Former F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone has identified Oscar Piastri as a potential future World Champion after an impressive debut season with McLaren in 2023.
Having arrived at McLaren from Alpine in controversial circumstances, former F2 and F3 title winner Piastri excelled in his rookie F1 campaign last year.
The Australian took just three races to register his first points at his home race in Melbourne, later coming to the fore when McLaren’s impressive mid-season progress saw the team emerge as the most consistent threat to the dominant Red Bull outfit.
Bernie Ecclestone tips Oscar Piastri for F1 stardom
After qualifying inside the top four at consecutive races in Britain and Hungary, Piastri posted a time just 0.008 away from World Champion Max Verstappen in a rain-affected sprint shootout session at Spa.
The 22-year-old went on to outqualify established team-mate Lando Norris on his very first visit to the challenging Suzuka circuit in Japan, holding third place to secure his first F1 podium finish the following day.
Piastri followed that result with second place in Qatar, where he also won the sprint race from pole position – holding off a charging Verstappen – after Norris made a mistake and ran wide at the final corner of his SQ3 lap.
The youngster rounded off his first season with McLaren by qualifying an impressive third at the finale in Abu Dhabi as Norris made another error in the closing seconds of qualifying.
Those performances have convinced Ecclestone that McLaren have a star of their future on their hands, tipping Piastri for title success in the years to come.
He told German publication Bild: “Young Australian Oscar Piastri, at 22 years old, impresses me the most. He will surely be a champion.”
Ecclestone’s comments come after Ralf Schumacher, the former Williams driver and brother of seven-time World Champion Michael, tipped Norris as the driver to potentially take the fight to Verstappen in 2024.
Schumacher also expressed his admiration for Piastri, but stressed the need for the Australian to up his pace in race conditions in his second season having lagged behind Norris over longer stints in 2023.
Appearing on the Formula For Success podcast, he said: “McLaren could be possible [contenders].
“I have to say I’m a big fan of Oscar. The only thing is he seems still to be a bit weak in racing [conditions]. I think his qualifying performance is amazing, he never makes a mistake and he’s always there. So that’s great.
“And Lando is an amazing racer, but maybe sometimes he wants a bit too much in qualifying. And he could be the one I think to challenge Max if the car [is good enough].”