Oscar Piastri warned not to commit career ‘suicide’ by joining ‘team-mate killer’

Michelle Foster
Oscar Piastri on the press conference couch with Max Verstappen. Belgium July 2023

McLaren driver Oscar Piastri on the press conference couch with Max Verstappen. Belgium July 2023

Oscar Piastri has been told not to aspire to a Red Bull race seat alongside Max Verstappen, not because he’s not worthy of a race-winning drive but because it’s career “suicide”.

Unstoppable in the junior ranks as he grabbed one title after another from 2019 to 2021 in first the Formula Renault Eurocup, then Formula 3, and finally Formula 2, Piastri joined Alpine and was handed a reserve driver role for the 2022 season.

What happened next was the saga of the season with Alpine losing Fernando Alonso for 2023, announcing Piastri, the driver saying that’s not happening, and Alpine, Piastri, and McLaren going before F1’s Contract Recognition Board to resolve the matter.

Tom Coronel is impressed with ‘really amazing’ Oscar Piastri

The Board ruled in McLaren’s favour with Piastri partnering Lando Norris this season, a decision that Dutch racing driver and pundit Tom Coronel admits he initially thought was a mistake given McLaren’s woes.

But with the team getting it right with their upgrades for the MCL60 to become arguably the most-improved team of the year, Piastri now has one front-row grid slot and one sprint podium, and he also led his first F1 laps at Spa.

“It’s not normal, really amazing what he shows,” Coronel told Motorsport.com. “Became champion immediately in his first year in Formula 3, immediately champion during his first year in Formula 2, and then you think there is a lot of rust because he hasn’t driven for a year… But none of that.

“At the start of the season I thought for a moment ‘Oh boy young boy, you really made the worst choice of your life’. Everything went so well in the junior classes and then you go to McLaren.

“But yes, four months later he drives the stars from heaven and pips Lando Norris, who is seen as top-five material in Formula 1, just for fun. Because that’s basically what he did. Then it’s very simple: all due respect.”

Coronel is impressed, to the point he believes “yes, it now appears” that Piastri has more natural talent than Norris.

But he is quick to downplay the future World Champion predictions that have been bandied about by others, after all, “there was a time when we also had a Trulli and also a Fisichella as future World Champions so it doesn’t say much.

“You have to keep making the right choices. People quickly say ‘You have to be lucky’, but that is often not complete luck. If you look at Max at Red Bull, he hasn’t been really lucky.”

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Speaking of Verstappen, Helmut Marko recently stated he could see Norris joining the Dutchman at Red Bull when his McLaren contract expires putting the Briton, at least in today’s F1, in the best car on the grid.

It’s a dream for all drivers to race for wins and World titles, raising the question should Piastri aspire to join Verstappen at Red Bull, who has the daunting nickname of the ‘team-mate killer’.

“He should not do that,” Coronel said, before going on to call it career “suicide.

“It usually is. You shouldn’t want to sit next to Max. I understand that you can’t say no if you get that chance, but you shouldn’t really want it for your own career.”

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