Brundle: Piastri must be on 2023 F1 grid for his own sanity

Oscar Piastri

It’s critical that Oscar Piastri is on the Formula 1 grid next season for his own sake as much as keeping himself current in the eyes of the sport, according to Martin Brundle.

The 21-year-old is this year serving as Alpine’s reserve driver, supporting Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon over a grand prix weekend.

He’s also completing a testing programme with a 2021-spec car, which saw him in action in Qatar last month.

Piastri is one of the most highly-rated youngsters of recent times, having won the Formula Renault, Formula 3 and Formula 2 titles in consecutive seasons.

Part of the Alpine academy, he was unable to find a berth on the 2022 Formula 1 grid despite his incredible run of success in the junior formulae.

“His results speak for themselves,” Brundle told Speedcafe.com when asked about Piastri’s reputation and prospects.

“He’s a bright lad, he’s personable, Alpine are pushing him forward nicely. I know he’s doing a lot of testing quietly as well, so he looks like the real deal.

“And having Mark and Ann [Webber] in your camp is no bad thing.

“But you never really know until the spotlight’s on. The spotlight, you’re either like a sunflower and you grow ever taller, or you wilt like a different plant under that pressure.

“My guess is he’s going to be just fine. And he’s got the speed to go with it, a bit like a George Russell.

“He’s got the touch, and he’s got the confidence, but I don’t think you can ever be nailed on until you get in there and have to do it.”

Even now, Piastri faces an uncertain future, with Ocon on a long-term deal with Alpine and Alonso having made known his desire to continue beyond his current deal.

Logically, he would slot into the seat currently occupied by the Spaniard, though that relies on the team opting for the youngster over a two-time world champion.

Elsewhere, options are limited as Alpine has no customer teams with which he could be easily farmed out.

The drive at Haas in the wake of Nikita Mazepin’s axing was never considered, while he’s not in a position to compete with Guanyu Zhou’s financial backing at Alfa Romeo Sauber.

There’s potential at Williams, indeed there is chatter on that front, but the Grove-based squad is aligned with Mercedes.

It therefore makes little sense to sign Piastri and develop him only to lose him to Alpine in the future.

The other risk is that by sitting out another year, the chances of making it onto the Formula 1 grid lengthen, reasons Brundle.

“It’ll be difficult because there’ll be another tranche of youngsters coming along,” the racer turned commentator admitted if Piastri doesn’t find a seat for 2023.

“I don’t think it’s game over.

“I see Alpine using him hard. He’s doing a lot of testing, so I think that’s helping him because I see I lot of broken kids who spent their lives, most of their conscious lives at a racetrack winning, and suddenly they’re spectators.

“Some of the reserve drivers, they get out of there on a Saturday night the moment it’s clear that the regulations say they can’t get in the car, after quali, they get out of there – I haven’t seen Oscar do that – because it was breaking them.

“It’d be interesting what Alpine do on that,” Brundle added of Piastri’s fate being somewhat interwoven with Alonso’s.

“But in any event, Oscar has to jump in any Formula 1 car he gets a chance to drive because you’ve got to be in it.

“Two years out, and I think for his own sanity it would be too much.

“But you know as we saw with Mark [Webber] and Fernando [Alonso], they outperformed the Minardi. Senna outperformed a Toleman; you can get in and look good.

“Daniel [Ricciardo], in an HRT wasn’t it, for example… you can outperform your car and shine.

“You don’t have to be winning. So they’ve got to get him on the grid whatever happens next year.”

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