Piastri a calculated risk for McLaren
By Mat Coch
Sunday 27th November, 2022 - 6:00am
The signing of Formula 1 rookie Oscar Piastri is a calculated risk for McLaren, Zak Brown has confessed.
The 21-year-old last week made his first official outing as a McLaren driver in the end of season Abu Dhabi Test.
There, he recorded more than 100 laps despite a brief interruption thanks to a power unit sensor issue before fronting the media for the first time in papaya.
Piastri enters Formula 1 as the most highly credentialled junior in a generation, with a track record that surpasses even Lewis Hamilton’s.
He steps into the car vacated by Daniel Ricciardo after a two-year relationship that never gelled the way either side had hoped.
Of course, swapping from an eight-time race winner to a driver who has never started a grand prix is a risk, but it’s a considered gamble.
“Everything in Formula 1 is a calculated risk, but we’re quite optimistic,” Zak Brown, McLaren Racing CEO, told Speedcafe.com.
“So we’re going to just be head down and give him all the support that we think he needs.
“We wouldn’t have made the decision we did if we didn’t have a high degree of confidence he’s going to be successful.”
Piastri is a very different personality to the man he replaces.
While both highly driven and focused, Piastri is more reserved than his extroverted compatriot.
“I think people just need to get to know I don’t think we want to manufacture who he is or his personality,” Brown explained.
“I think it’s been unfortunate, the accusations thrown his way from Otmar [Szafnauer] and Alpine.”
Piastri’s character was drawn into question by his former team boss as the saga surrounding his contract played out.
It saw the matter end up in front of the Contract Recognition Board, which found unanimously in McLaren’s favour.
But while Piastri and his new employer remained silent, Alpine was outspoken on the matter.
Szafnauer questioned the Australian’s loyalty and integrity, implying he’d done the wrong thing.
It has of course transpired that he did not, and he was a free agent when he agreed a deal with McLaren.
Indeed, it was a shrewd move as it landed the rookie a more competitive drive than the Williams loan Alpine had put on the table.
Having come through that saga, Brown is not worried that it has done undue damage to Piastri’s reputation and that his young driver’s personality will soon shine through.
“The truth is starting to come out in that sense,” Brown said, referencing the mud-sligning that occurred during the contract controversy.
“We just need to not put pressure on that trying to manufacture something; let him speak for himself, let his on-track results speak for himself.
“Much like Lando. We didn’t create Lando, Lando created himself as he settled into the sport.
“So I think what we need to do is not put pressure or try and create ‘Here’s Oscar’.
“Let’s just [let] Oscar be Oscar and let his results, who he is, speak for itself in time.”