Oscar Piastri’s success with Prema leaves ‘slight’ doubt over Formula 1 potential

Oliver Harden
Oscar Piastri testing the McLaren. Abu Dhabi, November 2022.

Oscar Piastri testing the McLaren. Abu Dhabi, November 2022.

A respected Formula 1 observer believes the fact that Oscar Piastri’s commanding success in the junior categories was achieved with Prema leaves a slight doubt over his true potential.

Piastri will make his F1 debut in 2023 having been signed by McLaren to replace fellow Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who was dropped by the team after two disappointing seasons alongside Lando Norris.

The former Alpine protege emerged as a future F1 superstar by winning the Formula 3 and Formula 2 titles in consecutive years in 2020 and 2021, but former Williams and Ferrari team manager Peter Windsor has warned that the Prema’s outfit’s reputation in junior racing is so good that drivers can be made to look above their natural level.

Speaking via his Twitch stream, he said: “I suppose we’ve all got to be excited by Oscar Piastri, only because of what he achieved in Formula 3 and Formula 2.

“He achieved that with Prema, so you always have to have a slight thing there – ‘achieved with Prema’ as distinct from ‘achieved with MP Motorsport or DAMS or Carlin’ because Prema is so good.

“If you are the number one chosen driver at Prema, it’s a good drive to be in.

“So that’s the first thing and, secondly, he’s had the audacity to turn down a full race Alpine Formula 1 drive. I don’t care what anybody says, that’s what he’s done and if you do that you’ve got massive self-confidence.

“And so he’s now in a McLaren and, alongside Lando Norris, I’ll be fascinated to see how he goes.”

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Windsor drew comparisons between Piastri’s path to an F1 seat and that of Ayrton Senna, revealing the legendary Brazilian consciously decided to begin his career with a small team.

He added: “I was lucky enough to be at the 1984 Brazilian Grand Prix, Ayrton Senna’s first Formula 1 race, and followed Ayrton throughout that weekend – even drove with him from the track one day, hung out with him – and he was just brilliant.

“He was absolutely perfect in everything he did: the setup of the Toleman; whenever there was a problem with the car, he was patient, he was calm, he was helping mechanics and he got exactly the right lap time and performance out of the car given where Toleman were on the grid. He was brilliant.

“So I’ve got to say, that is expectance level of Piastri because here’s a guy who said no to Alpine and he’s going with McLaren.

“It’s kind of counterpoint to Ayrton in a way because Ayrton wanted to start with a small team and grow with that team and then, after a year, maybe go to a Lotus or a Williams or wherever, whereas Piastri’s not doing that.

“If he’d gone in as a rookie driver alongside Esteban Ocon at Alpine there’s slightly less focus on him and slightly less pressure than he’s got now at McLaren, where he’s up there alongside Lando Norris having turned down Alpine.

“So he’s putting a massive amount of pressure on himself, which Ayrton Senna never did. But on the assumption that he is the next Ayrton Senna, which is what a lot of people tell us, then it’s going to be interesting to see how he goes.

“And it’s be interesting to see how Lando handles that as well, really interesting.

“Personally, I think Lando is exceptionally good and I think he’ll have no problem at all with Piastri, but given everything that’s happened in the last nine months with Piastri you’ve got to say this guy is unbelievably confident and his own ability to get in there and be an Ayrton Senna because he turned down Alpine.”