyu Zhou, who would have significant financial backing.

Alpine chief executive Laurent Rossi said Piastri possessed raw talent and the team would prepare him for the eventuality of an “opportunity” in F1.

The team said Piastri will undergo an extensive testing program in his role as a reserve pilot.

Piastri said he was “super excited” to take his F1 dream one step further.

“I look forward to being much more involved with the team and contributing to their expected success next season,” said Piastri, who is led by former Red Bull star Mark Webber.

“The role of reserve driver is the next step towards my goal of a racing seat in 2023, which is very exciting.

“I have proven myself in junior formulas over the past two years and feel ready for Formula 1 now with the track experience at race weekends, we are going to set up a testing program. substantial in order to continue to develop myself to become even more prepared for a racing seat.

“I am very grateful to Alpine for their support. We have had two very successful seasons together at the Academy and I am grateful for the confidence they have placed in me for this next step towards a greater future.

Piastri has stood out on the F1 stepladder, winning the F3 Championship last year in his first year.

He showed eye-catching form in this year’s F2 season with three wins, seven podiums and three pole positions, which he claimed in three consecutive races.

With two rounds to go in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, Piastri holds a 36-point lead in this year’s F2 championship ahead of Zhou.

If Piastri manages to clinch the F2 title this year, he will join Ferrari’s George Russell and Charles Leclerc as drivers having won back-to-back F3 (GP3) and F2 titles as rookies.

Rossi said Piastri, who joined the Alpine Academy in 2020 after winning the Formula Renault Eurocup title in 2019, had distinguished himself.

“Oscar’s natural talent is evident; We are therefore very proud and privileged to have him on our team as a reserve driver from next year, ”said Rossi.

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“Not only does Oscar have the skills on the track, as has been demonstrated over the past two years in the junior categories, but also the maturity and poise that really sets him apart from the rest.

“The next step will be to attend the Grands Prix regularly to fully integrate into the racing team, to learn what is expected of an F1 driver and to be ready when the opportunity arises. .

“In addition, we look forward to Oscar’s contribution and expertise to move the team forward next year. ”

Piastri said he is now focused on a strong end to the F2 championship with Prema Racing when he returns to the track on December 3.

“I can’t wait to get back in the car and push hard on the track,” said Piastri.

ENDS

rebecca.williams@news.com.au


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