Oscar Piastri’s career with the McLaren squad has already begun, according to a report in French media.
The 2021 Formula 2 Champion, who will race for McLaren in 2023 as a replacement for Daniel Ricciardo after the latter’s contract was bought out, took part in two days of private testing at Paul Ricard last week.
That’s according to the well-connected French publication AutoHebdo, who revealed Piastri drove a previous-spec McLaren F1 car on Wednesday and Thursday at the circuit in the south of France.
AutoHebdo report Piastri drove on a short variation of the circuit on Wednesday, before running the full course for some wet-weather running on Thursday.
No official communication regarding this test has been released by McLaren just yet.
Oscar Piastri now free to join McLaren?
The Australian’s contract situation with Alpine and McLaren, in which both teams fought for his services for 2023, ended up going before F1’s Contract Recognition Board.
Unfortunately for Alpine, who believed they had promoted their Academy driver to a full-time race seat for ’23 in place of Fernando Alonso, the CRB ruled in McLaren’s favour.
Piastri had been Alpine’s favoured driver for the required junior driver running in FP1 sessions this season but, after a bout of mud-slinging in the media during and after the contract fight, the Enstone-based squad have turned to Jack Doohan for those sessions instead.
It hasn’t been clear what Piastri’s position with Alpine has been in the months since the contract squabble kicked off, with team boss Otmar Szafnauer only willing to reveal Piastri was working at base on simulator duties – there was no confirmation of whether Piastri would make a further appearance for Alpine before leaving for McLaren, or whether Alpine would release Piastri early to allow him to begin work with his new team.
Piastri’s reported test for McLaren, in which he appeared in a race suit with the McLaren sponsors covered up, would suggest some sort of agreement has been reached between Alpine and McLaren to allow the Australian to join his new team a few weeks ahead of his official contract end – a somewhat surprising development given the nature of the contract dispute over him.