Oscar Piastri’s rise and rise in Formula 2 this season has been impressive. Problem is, if he wins the title he may be out of a drive next year and may have to opt as a reserve for a Formula 1 team in 2022.
Racing is littered with stories of greatly talented young drivers not making it into F1, simply because there are only 20 seats available on the grid, for far too many suitors, which means the best do not always rise to the top because money is sweeter than cream in motorsport.
Furthermore, only one seat remains available on the F1 grid for next year, as most of teams have confirmed their line-ups.
That open cockpit is with Alfa Romeo, who signed Valtteri Bottas to replace retiring Kimi Raikkonen, and word is Antonio Giovinazzi will not be driving an F1 car in 2022. However, there are some well backed drivers also hankering for that seat including the likes of Guanyu Zhou, with big sponsorship at his disposal, as well as Mercedes backed Nyck de Vries.
Piastri is under no illusions when he told Wide World of Sports: “I’m not really in the frame at Alfa Romeo, to be blunt. I don’t think it’s going to be me. I don’t really know much about it, which is a fair indication that I’m not really in contention.
“Being with Alpine, there’s no engine link with Alfa Romeo at all, so it’s not a conventional route to that seat. I’d be very happily surprised if I got the drive, but I’m not confident.”
Piastri, at 20, has ticked all the boxes in his career thus far, winning the 2019 Renault Eurocup, the 2020 FIA Formula 3 Championship, and leading this year’s Formula 2 championship, with nine points-scoring rounds remaining; three races at Sochi up next during the Russian Grand Prix weekend.
Again Piastri remains realistic: “Regardless of where I finish this year it doesn’t look like I’ll be on the F1 grid next year, but if I have three championships in three years on my resume, well that looks pretty good.
“It would be very satisfying and it should prove that I can bring plenty to the table for an F1 team in the future. It’s a bit of an unfortunate situation, but I’m not the first one it’s happened to and I won’t be the last. But it’s a bit annoying.”
As for 2022, little is finalised for the Australian: “There hasn’t been any discussion about next year just yet, but looking at how things have unfolded I think the most realistic option is try to win F2 this year and then become the reserve driver for an F1 team next year.
“The logical step would be to get the reserve driver role at Alpine, and then obviously target an F1 seat in 2023. If I do have to spend 2022 out of the sport, I’d be reasonably OK with that, but if it looked like two years out there’d be some pretty heavy discussions about the best way forward. Two years out is certainly not ideal, and if it got to that stage, we’d have to look at our options.”
Meanwhile, he has the no small task of actually winning this year’s F2 title, where Zhou lies second in the championship to Piastri who leads by 15 points.
“I’m certainly not going to tank the F2 championship just so I can race again next year,” insisted Piastri. “That would be pretty stupid. There are all kinds of things wrong with that idea. What happens next year doesn’t change what I’m trying to do this year.”
Mark Webber, who manages Piastri, said of his young charge: “That’s what people are talking about in the F1 paddock with Oscar. He’s actually gone too fast for Alpine, he’s gone up the ladder too quickly. Alpine have already got Ocon and Fernando for 2022.
“It’s been an extraordinary performance for a first-year rookie. We knew he was good, but he’s just absolutely immune to pressure, he’s been able to be there when it counts every weekend,” added Webber, an eight-time Grand Prix winner.