Bernie Ecclestone admits he “can’t” decide if George Russell has what it takes to be a Formula 1 World Champion, but he reckons Oscar Piastri has already shown that he does.
Behind Max Verstappen on the grid, Formula 1 has a swath of drivers wanting their turn to fight for a Drivers’ Championship title.
For Russell, 2023 marks his fifth year on the grid with team boss Toto Wolff saying he believes the Briton has what it takes to succeed.
George Russell or Oscar Piastri?
Russell also believes he’s ready, he just needs Mercedes to give him a car capable of fighting at the sharp end of the grid.
However, in what could yet turn out to be the one race this season not won by Red Bull, Russell made a mistake while battling Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris for the win at the Singapore Grand Prix.
He suffered the anguish of a last-lap crash last when he clipped the outside wall under braking for Turn 7 with his right rear and crashed into the barrier with his race over.
It was a mistake that has Ecclestone wondering if Russell has what it takes.
“I can’t make up my mind about him. I like him. He is super-talented,” he told the Daily Mail.
“It is a matter of what he is prepared to do to win. I don’t think he thinks his race through, something Lewis [Hamilton] does do.”
As such the former F1 supremo says if he was putting together his driver line-up, he’d look to another of the sport’s young stars – Piastri.
The Aussie not only secured his maiden front row grid slot at the Japanese Grand Prix but followed that up with a first podium as he brought his McLaren home in third place.
“If I were a team owner,” Ecclestone continued, “I think I’d get hold of the Australian kid (Piastri). He’s very good.
“But Max is the best I have ever seen.”
Oscar Piastri labelled ‘a super talent’ by former F1 race winner
Piastri made a prolific rise through the junior ranks as the Australian won three titles in three seasons from 2019 to 2021; Formula Renault Eurocup, Formula 3, and then Formula 2.
Joining Alpine as a reserve driver, he found himself in the midst of a contract dispute in mid-2022, one that was ultimately decided by F1’s Contract Recognition Board, who ruled in McLaren’s favour.
His current results prove it was an inspired call from the driver and his manager Mark Webber to knock on McLaren’s door. Also on McLaren’s part for signing him.
Former F1 driver Schumacher told F1 Insider: “He is a super talent. It’s hard enough to even win Formula 3 and Formula 2 championships. Oscar won it in his first year. This is extremely extraordinary.
“He is now doing the same thing in Formula 1. We will hear a lot of positive things from him.”
With Norris on the payroll until the end of 2025 and Piastri having recently extended through to 2026, Schumacher believes “McLaren certainly has the best driver pairing for the future.”