Oscar Piastri ready to take on ‘childhood heroes’ as equals in debut F1 campaign

Henry Valantine
Fernando Alonso grins next to Oscar Piastri. Monaco May 2022.

Fernando Alonso grins while standing next to Oscar Piastri. Monaco May 2022.

Oscar Piastri has spoken of his excitement at being on the grid against drivers he grew up watching in the sport, such as Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton.

Piastri admitted it was “eye-opening” to work alongside double World Champion Alonso at Alpine while he was their reserve driver last year, and both drivers have moved on to pastures new as preparation for the 2023 season ramps up.

The young Australian’s contract saga was one of the main undercurrents of last year’s driver ‘silly season’, with a deal having been signed to replace Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren weeks before Alpine confirmed him as Alonso’s replacement when the Spaniard announced he would be departing for Aston Martin.

But now the dust has settled surrounding that, Piastri, whose year on the sidelines had been preceded by three title-winning seasons in a row, culminating in Formula 2 glory in 2021, is ready to clear away his racing “rust” with his arrival on the Formula 1 grid this year.

And while he will be going up against people he grew up watching on screen when he was younger, he insisted all of his opponents are “just another driver” when the lights go out.

“I think for me, there’s not really like one specific driver,” Piastri told media, including PlanetF1.com, when asked if there was anyone, in particular, he looked up to on the grid.

“I think working alongside Fernando for part of last year was an eye-opening experience, and obviously he was someone that I watched growing up.

“I think Lewis is also another one because I watched his success throughout my junior career. So yeah, it’s going to be pretty special to go up against guys like that.

“But you know, I think as a racing driver, it’s going to be once the helmet goes on, everyone else is just another driver, but definitely it’s going to be pretty cool to race against some of these childhood heroes.”

Oscar Piastri complimented for his mentality ahead of Formula 1 debut

Much of what has been said about the 21-year-old, not least from his new boss in McLaren CEO Zak Brown, is how mature he is for someone making the step up to Formula 1.

He has racked up plenty of testing mileage through Alpine and McLaren respectively, but the real work has already begun on the MCL60 and how it will go about its running in Bahrain in pre-season running in the coming days.

But speaking about Piastri’s mindset as a person, Brown has been complimentary of his new hire throughout the tumultuous process of legal proceedings brought by Alpine.

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“Obviously, his track record through the junior formulas is very, very impressive,” Brown said to media, including PlanetF1.com, at the launch of the new McLaren.

“Very similar to Lando [Norris] in winning the majority of his championships his first time around, which is always a good sign of someone who has extreme talent.

“He is a very serious, focused young man. I spent my first part of getting to know him obviously through the middle of last year and I thought the way he conducted himself in light of what were inappropriate and inaccurate accusations around I guess you’d say his loyalty, which is now proven to be [that] he was fully within his right to look after his career and sign with McLaren. because that would be a lot of pressure to put on a young driver.

“And so I thought the way carried himself, what we’ve seen is that’s how he carries himself in his kind of day-to-day business: very focused, very inquisitive, very calm.”