McLaren Team Principal, Andrea Stella, heaped praises on the team’s rookie Oscar Piastri, claiming he reminded him of Formula 1 greats Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso.
Praise couldn’t get any better than this, especially when it comes from a person like Stella who has worked with Schumacher and Alonso previously.
While many may have been surprised by the legal war Zak Brown and McLaren went to with Alpine to secure the services of Piastri, but the young Australian’s performances in his debut F1 season have now explained everything.
He has been impressive in the quiet manner in which he has done his business on track, even his highly-rated teammate Lando Norris admitting he is being kept on his toes by his rookie teammate.
Stella spoke of Piastri, how they evaluated him before hiring him, and how he impressed them even more when he joined the team.
He said: “When McLaren wanted to sign Oscar, we looked at the results in the junior categories. In the early days of the collaboration, we could see that what happened in the junior categories had good reason to happen.
“We could see this in the nature of the speed which is related to the talent – we even saw it on his first day in the simulator, the way he was assessing his own performance and saying ‘this is where I am, this is where I need to improve’, it was matching so well with what we could see from the data and that was quite impressive, it is where I thought ‘this is a gift’,” he explained.
“The self-awareness in relation of how to grab this speed opportunity… this then became apparent at the test and then race by race. We saw the qualities at an attitude level and these are to do with being able to continuously improve.
Talent only doesn’t necessarily take you places
“You may be as talented as I say, I am sure there are people who are as talented that didn’t go anywhere because there was no attitude for improvements. I think we have really good examples on the grid who can keep being extremely competitive at ages we didn’t think would be obvious because of continuous improvements.
“So in this sense, this is a similarity with Fernando,” Stella, who was Alonso’s race engineer at Ferrari claimed.
The McLaren boss then shed light on another aspect of Piastri as a driver; he added: “Then we have the person behind the driver.
“For us it was important that the person we keep on board not only fits our culture but will contribute to establishing the culture even more and potentially adding to the culture, to the values and behaviours that make us become a team of mates.
“In this sense, Oscar, if he wasn’t a Formula 1 driver, I would appreciate him as a person – the values he brings into the sport and the team, in this sense, makes me think about Michael,” the Italian proclaimed.
“Somebody who worked with Michael in this paddock with another team now, he said to me ‘he was so capable of building families’. It was definitely tough on track but within the team, the spirit and sense of unity was nothing short of a sense of family.
“So I think I am referring to natural talent, attitude and culture and values. These things became apparent to us relatively soon and that is why the conversations started soon,” Stella concluded.
Piastri took his first F1 career podium at the 2023 Japanese Grand Prix last weekend, finishing third after starting from second on the grid, on a weekend where he outqualified Norris on a track he has never driven before.
Big Question: Is Oscar Piastri a future Formula 1 World Champion?