Oscar Piastri has ‘not backed the wrong horse’ picking McLaren over Alpine

Thomas Maher
Oscar Piastri in the McLaren garage. Abu Dhabi, November 2022.

Oscar Piastri preparing in the McLaren garage at the Yas Marina Circuit. Abu Dhabi, November 2022.

Sky F1 commentator David Croft believes Oscar Piastri’s choice of McLaren over Alpine won’t backfire on him, even if Alpine have a quicker car in 2023.

Piastri will race for the Woking-based squad for his rookie season in Formula 1, with the Australian taking over the seat vacated by compatriot Daniel Ricciardo in 2023.

Gearing up for his rookie season, Piastri made his first appearance for McLaren at last month’s Young Driver Test in Abu Dhabi, having been released by Alpine for such an occasion.

Piastri and Alpine didn’t have an easy season, with the former Alpine Academy driver burning bridges with the Enstone-based squad after they announced him as Fernando Alonso’s replacement for 2023.

The Australian immediately took to social media to distance himself from the announcement, with Alpine and McLaren having to take the matter before F1’s Contract Recognition Board – the CRB ruling in McLaren’s favour after deliberations over Piastri’s contract situation.

David Croft: McLaren are the better option for Oscar Piastri

With Piastri eschewing Alpine, a works F1 manufacturer that finished ahead of McLaren, a Mercedes customer team, in 2022, the topic of whether the rookie may have hitched his horse to the wrong post came up for discussion on a post-season Sky F1 review debate.

“Piastri hasn’t backed the wrong horse,” David Croft, Sky F1 commentator, is convinced.

“Oscar Piastri, in doing what he and his management did in the summer, decided that Williams were not the option and McLaren were.

“Because they were the two options for him at that time. Fernando leaving [Alpine], they complicated matters somewhat, but the decision had already been made.

“Long-term, I think McLaren are the better option for Oscar Piastri because, if Lando Norris does leave, then he actually becomes that de facto leader.”

David Croft: There’s more potential at McLaren

The Woking-based squad took a step backwards in performance in 2022, the first year of the new regulations, and Croft believes it will take the introduction of McLaren’s new wind tunnel in order to allow them to fight with the likes of Alpine and the front-running teams in the medium-term.

“I think there is more potential with the McLaren team, and the facilities they’ll have when their wind tunnel comes online,” he said of the team that have won eight Constructors’ Championships during their almost 60-year history.

“I think big improvements need to be found. Their wind tunnel doesn’t come online until halfway through the 2023 season.

“Until that wind tunnel is operational and working and correlated properly, McLaren won’t be designing the cars they need to design to beat the likes of Alpine regularly, let alone take on the Mercedes and the Ferraris and the Red Bulls in this world.”

F1 pundit and former racer Karun Chandhok agreed with Croft, as the commentator pondered whether a cultural clash at Alpine between the British and French sides made them a less cohesive outfit than McLaren.

“McLaren didn’t ever have a faster car than Alpine [in 2022],” he said.

“I thought Lando, this year, built on what he did last season. It was another stellar season from Lando. I get the ultimate results were maybe less than last season, but that reflected McLaren’s competitiveness.”

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