Piastri reveals mid-race panic en route to F3 crown

Oscar Piastri pic: FIA Formula 3 Facebook

Oscar Piastri has revealed the moment of mid-race panic when he thought he was about to lose the FIA Formula 3 Championship.

The 19-year-old Australian claimed the title in Mugello last weekend following a nail-biting finale which saw three drivers in contention for the crown.

His nearest, Logan Sargeant, crashed out on the opening lap while Theo Pourchaire raced his way onto the podium.

That left Pourchaire with a total of 161 points for the year, while Piastri entered the final race with 160.

It meant the Renault Sport Academy driver needed to finish ninth or better to confirm himself of the crown.

As it was, he ended the race seventh to move his tally on to 164 points.

“It’s kind of a bit hard to believe that it’s all over already, we only started the season 11 weeks ago,” Piastri told Speedcafe.com.

“I’m definitely happy about it, but yeah, I think sort of the magnitude of what I’ve achieved is still sinking in.

“Obviously, all the support from back home and in general has been pretty crazy to see.

“I think it’s just with more time that this is going to sink in even more.”

The Victorian-native opened his Formula 3 campaign with victory in Austria, and claimed another in a reverse grid race in Spain.

However, a retirement in the Sprint race at Monza and an 11th place result in the opening race of the weekend in Mugello meant he was tied on points with his Prema Racing team-mate Sargeant ahead of Sunday’s finale.

That challenge came to nothing, however, as the American crashed out on the opening lap.

“I saw him pretty much as soon as I got back to the truck,” Piastri said.

“I’m sure he probably didn’t want to hear too many words and he just wanted to be by himself.”

“I just said, ‘I’m so sorry for you, man’.

“I would have loved if we had been able to have a straight fight for the title, but yeah unfortunately stuff like that happens in the world of motor sport.”

Sargeant’s race ended in an incident at Turn 2 on the opening lap which triggered the Safety Car.

Running behind his team-mate on the road, Piastri admitted he wasn’t immediately aware of what had happened.

“I didn’t actually know that Logan was out until the Safety Car came out,” he confessed.

“I was actually counting the positions, counting where I was, and then I couldn’t see another Prema car in front of me.

“I couldn’t believe that Logan was out literally in the first 15, 20 seconds of the race.

“Once that happened, I knew obviously that he couldn’t challenge, so my focus went onto basically trying to hold my position or try and counter the points that Theo was going to get.”

For the most part that saw him run towards the bottom of the top 10, though there was a moment of panic late in the race.

“I actually forgot what position I was in a few laps from the end, and thought what I was about to lose the championship,” he said.

“I had a bit of a panic and then realised I was actually a spot higher than I was, so that calmed me down a little bit.

“It was just a crazy, crazy race; I don’t think I’ve ever really experienced anything like that ever before.”

Nine-time grand prix winner Mark Webber, who took on the role of managing his young countryman at the start of the year, admitted to Speedcafe.com that he was left impressed by Piastri’s mental fortitude throughout 2020.

It’s an aspect the youngster believes he learned most about as he reflected on the campaign.

“I learned a lot about how important being mentally resilient is,” Piastri admitted.

“This year was extremely challenging for various different reasons.

“Obviously, the short season and the compactness of it meant you had to be fresh in a physical sense and a mental sense as well; you couldn’t let any bad moments bring you down.

“So (I) probably learnt the importance of being mentally strong. I think that’s the main thing to come away with.”

While the title itself will stand as a highlight, there were other key moments during the year which Piastri says will stay with him for some time.

“Obviously, the first win in Austria is definitely going to stay with me for a long, long time,” he said.

“(I) Couldn’t have started off any better, and then the win in Barcelona was… I used to feel a bit guilty about getting a win in a reverse grid race, but I think from fifth on the grid I sort of showed that I earned that one a bit more than I guess you would normally feel in a reverse grid race.

“Then from 15th to 3rd in Monza, I think that was probably one of the best drives of my career.

“Those three definitely stand out the most and then everything in between was pretty much being consistent and making sure I was getting points on the board more often than not.”

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