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Renault hails Piastri breakout amid tough academy results

James Pavey

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Saturday 19th December, 2020 - 10:51am

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Oscar Piastri tests the Renault R.S.18 F1 car at Bahrain

Renault has praised Oscar Piastri as its young driver academy’s shining light in 2020 amid a tough year for the Renault Sport Academy drivers.

Piastri clinched the 2020 Formula 3 title at Mugello in September, 12 months after he earned his Renault Sport Academy spot following his Formula Renault Eurocup success.

The Australian will move to Formula 2 in 2021 with the Prema squad, which helped Piastri to his F3 crown.

Following his title breakthrough, Piastri was rewarded with his maiden sampling of Formula 1 machinery, with the 19-year-old driving the R.S.18 at a four-day test in Bahrain in October.

Piastri was joined at the test by fellow academy drivers Guanyu Zhou and Christian Lundgaard, who finished sixth and seventh in the F2 standings.

Chinese driver Zhou later ran in the R.S.20 at the post-season F1 test, with stablemate Fernando Alonso topping the time sheets.

Mia Sharizman, Renault Sport Academy Director, said Piastri was the highlight among the academy’s prospects in an otherwise disappointing year for the Renault juniors, which was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Oscar winning the FIA Formula 3 was an unbelievable achievement and we are very proud of that,” Sharizman said.

“Nevertheless, we hoped for more from Zhou and Christian in FIA Formula 2 and we are somewhat disappointed with the outcome of finishing sixth and seventh in the championship despite some strong performances resulting in wins and podiums.

“Caio (Collet) and Hadrien (David) fell short of their target of winning their respective titles, but as the season evolved, we can see Caio’s potential and development, which is in line with our projection.

“We know all the drivers can do better and they are aware that they will have to be better next year to progress further within the Academy. I know they will.”

Sharizman, who was impressed after the Bahrain test with Piastri’s adaptability to new machinery, suggested the youngster will get more chances to flex his muscle in an F1 car.

The appraisal comes after Piastri consolidated in his maiden F2 test at the Sakhir circuit, where he set the fifth quickest time on the opening day before showing consistency on the second and third days.

“I was happy to see that we were able to execute the F1 Test Programme for our Academy Drivers perfectly, considering there were so many limitations and restrictions in staging them due to the pandemic,” Sharizman said.

“Zhou and Christian have benefitted this year immensely in their on-going F1 preparation.

“This year they have been joined by Oscar who had his first experience with F1 machinery.

“It was a reward for winning the FIA F3 Championship and it was richly deserved. He performed well and I am confident there will be more opportunities for Oscar in the future.”

Renault F1 team boss Cyril Abiteboul was also impressed with Piastri’s progress, which remained on an upward trend despite the limitations of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Renault Sport Academy was set-up with the purpose of developing young drivers through the single-seater ladder with the objective to place Academy drivers in Formula 1 race seats,” Abiteboul explained.

“While we’re closer to meeting that goal, 2020 was a difficult year for everyone with the COVID-19 pandemic, so for our young drivers to complete their racing season is a testament to not only the programme but to all the championships, organisers and promoters who have made it possible.

“There were some tremendous moments for all, not least for Oscar who won the FIA Formula 3 Championship as a rookie on the Formula 1 support card.

“In between the races we continued to conduct Formula 1 testing, which is a huge credit to our race support team who were able to deliver these valuable tests for our young drivers.

“We finished the season with tests for Zhou, Christian and Oscar with Zhou also taking part in the post-Abu Dhabi test in the R.S.20 to further underline our commitment to the project.

“We look forward to next year and further developing our young talent.”

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