Australian youngster Oscar Piastri has recently been signed by Renault as part of its Academy programme, a path that could lead him to Formula 1.
Following his announcement Speedcafe.com caught up with him to chat about the opportunity which puts him in pole position when it comes to following in the footsteps of Daniel Ricciardo.
Speedcafe.com: What does being part of this program mean to you and your family and supporters?
Oscar Piastri: Obviously, racing is very expensive, as we all know, so financial support from Renault is very helpful and, like I said before, the contacts that they have and obviously the academy itself with the training they provide, the physical support at the races, mental support and obviously performance-based targets as well.
So in terms of taking pressure off, obviously I haven’t achieved my goal yet of Formula 1, so just feel some pressure to get there. But, like I said, Renault support is definitely very much appreciated and will hopefully make my journey there a little bit easier.
Speedcafe.com: Motorsport is a high pressure, results-are-all-that-matters sort of game. Does that game get turned up a notch this year given that you’re now working with Renault? Is there more pressure?
Piastri: Well, I think obviously Renault have set me targets that I need to achieve, so in that regard, yep, I suppose there is a little bit more pressure, but those targets would probably be the same regardless of whether I was in a program or not. And to be honest with you, if I want to get to F1, which I certainly do, then I definitely need to be getting the… well, I need to be getting the results that Renault have set me to be on my way to F1 regardless of the academy.
Speedcafe.com: There’s a lot of history and success in, I guess, the team and the company that you’re joining. What does that all mean to you, and what sort of feeling does that give you knowing that?
Piastri: Obviously Renault have had quite a bit of success in the past and you definitely feel that when you get to the factory. You’ve got all the winning trophies spread throughout the factory and some of the championship winning cars as well, so to join Renault and all their history, obviously I’m sure they’re not quite where they would like to be at the moment in F1, but obviously I’m hoping that they can get back to the front, and I don’t see why they can’t. So yeah, it’s a real honour to be able to join the Renault Sport Academy and hopefully I can bring another bout of success.
Speedcafe.com: How big is the step up this year driving FIA Formula 3 versus Formula Renault?
Piastri: Well, Formula 3, you start being on the same weekends as F1, so you’ve got all the big names watching you, competing on a very big stage with a very competitive field. I think throughout the motor sport community, F3’s probably regarded as the most competitive championship out there. So I think compared to Formula Renault, it’s going to be another competitive step once again.
Obviously quite a few of the drivers in F3 are the same people I’ve raced against in the past, so there shouldn’t be too many new contenders that I haven’t faced before, but I think in terms of the car, obviously you’ve got more power, more aero.
Speedcafe.com: Being with Renault, obviously there is a very distinct link to Formula 1 given that they have a team. Does this make the path easier?
Piastri: Obviously Renault support is going to be very helpful along the way to F1, and it makes the task a little bit easier, obviously, with Renault’s technical support and the contacts within Renault and having, obviously, Daniel and Esteban Ocon there to ask questions and get their feedback on their careers on what they wish they could’ve done differently. But the path is certainly a very twisty one and obviously, like you said, the results need to keep coming in to get to Formula 1. So Renault support is definitely going to help, but it’s certainly not an easy pathway yet.
Speedcafe.com: Is Daniel giving you any help, advice, mentorship, anything like that at all, or is it just a case of “welcome to the family, bro”?
Piastri: I haven’t really spoken to him in too much depth yet. At the moment it’s sort of the “welcome to the family, bro.” But hopefully when I get the chance to have a proper conversation with him, I’ll pick his brain a little bit about his career and the sacrifices he had to make and how his career progressed.
But I’m certainly looking forward to spending time with Daniel in terms of obviously his support from the career side, but also I think we all know he’s a pretty funny guy, so I’m looking forward to having a few good conversations with him.
Speedcafe.com: So what was the simulator like?
Piastri: I think obviously it’s a Formula 1 simulator, so it’s not going to be your usual set-up that you’ve got at home. So yeah, it was a really good experience. Obviously the sim portrayed the speed that you’re carrying pretty well, which actually took me by surprise, took me a few laps to get my head around how quick the corners are actually coming at me, so I think it’s a step up from simulators you use in junior formulas.
But at the end of the day, unfortunately technology is still advancing, so it’s not quite the real thing, but obviously I haven’t driven an F1 car, but from the feedback the engineers gave me in the sim, they believe it’s very accurate. Based on my feedback in the sim, I can’t fault them for believing that it’s accurate because it felt pretty life-like to me. So yeah, it was good.
Speedcafe.com: We’re in a bit of a purple patch when it comes to Australian motorsport. We’ve got Daniel doing good things in Formula 1, and across the world we’ve got other Australians in other categories, and then just behind them we’ve got yourself and Alex Peroni, and then even half a step further back Jack Doohan. Why are Australians suddenly at the forefront of motorsport after sort of 20 years when we didn’t have a whole lot?
Piastri: Well I think obviously we all need to find the backing firstly, and obviously Australia’s got two sort of big struggles. Obviously the first one is distance to Europe and the second one is it’s no secret there’s a bit of a shortage of funding in Australia. So to be honest, I think it’s just coincidental timing that quite a few of us have managed to sort of start forging a career in Europe.
Obviously it’s great for Australian motorsport, and hopefully I can be the one that makes it all the way and maybe we’ll have two Australians on the grid with Daniel, or maybe I will take his place. But I think it’s a great time for Australian motorsport in Europe.