Alonso’s future plans key to Piastri’s hopes of F1 debut – Budkowski

2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Oscar Piastri’s extension of his Formula 2 points lead in Jeddah qualifying has only increased speculation about his future, despite Alpine already confirming the Australian as their reserve driver for 2022.

The rookie claimed his fourth consecutive feature race pole on Friday evening and was asked in the press conference afterwards whether the pressure on him to win the title has decreased since learning he will be Alpine’s F1 reserve driver next year. The championship leader now has a 40-point buffer between himself and his closest rival, future Alfa Romeo driver Guanyu Zhou, going into the final six races.

“I think the pressure release is more from not getting constantly asked what I’m doing next year,” Piastri joked to the media at Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

“I knew before Sochi that things were lining up for next year anyway. So whilst I didn’t let you guys know that, I more or less knew what was happening for a long time. Now that it’s all out of the way, I think our timing of the announcement, before F2 restarted, was no coincidence, to answer everybody’s questions.

“Now I can fully focus on F2, I don’t think our approach has changed. Our qualifying results haven’t changed. I’m always quite relaxed. But now that I know what I’m doing for next year, it of course takes some more pressure off for this year.”

Piastri’s strong form – he ended the session five places and four tenths of a second ahead of fellow Alpine junior Zhou – has only increased pressure on Alpine to find him a future F1 seat after 2022. However it remains to be seen whether a seat at Alpine will be available then.

If Piastri becomes F2 champion, the series’ regulations prohibit his returning in 2022. Now Piastri is confirmed as Alpine’s 2022 reserve, he shall not be returning to F2 regardless, with his future now in the team’s hands.

Esteban Ocon has already extended his deal to drive for the team until 2024. Team mate Fernando Alonso recently returned to the podium with the team in Qatar and is evaluating extending his current contract into 2023.

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Alpine executive director Marcin Budkowski said Alonso’s future will therefore have a bearing on when Piastri gets the chance to make his F1 debut, and who it is likely to be with.

“Let’s see next year first,” said Budkowski. “If the car is quick and Fernando is happy, then we’ll have one type of discussion. If that’s not the case, then we’ll have a different type of discussion.

“But certainly we have a great talent with Oscar in the wings. And if there’s no seats available at Alpine, I’m sure we’ll find a solution for him to drive a F1 car and stay in the Alpine family.”

Budkowski stressed that Piastri will have many opportunities to gain experience in an F1 car after the end of the F2 season.

“Oscar’s announcement, beyond being an announcement that he will be a reserve driver, comes with an awful lot of other things,” Budkowski explained.

“Oscar is going to be very involved in the development in the simulator. He’s already doing some of this, but not as much as we’d like because we see he’s racing in F2 and he still needs to win the championship this year.

“But he’s going to be doing a lot of development work, a lot of simulator work. Spending time in the factory very close with the engineers. He’s going to do quite a lot of track time as well. He’s going to run in Abu Dhabi for the post-season test this year.”

With the introduction of a new rule requiring teams to run rookie drivers in free practice sessions next year, there is already a plan for Piastri to take part in those – an opportunity to compare him directly against Alonso – with Budkowski claiming that there will be “a bespoke testing programme for him in F1 cars to make sure he really, really ramps up.

“We’ll develop Oscar a lot beyond just taking him to races and having him as a third driver,” concluded Budkowski.

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2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Author information

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...
Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching Photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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21 comments on “Alonso’s future plans key to Piastri’s hopes of F1 debut – Budkowski”

  1. Unfortunately no new teams will join the grid for the 2022 season, as the first choice of them probably would be Piastri, arguably the best driver without a Formula 1 seat.

  2. Well he said in the F1 podcast he plans on staying for longer than his current contract. And seeing how he’s performing, I’d not blame him if he wishes to continue!

    Better start looking for a mid term alternative for Oscar

  3. Can someone clarify Piastri vs Porchaire status? Who is the better driver ? Which one is the one that has won F4-F3-F2 championships in a row ?

    1. @joac21 – Piastri, Pourchaire came in second in F3. Now Piastri is leading F2, Pourchaire is in top 5 I think.

    2. Piastri, at the moment, must be consider better than Pourchaire because of the results, but Piastri is 20 and Pourchaire is just 18.

      I hope they will have the chance to race in F1 in the future, it’a pitty that we have drivers who are clearly not good enough in the F1 and so much talent has been denied an opportunity. Anyway, that’s how the business works

    3. @joac21 Piastri is the better driver, but Pourchaire is 2 years younger and could potentially have a higher ceiling. But if I was a team boss, I’d much rather have Piastri in my driver academy, as potential is merely potential until it is fulfilled. We could potentially see Pourchaire never really hit the heights expected of him, like how Shwartzman hasn’t really kicked on from the first half of his season in F2 2020, or Lundgaard hasn’t shown the pace he did last year.

