Former F1 driver urges Australian fans to be ‘realistic with Oscar Piastri’ ahead of first home race

Michelle Foster
Oscar Piastri is handed his steering wheel. Saudi Arabia March 2023

Oscar Piastri in the McLaren MCL60 is handed his steering wheel. Saudi Arabia March 2023

Lining up on the Australian Grand Prix grid for the first time as a Formula 1 driver, Damon Hill says fans need to be “realistic” about Oscar Piastri’s chances in Sunday’s race.

As for the driver’s side, the 1996 World Champion has cautioned him not to “exhaust” himself with all the demands on his time.

This weekend’s Australian Grand Prix will see a new Aussie on the grid with Piastri having replaced Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren.

It’s an incredible moment for the 21-year-old, but one that can take a toll with his predecessor once blaming his list of PR commitments for a disappointing Australian GP.

“I’m just drained,” Ricciardo said after the 2019 race. “I just try to please everyone this week and don’t look after myself.”

Hill has warned Piastri against suffering the same fate.

“It can be exhausting,” the 1996 World Champion told AAP. “The trick is not to exhaust yourself before you get to the race.” recommends

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Piastri is potentially facing another obstacle in balancing expectations against reality with fans wanting to see him excel.

That won’t be easy given the current state of play at McLaren where neither driver scored a single point in the first two races leaving the team at the bottom of the log.

“It was quite overwhelming really, the attention,” Hill continued. “It’s nice, people cheering for you. But if you don’t deliver it can be quite hard to take.

“I had some great memories of racing at Silverstone in front of my home crowd.

“But expectation, that can always be a little bit of a pressure.

“People have to be realistic with Oscar. Most of the race fans know the score.

“McLaren have got some issues. They’re not looking really where we expected to see them and so that is a big disappointment.

“When you were looking at last season you would say McLaren were a team that were going to be knocking on the door of the top 10.

“So they have got some work to do at the moment.”

As for Piastri, he says he “can’t wait” to get out there on Friday and put in his first laps around the Albert Park circuit.

“It’s great to be heading to Melbourne for my home grand prix,” he enthused. “I grew up in the suburbs of the city and it is a special feeling to be returning as an F1 driver.

“It’s set to be a fantastic atmosphere and I can’t wait to get there and be a part of it. I’m really looking forward to seeing all of the home crowd and all of the papaya fans.

“This will be the first time that I’ve raced at Albert Park and I’m sure it will be an experience that I remember. The weather is usually changeable here so it could be an interesting one.”