McLaren CEO Zak Brown says he’s impressed by the way Oscar Piastri handled his contract saga during the 2022 Formula 1 season.
Shortly after Fernando Alonso confirmed that he would be joining Aston Martin for 2023, Alpine announced Piastri as his replacement for the following year.
However, it soon became clear that the Australian had worked out a deal with McLaren, with his future going before the Contract Recognition Board, who ruled in favour of the Woking-based squad.
Alpine questioned Piastri’s loyalty after the matter was finalised, as he had been part of the team’s junior academy for several years.
But Brown commended Piastri’s manner throughout the situation amid a series of “inaccurate accusations” that were sent his way.
“My experience with Oscar started in the middle of last year,” Brown said.
“I’m glad things were netted out that showed he was completely within his right to come join McLaren in a unanimous decision.
“I was very impressed with how he handled himself, as a 21-year-old under that amount of public pressure and unfair and inaccurate accusations, it could be quite difficult on a 21-year-old, for that matter, anyone.
“I thought the way that he conducted himself throughout that whole process showed me how mature and focused and calm he is.
“Since then, that’s what I’ve continued to see, a driver that’s very focused on racing. We talked to him about ‘what are you doing on New Year’s?’
“It’s ‘I’m just chilling out, thinking about racing’, which is what you want to hear. He’s a very focused, calm individual.”
Piastri made his on-track debut with McLaren at the end of the 2022 season, taking part in the post-season test with the team.
He will be back behind the wheel later this week during pre-season testing, which takes place from the Bahrain International Circuit.
Andrea Stella, who has been promoted to the Team Principal role for the upcoming year, mirrored Brown’s comments regarding Piastri.
“A characteristic that we like a lot is a man of few words, but the right words,” he said. “That’s become very apparent and certainly focused and also demanding.
“I think this characteristic you can see already. The focus goes into being demanding to the team, and this will certainly help raise the standards.
“Conversations about the previous team, to be honest, yes you try to go into some details.
“But they were actually quite general conversations and in reality, we didn’t find anything that you didn’t know already. Very early we switched onto the future rather than the past.”
There’s no doubt: the pressure is on Piastri
Piastri is the most highly anticipated rookie in several years, arguably since Max Verstappen’s startling debut in 2015, when he was just 17 years of age.
Aside from his stellar junior career that has no doubt justifies his spot on the F1 grid, Piastri’s status was highlighted when there were two teams fighting over him – before he even took part in an official F1 session.
There will be a mountain of pressure on his shoulders from those looking on to see how he performs, and it may not be such an easy task to perform strongly alongside Lando Norris.
Norris dismantled Daniel Ricciardo last year, who prior to joining McLaren, was regarded as one of the best in the business.
Exceptions will be made in the short term for Piastri given he’s a rookie and he’s been out of a race seat since the end of the 2021 campaign.
But soon, Piastri will be forced to answer the question of if he is a worthy F1 driver – and if the fuss that was made during his pre-career over his services was worth all the effort.
Leave a Reply