Piastri: F1 debut ‘feels more and more real’

Oscar Piastri says his F1 debut "feels more and more real"

Oscar Piastri says his F1 debut “feels more and more real”

Oscar Piastri is beginning to come to terms with the fact he will make his F1 debut with McLaren this season.

McLaren today unveiled its 2023 Formula 1 car, dubbed the MCL60, which Piastri will race alongside Lando Norris.

The young Australian is one of the sport’s most highly credentialled juniors, having won three successive championships en route to Formula 1.

However, after winning the Formula 2 Championship in 2021, he was forced to sit on the sidelines at Alpine throughout last season.

An ugly squabble then broke out mid-year over his services for 2023 with the outcome being that the 21-year-old was free to join McLaren.

He joins the Woking-based operation in place of countryman Daniel Ricciardo, who left the team after two difficult campaigns.

Piastri s since had two outings for the team, one in an older-spec car at Paul Ricard ahead of the Abu Dhabi finale last year, and then at the post-season test in Yas Marina aboard the 2022-spec MCL36.

He is now little more than a week away from pre-season testing in Bahrain, where he’ll have just 1.5 days of running in the car before his first grand prix on March 5.

“It feels more and more real, definitely,” Piastri said when asked by Speedcafe.com if his F1 dream felt real.

“I think today’s obviously a big day, launching the new car.

“Today’s a big step in terms of it feeling more like reality, but I think it’ll fully sink in once I get out there for testing in Bahrain.”

Next month’s Bahrain Grand Prix will mark the first competitive outing since the middle of December 2021.

He banked significant mileage aboard a 2021-spec Alpine through the first half of the last season to keep himself sharp, but then had limited opportunities from mid-year.

“Obviously, as a racing driver, I want to be racing all the time,” Piastri said.

“So taking a year, or having a year with without racing, was obviously not ideal.

“I tried to make the most of what I had last year trying to learn as much as I could about, I guess, the F1 environment outside of the driving and also trying to learn as much as I could, where I could.

“I think I learned some things that I wouldn’t necessarily have learned elsewhere last year, but definitely I’m looking forward to getting stuck in again and going racing.”

Pre-season testing in Bahrain runs from February 23-25, followed by the opening round of the year from March 3-5.

The Formula 1 circus then heads to Saudi Arabia for Round 2 on March 16-19 before venturing to Piastri’s hometown for the Australian Grand Prix from March 30-April 2.

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