McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown says the signing of Formula 1 rookie Oscar Piastri is a risk the team is willing to take for the reward of on-track success.
Piastri had a positive first outing with McLaren as a full-time F1 driver, joining new teammate Lando Norris in the annual post-season test at the Yas Marina Circuit on Tuesday (AEDT).
The 21-year-old completed 123 laps – more than twice the race distance of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – despite stopping briefly after a power unit protection mode was triggered.
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Piastri joins the grid with great expectations having achieved three of the sport’s minor titles, including the 2019 Formula Eurocup, the 2020 Formula 3 championship and last year’s Formula 2 series.
However, the Melburnian had previously only ever driven open-wheel single-seater cars made before the overhaul of F1’s technical regulations for the 2022 season.
Piastri replaces countryman Daniel Ricciardo in the McLaren team.
Ricciardo was paid out by McLaren with one year remaining on his three-year contract to make room for Piastri at the Woking-based team.
While McLaren’s choice to swap out an eight-time race winner with a youngster yet to make his F1 debut has been heavily debated, Brown believes it’s a carefully considered decision.
“Everything in Formula 1 is a calculated risk, but we’re quite optimistic,” he told Speedcafe.com.
“So we’re going to just be head down and give [Piastri] 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’s character was heavily criticised by his former team principal after he infamously rejected a full-time drive with Alpine for 2023.
Associated with Alpine as a junior since 2019, it was presumed that Piastri would be promoted to the grid to replace Fernando Alonso at the French team next season.
However in August, Piastri sensationally rejected the team’s announcement as Alonso’s successor before signing with McLaren.
With Alpine claiming Piastri under contract, the matter was eventually settled in court where the Contract Review Board (CRB) ultimately ruled in McLaren’s favour – exposing repeated errors in the contract process.
As a result of the mismanagement, Alpine has since sacked its director of legal affairs Benedicte Mercer.
“I think people just need to get to know [him]. We don’t want to manufacture who he is or his personality,” Brown said.
“I think it’s been unfortunate, the accusations thrown his way from Otmar [Szafnauer] and Alpine.
“The truth is starting to come out in that sense.”
Having now come out the other end of the contract saga, Brown backs the loyalty and integrity of his new driver and, while more reserved than the man he replaces, hopes Piastri’s personality and talent steals the show.
“We just need to not put pressure on trying to manufacture something, let him speak for himself, let his on-track results speak for himself,” he said.
“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 ‘Oscar’.
“Let’s just [let] Oscar be Oscar and let his results, who he is, speak for itself in time.”
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