Thursday, April 15, 2021

The next two years are ‘everything’ for Oscar Piastri, says Mark Webber

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Rising Australian Star Oscar Piastri is in line for further Formula 1 testing with the Alpine team, as he prepares to make his F2 debut this weekend in Bahrain.

Fresh off last year’s F3 title, the Melbourne teenager replaced a new Haas F1 driver Mick Schumacher in last year’s championship-winning F2 car, and Piastri’s own promotion to F1 could come as early as next season.

He has already tested a Formula 1 car, after driving the 2018 Renault car in Bahrain last year, and the 19-year-old admits there may be new chances to get behind the wheel this year.

“If my results are good and I know what to do, then yes there are opportunities in F1,” said Piastri.

“There aren’t any set in stone at the moment, but I know there are chances for me to drive F1 again, provided my results are good enough.

“I hope there will be a few more F1 outings this year.”

Piastri’s manager, Mark Webber, nine-time Grand Prix winner, followed a similar path, testing for Benetton in 2001 while driving in the F3000 class (at the time, the equivalent of F2), before making his F1 debut with Minardi in 2002.

He says that while Piastri will be focusing on the F2 championship with his Prema team, the extra time in the Alpine F1 car is essential, although switching between them is not as easy as it seems.

“They can do all the simulation work in the world, but it’s only once you get in an F1 car that you realize how fast it is,” Webber told Wide World of Sports .

“Going between the two is something that needs to be handled with care, and Alpine and Prema are aware of that, they are looking to marry both programs as best they can. It is important to have time in the F1 car. , but his F2 campaign is also important.

“It’s like a first serve or a second serve in tennis. F1 is like facing a first serve all the time.”

Drawing on his own experience of stepping back a level after experiencing an F1 car, Webber says it’s important for Piastri not to be distracted by the prospect of being in F1.

“When I drove the F3000 after driving in F1 it was very disappointing to be in the category below, after having tasted F1,” he explained.

“But it’s something you have to do, you have to get a feel for what an F1 car looks like. And that’s what F1 should be, it’s so far from itself, it’s is why the respect for cars is so high, and the lap times are so fast. “

Piastri enters F2 after two consecutive winning seasons, having won the Formula Renault Eurocup title in 2019, followed by the F3 championship in 2020.

That’s why many think it’s only a matter of time before he follows Webber and Daniel Ricciardo in Formula One.

“Oscar’s rise has been phenomenal, winning championships the past two years,” said Webber.

“This year in F2 is the biggest step of his career, he knows it and he can’t wait to be there.”

Piastri is a member of the Alpine Academy, which aims to develop young drivers to race for the team in Formula 1.

Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon are the team’s drivers for 2021, but Webber says Piastri is well and truly on the radar for seasons to come.

“He’s smarter than Daniel and I put together, I can guarantee that, even if that doesn’t mean much!” he joked.

“He’s such a brilliant guy, and he’s very astute behind the wheel. I hope it’s a clean and sweet season for him, Alpine really loves him, and this relationship is just getting stronger and stronger.”

“Alpine knows they’re on a good thing with him, he’s a great asset and they’re investing in him. They want to position him to be ready to go.”

Webber explained that one of Piastri’s strengths is his ability to adapt to big teams and higher expectations, as he moves up the ranks in motorsport.

“The more pressure and resources you put around him, he thrives,” he said.

“Some riders in the junior categories do well, but when you put more people around them they break down. Oscar has already shown that he can use resources well, he’s not intimidated by that.

“He’s got a lot to his side, he’s definitely the most exciting prospect on the radar.”

Piastri knows he cannot rest on his laurels. Many have reached F2, never taking the final step towards F1. But as Webber explains, simply reaching F1 is not the goal.

“Oscar knows the next two or three years are everything,” he explained.

“Look at (McLaren driver) Lando Norris, he’s entering his third F1 season and he’s in the most pressurized situation of his career. That’s F1, it’s constantly testing you, whether it’s your first year, your third year or whatever.

“So many scenarios are thrown at you. To use the mountaineering analogy, the air gets thinner as you get closer to the front of the grid. Even being at the back of the grid is huge, and the middle of the grid is something, but to hang around the front, the top two, week after week, only amazing guys can operate there.

“Oscar knows all of this, and he builds the foundation very well. He’s very savvy, very quick, and we’re very excited about his future, and I hope everyone who follows motorsport in Australia is just as well. enthusiastic. “

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