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.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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