Oscar Piastri insists that he has no regrets over his decision to depart Alpine for McLaren, claiming it was never a choice between the two teams.
The Australian became the centrepiece of the Formula 1 driver market last year when he rejected Alpine’s admission he would be driving for the Anglo-French outfit in 2023 in order to finalise a switch to replace Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren.
McLaren has since endured its worst start to a season in 23 years, scoring no points in either of the opening two rounds.
Meanwhile, Alpine emerged as the leading midfield contender in Saudi Arabia to bring both cars home inside the points.
Despite contrasting starts to the year for the two midfield rival outfits, Piastri has revealed that it never came down to choosing between Alpine and McLaren for a 2023 F1 drive.
“I think for me it was never really a decision of the two teams,” he recalled.
“It never really came down to that. The rest of the details are obviously very out there and been on rinse and repeat a lot, but, for me, it was clear I wanted to join McLaren with the amount of passion they showed to having me in the team, which was a massive, massive factor in that.
“So I don’t really view it in that same light. But obviously, I’m very focused on where I am now and trying to help the team to move forward and get back to where we want to be.”
Having switched its development focus midway through the winter McLaren was expecting to face an uphill struggle in the opening rounds.
The opening race in Bahrain witnessed both cars succumb to mechanical trouble on Sunday, but a promising qualifying performance by Piastri in Jeddah opened up the possibility of points.
His Saturday exploits were undone by contact on the opening lap with Pierre Gasly, however, which also hampered the sister car’s race as Lando Norris’ front wing collected the ensuing damage.
It has left McLaren as one of only two sides yet to pick up a point in the first two rounds, with the papaya-liveried side sitting last on the basis of its best finish coming from Piastri’s 15th place in the Saudi Grand Prix.
However, the team is cautiously optimistic that it can prop its way up the order with an extensive upgrade package scheduled to come to the Azerbaijan GP in late April.
Piastri is hopeful that it can be the first development step of many throughout 2023 in the team’s bid to recover from its slow start.
“We’re obviously not where we want to be at the moment,” the Australian stated. “And we’ve been very open about that.”
“We’ve got a good development programme in place to try and get ourselves back to where we should be, which is chasing the top three or four teams.
“Obviously to get on the same level as those top three or four teams is difficult, but I think we can probably take inspiration from what Aston Martin has been able to do over the winter and try and energise ourselves with it is possible to make that jump with a lot of hard work.
“So yeah, I think obviously we want to try and get back, we’ll see what these new developments in Baku bring for us, but obviously it’s going to be a step in what is a multi-step plan for us this year.”
Although he slipped back seven places from his starting position, there were positives for Piastri to take from his second race weekend as a McLaren driver.
The ex-Formula 2 champion reached the chequered flag in an F1 race for the first time and beat his team-mate in both qualifying and the race.
It marked an improvement on a disappointing debut weekend in Bahrain, where Piastri suffered an exit from the first part of qualifying before completing only 12 laps on Sunday.
While the end results were not what he had been hoping for, McLaren team boss Andrea Stella and CEO Zak Brown expressed their happiness with how Piastri had conducted himself over the course of his maiden F1 weekend outing.
Asked about receiving words of encouragement from his bosses, Piastri disclosed his satisfaction at the support he’s received from the team since his arrival.
“It’s always nice, especially from those two very high up in the team, and ultimately especially Zak was one of the main people who got me to McLaren,” he said.
“So to have that trust and support from him and Andrea is super important, and I think they’ve been a very good source of support for me throughout my brief time so far at McLaren, and I think they’ve been very encouraging.
“Also realistic that there is gonna be a time of adaptation to working with a new team, being in F1 for the first time, and also having not raced for some time,” he continued.
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