Oscar Piastri, Alpine, Losail International Circuit, 2021

Piastri not interested in racing elsewhere during “year on the sidelines”

2021 F1 season

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Oscar Piastri isn’t looking for a race drive elsewhere in 2022 as he intends to prioritise being available in case he gets the opportunity to make his Formula 1 debut.

The Formula 2 points leader will not graduate to F1 next year as Guanyu Zhou has already landed the final place on the grid with Alfa Romeo. Alpine announced earlier this month that Piastri will serve as their official reserve driver in 2022.

Piastri admitted he “would have much preferred to go straight to a race seat” than spend “a year on the sidelines”. However, with Alpine retaining Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon for 2022, and the team having no engine customers to place a junior driver with, Piastri was left without a route onto the F1 grid.

However he expects to have several opportunities to test for the team again in 2022 and could make his race debut if the opportunity arises.

“Of course, as a racing driver, I want to be racing,” he said. “But we’re putting together a pretty extensive testing programme so I will at least be driving reasonably frequently.

“Okay, it’s not going to be racing, but if it’s going to be any kind of distraction and mean I missed out on any of opportunities with Alpine in the F1 paddock, then it doesn’t interest me to be honest. As weird as this is to say I’d rather not go racing and be fully focussed on my reserve driver role with the aim of trying to get to F1 in the near future, than sort of be dabbling everywhere else and taking a bit of my focus off getting to F1.”

The speed of Piastri’s ascent appears to have taken himself and his team by surprise. He is poised to clinch the F2 title as a rookie after winning consecutive championships in Formula Renault Eurocup and FIA Formula 3 over the previous two years.

“I’ve surprised myself and probably a lot of people with how well it’s gone,” he said. “I think F3, going into it with Prema, obviously there was quite a bit of expectation because they’ve been so dominant. So I kind of knew and with the people that I was racing against in F3, whilst I came in as a rookie, the second-year drivers were mostly people I’ve driven with before. So in that respect I was probably more confident that I could do that in one year.

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“But F2 has by far exceeded my expectations, to be honest. I was definitely expecting it to be more of a two-year deal. But it’s clearly turned out a lot better than expected and I’m happy.”

Piastri goes into this weekend’s triple-header F2 round at Jeddah Corniche Circuit with a 36-point lead over Zhou and a chance to clinch the title. He has secured pole position for each of the last three feature races, which he believes has been key to his successful 2021 campaign.

“Qualifying definitely been the biggest improvement from last year, obviously,” he said. “I think the results show that as well.

“I don’t really know what changed to make that improvement, I didn’t really feel like I did anything massively different on my side. The team and I have just worked really well together from the beginning.

“I guess in some ways in F3 with Prema, because the car was already so good, it was more or less just up to me to drive it well. So I think in F2 because the set-up window is probably a bit smaller and I would say Prema is not quite as dominant in F2 compared to F3 – obviously we’re still very strong – but I guess it’s put more of my focus on putting everything together and helped my understanding of the car a lot more.

“So I actually feel much more comfortable with my understanding of the F2 car than I ever did in F3. I think knowing what I need from the car to be quick has helped a lot, just my general understanding of the car has really helped in F2 compared to F3 and I think that’s where the big turn-around is.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
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14 comments on “Piastri not interested in racing elsewhere during “year on the sidelines””

  1. Ocon is lucky to have a seat.

    1. Nay, he was unlucky to ever not have a seat.

    2. @peartree, I agree. Ocon out, Piastri in, please.

  2. Seems like a smart kid, and quick. Hope to see him in a seat soon

  3. The last two rounds of F2 are at the same last two rounds of F1.

    Now that Zhou is confirmed at Alpha Romeo, there will be more viewers and extra pressure on him to perform at these races and justify his seat.

    1. “pressure on him to perform at these races and justify his seat” ?? what difference does it make at this stage? Its clear to anyone who has followed him that he does not ‘justify’ his seat and if he dnf’s or wins in the multiple Saudi F2 races it shouldn’t change anyone’s perception of him. Zhou is ok but mediocre journeyman, 6 seasons in top F3/F2 teams yet no titles. Piastri won F3 in debut and odds on to win F2 in his rookie season also. Zhou is state backed by ccp money so guaranteed a F1 seat for life or as long as xi’s regime is in power at the very least.

      I am frustrated because Piastri who might be the next Lewis Hamilton but has no seat because alfa couldn’t turn down Zhou’s near infinite CCP backed pay driver sponsorship money and the billions worth of ‘free’ brand awareness in the huge mainland china market so they can sell more Alfa Romeo suvs…
      This isn’t he first or last time this happens in F1 as shown by
      Pastor Maldonado who was also a forgettable NPC driver in F1 backed by the state in the form of Hugo Chavez via PDVSA who wanted a flag carrier for propaganda purposes to sportswash and nation brand in attempt to improve the nations image and perception global scale .

      It still stinks and is a joke when more talented drivers with multiple titles cant get a F1 seat because someone less talented who brings €30m a year state backed money plus 10s millions worth of sponsors gets it instead.

  4. Probably the best thing Oscar can do in 2022 is spend as much time as available in the car at testing etc, and live in the simulator helping develop and fine tune the Alpine car.
    It seems to me that the young batch of drivers that are currently showing so much on track (Verstappen, Norris, Russell. Leclerc etc.) spend a lot of time either in the corporate sim or on their private ones to the exclusion of pretty much anything else and that shows on track.
    His time will come – either because Alonso calls time on his career or Ocon doesn’t rise to the next level. Far better to be patient at Alpine than to end up in a seat that’s going nowhere.

    1. Is Alpine really a seat that is going somewhere?
      Perhaps 2023 he could replace the current Aussie …

      1. Alot better than going to Alfa Romeo like the golden goose Zhou

  5. Get the F2 championship won first laddie…then start worrying about next year. The job is 90% done, but you could still loose that title.

  6. AUSSIE!!! AUSSIE!!! AUSSIE!!!
    Alpine had better come good for him in ’23!!!

  7. How is it beneficial to a racing driver to not race?
    Like Alex Albon is now an internal Red Bull vlogger, that really can’t be beneficial for one’s racing career.

    You’d expect like with any sport you need to stay in a rhythm and keep sharp.
    You don’t do that waiting around to hopefully drive an f1 car 1 day of the year.

  8. Just retire the car when Piastri is in a position where he would win the title. Lose the title, enter F2 for a second year. Money lost by not winning is chipped in by Alpine. There. Fixed* it for Alpine.

  9. Marinated Monolith (@)
    30th November 2021, 16:54

    I would’ve thought that Giovinazzi, whose career was pretty much sidelined by Ferrari in favor of Leclerc, would serve as a cautionary tale for these young drivers.

    Spending a year on the sideline without so much a guarantee for the year after could very well knock the momentum out of Piastri. And with Victor Martins putting out an impressive rookie campaign with MP in F3 this year, there’s always a risk of his place in the Alpine’s pecking order being overtaken by another driver, just like with Gio.

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