Oscar Piastri admits that competing against racers he idolized as a child can feel intimidating.
“It’s an incredible opportunity to have this as a profession, even though it doesn’t feel like work,” states Oscar Piastri humbly about his experience in Formula One. This Sunday marks his debut at the Mexican Grand Prix, but he approaches the challenge fearlessly. As a 22-year-old rookie in his first season of F1, the Australian driver has exceeded expectations.
After receiving the necessary tools from his team, Piastri showcased the talent and personal qualities that make him stand out as a driver with a bright future. At McLaren, he is already being favorably compared to legendary drivers Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher.
Piastri does not display any feelings of entitlement, unlike some of his older colleagues. He also recognizes that when he initially got into an F1 car, he had to adapt to the new environment and the company he was now a part of.
“It can be intimidating to race against drivers like Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, who have 15-20 years of experience. Growing up watching them on TV adds to the pressure, but it’s also an honor to compete against them. It’s reassuring to know that they are not unbeatable and I can challenge them on the track.”
An impressive aspect of Piastri’s first season is his rapid adaptation, even in the competitive world of champions. This is an accomplishment that he can rightfully take pride in.
He says it was a difficult experience and initially intimidating, but he overcame his fears quickly.
Piastri is thoughtful in his answers and shows a mature and impressive attitude from one so young and still learning the game. His boyish features can switch from a broad smile to a more contemplative aspect as the occasion demands. There is a duality to him that has been noticed by McLaren and may take him far.
Tom Stallard, the ex-Olympic silver medalist in rowing, serves as his race engineer. Stallard has previously collaborated with Jenson Button, Carlos Sainz, and Daniel Ricciardo during his time at McLaren. He stated, “I wouldn’t be entirely shocked if someone had told me at the beginning of the year that he has five years of F1 experience that I just haven’t seen.” He believes that every interaction and action has significance and has not encountered many drivers who possess a combination of serenity and intensity.
Piastri has shown that he is capable of transitioning to F1 confidently, and most importantly, he has proven his ability to adjust to the evolving requirements of the sport with impressive agility.
At the start of the year, McLaren was performing poorly due to not meeting their aerodynamic goals for the new car. This resulted in a disappointing lack of competitiveness until they made significant upgrades during the middle of the season. These upgrades helped stabilize the team and brought them closer to the top of the grid. The upgrades were first used in Austria by Piastri’s teammate, Lando Norris, and then in Silverstone by the Australian driver. As a result, the team has made significant progress.
Norris has achieved six top-three finishes, Piastri earned his inaugural one in Japan and followed it up with another in Qatar. Prior to the Austria race, McLaren was 137 points behind Aston Martin, but they have now overtaken them to secure fourth place in the constructors’ standings.
This change would have been challenging for a seasoned driver, much less a novice, but Piastri has embraced it. The indications were always present, especially after he won the F3 and F2 championships in his first season. During the sprint race qualifications in Belgium, he secured second place, only one-hundredth of a second behind world champion Max Verstappen, in just his 12th race.
There were further developments after that. In Japan, a front row spot was transformed into a first-time podium finish with a third place, followed by an even better performance of a sprint victory and second place in the Qatar Grand Prix. His ability to maintain control and execute with precision in difficult weather conditions showed maturity beyond his years and experience.
Piastri is careful when evaluating accomplishments – not afraid to self-reflect in order to strive for growth, yet wise enough to prevent such evaluations from becoming a downward spiral.
“I wasn’t completely satisfied with my performance in the Japanese race, despite achieving a podium,” he comments. “It’s crucial to distinguish between the outcome and the way you drove. Being self-critical is necessary, but it’s also important not to be too hard on yourself. Acknowledging areas for improvement and taking steps to address them is essential.”
Piastri has been impressing observers with his results and catching the attention of others in the paddock. Team principal Andrea Stella, who has previously worked with Schumacher and Alonso at Ferrari and McLaren, has observed that Piastri possesses qualities similar to those of the two former champions.
“Drivers that have the potential to become world champion need to have a natural speed, which we saw straight away,” he said of the Australian. “Then they need to have the head, the capacity, the capability to use their talent, which Oscar establishes in an interesting way. He keeps his head very clean of disturbances.”
McLaren recognizes the value of their composed yet passionate driver, Piastri. Red Bull’s team leader, Christian Horner, has expressed remorse for not including Piastri in their junior program. Despite facing a legal disagreement with Alpine, where Piastri was previously a junior driver, McLaren has decided to extend his contract until 2026.
Reworded: It’s difficult to argue with Stella’s belief that Piastri has the potential to become a world champion. Currently, Piastri is grateful for the opportunity to race, but it’s clear that he has a strong drive and determination.
“The reason I enjoy racing is because of the competition,” he explains. “Going up against the top drivers and teams in the world is a major aspect of Formula 1 that fuels my passion. Additionally, I am highly competitive and continuously strive for greater success.”