    4. @joac21 I’m not sure how @mashiat can say with certainty than Piastri is better. Being a Prema driver in F2 and F3 has definitely helped Piastri a lot, and his career pre-2019 was good but not great. Pourchaire was junior champ in French F4 (ineligible for the main series because he was too young), won ADAC F4 beating stiff competition from Hauger and Leclerc, nearly beat the Prema hegemony in F3 last year, and relegated Lundgaard to the dreaded no 2 status at ART this year.

      1. @wsrgo Dominating F2 is reason enough to ascertain that Piastri is better than Pourchaire right now. ART has won 2 of the previous 3 seasons in F2 prior to this season, so it’s not exactly some team that has no knowledge of winning titles.

    5. @joac21 Théo Pourchaire (French) is an exciting talent that keeps improving but he needs another year in F2 before F1. I’m very hopeful that someone will grab him for 2023. He turned 18 years old in August this year. He won F4 in ’19, was F3 runner-up in ’20 and currently is 5th in the standings in F2 with 6 races to go. I can see him finishing higher than that – even 2nd. But it’s clear that rushing him into F1 for ’22 would have been too early and possible damaging. He’s part of the Sauber Junior Team, so maybe Alfa will drop Bottas after 1 year to get Pourchaire in for ’23. I know I would.

    6. Piastri has won it all to date in his rookie seasons.

  4. Paul’s F1 fix
    3rd December 2021, 21:31

    Hopefully Piasti will get lots of testing next year, it is also a shame that Alpine or Renault couldn’t help setup Andretti F1 to get into the sport. Renault get a partner and Andretti gets some helping getting in to the grid.

  5. Piastri might consider indycar. It is a damning indictment on f1 that there is so much average talent on the grid.

    1. Agreed, dirvers like Ocon go round every year without showing much, id pick Piastri over Ocon

    2. I think this is the strongest grid we’ve ever seen in F1. The midfield alone consists of drivers like Leclerc, Sainz, Norris, Ricciardo, Alonso, Ocon, Gasly, Vettel, Russell, Raikkonen etc. All of these drivers are more than capable of winning on their day (or have won titles), which you can’t say for the midfield drivers of a decade ago or even further than that. Name one motorsport series in the world that doesn’t have someone with the talent level of a Mazepin or Latifi.

  6. Ocon is beaten by an old racer with no future in F1 and who has been out of F1 for two years. It seems they should be thinking about firing Ocon. Who loses two years in a row to his teammates.

    1. He is their most recent race winner…

    2. Sviat

      Ocon is beaten by an old racer with no future in F1 and who has been out of F1 for two years.

      Old racer with unfinished business in F1 if he gets a half decent car and who has maximised his points lately. As such we conclude that Ocon is doing well.
      But of course your bias and lazy reasoning never let you see things through this perspective. Why bother to look after performance levels if it’s easier to confirm your “impressions” despite lack of evidence? You’ve contradicted yourself talking about Alonso quite a few times already, one more wouldn’t make difference.

  7. I would say that more hinges on Ocon’s performances than Alonso’s. If Ocon does really well next year and beats Alonso, that may force Fernando into retirement and Oscar take his seat. On the other hand, if Ocon gets smashed by Alonso, Fernando could continue and Esteban get dropped for Piastri.
    If the latter happens, Alpine would be left with a dilemma of who replaces Alonso if he retires after 2023 (which seems most likely with his recent comments).
    With what Piastri has shown this season, Alpine need to be careful with him, as if he doesn’t get promoted to F1 in 2023 there probably could be a risk that they lose him to other teams. Mercedes will need someone to replace Hamilton in 3-4 years. We don’t know how long Seb may continue with Aston. Red Bull/AlphaTauri will have a gap to fill if Gasly leaves, Tsunoda doesn’t improve and the likes of Lawson, Vips and Hauger can’t put up a championship challenge in F2.
    Alpine have some very important decisions to make.

  8. I don’t know why drivers go for non racing gigs in hope of F1.

    Just look at what happened to other drivers who spent anyear working in thr simulator following F2 championship?

    F1 needs 3 cars per team, drivers now have long lasting careers and it is very hard for newcomers to get a decent seat.

  9. I really feel sorry for Piastri who cant get a seat because zhou(who qualified 6th and was half a second behind pole Pitastri in a spec series for the Saudi F2 race!!) brings €100s millions ccp backed pay driver money and a 40 year old washed up driver is using politics to horde a Renault/alpine/enstone seat to satisfy his ego.

    This is why F1 is a disgusting corrupt sport sometimes when a guy with a perfect dream record winning F3 in rookie season and looks to win F2 in his first season cant get his foot into f1 due to money and politics. Liberty and the FIA need to overhaul the super licence and F3/F2 ladder to prioritize champions entering into f1 over mediocre but rich state backed drivers..

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