1996 Formula 1 World Champion Damon Hill believes that Oscar Piastri might be starting to regret his decision to abandon Alpine for a seat with McLaren this year.
Piastri sent shockwaves through the Formula 1 world midway through last season when he declined Alpine’s admission that he would be racing for the team in 2023.
Instead, the Australian proceeded to successfully negotiate a switch to replace his countryman Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren.
However, while Alpine brought home both cars inside the points in Saudi Arabia, McLaren and Piastri are yet to register a top-10 finish in the opening two races.
Hill has suggested that the contrasting fortunes of the two midfield sides could prompt an element of doubt inside the head of Piastri, although also going as far as to admit that being paired up alongside Lando Norris could provide some personal benefits.
“So yes, maybe he does regret that, but on the other hand, he is now competing against the highly rated Lando,” Hill argued via Motorsport.com.
“It’s a strange thing in our sport, that as a driver you are judged on your performance against your teammate.
“You can be in a less competitive car, but all you need is to be faster than a man who some say is a future World Champion.”
Piastri will tackle the proposition of his first-ever home event this weekend and is likely to face the extremity of added pressure on his shoulders to deliver upon his return.
But Hill is confident that the rookie will rise to the occasion, citing that his manager, Mark Webber, will be able to draw on his own personal experiences to aid the youngster.
“He will get a lot of attention, it will be a question of whether it distracts him,” he stated. “He does not come across to me as someone who gets easily distracted by the peripheral issues in Formula 1.
“He seems to be a very sharp and focused racer. Mark Webber will give him all the tips on how to handle his home race.”
Experienced journalist Peter Windsor has also admitted his astonishment that Piastri chose to make his F1 bow with McLaren over a more competitive Alpine outfit.
“You’ve got to say Alpine are not doing a bad job, Mr Piastri,” Windsor said via his Twitch channel recently.
“This is the guy that turned down the Alpine race drive and chose McLaren – and of course McLaren will get better and, who knows, four years down the road Piastri might be World Champion in a McLaren.
“That could well happen. He’s got the talent; he’s got the pace – no doubt about that.
“But the significant point is that he actually said no to Alpine and yes to McLaren and that’s one of the most astonishing decisions ever taken by a young driver who’d never started a grand prix I’ve ever heard of or seen in my life,” he added.
However, ex-F1 champion Alan Jones has thrown his support around Piastri ahead of his maiden home outing and believes he has the potential to become the next Australian driver to become World Champion.
“Everything he has ever put his bum in, he has won and there are not too many people that can say that,” the 1980 title winner told the Herald Sun.
“He has certainly got the ability to go on and be a world champion.”
“He has had a little bit of bad luck, none of which was his doing.”
“But he has certainly shown the sort of performances that we expected that he would, particularly the last one [the Saudi Arabia GP], I thought he drove particularly well.
“He hasn’t driven anything for 12 months, so to come in after a 12-month lay-off and then go to Formula 1 and go to circuits he has never been to before, it’s a bit of a steep learning curve for him.”
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