Australia's Oscar Piastri says he is "super-excited" to be kick-starting his Formula One career, after being officially announced as the man to replace Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren next season.
Piastri has loomed as the most wanted man in F1, with current team Alpine locked in an ugly legal battle with McLaren after insisting that the Aussie had a contract to drive with them next year.
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McLaren won its contract battle with French rivals Alpine on Friday, enabling the team to announce Piastri as the man to replace Ricciardo in 2023.
— Oscar Piastri (@OscarPiastri) September 2, 2022
The reigning Formula Two champion Piastri, who's managed by former Australian F1 star Mark Webber, had gone public during the contract battle over his determination to join McLaren.
He had been Alpine's reserve driver but said he didn't want to take up the place vacated by Fernando Alonso next season.
Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer had been confident of retaining him but after the dispute went before F1's Contract Recognition Board this week, the four-person tribunal ruled McLaren had an existing contract in place.
"The only contract to be recognised by the board is the contract between McLaren Racing Limited and Mr Piastri dated 4 July 2022," governing body FIA said in a statement on Friday.
"Mr Piastri is entitled to drive for McLaren Racing Limited for the 2023 and 2024 seasons."
The July 4 date that the FIA referenced is curious in that it was just one day after the British Grand Prix and nine days before Ricciardo pledged his commitment to the team.
Ricciardo admits he was not aware any such deal had been struck between McLaren and Piastri before publicly committing to the F1 team.
“To be honest, on the date, that’s the first I’ve heard,” Ricciardo told Sky Italy on free practice day for the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort.
“I’m not aware of obviously timelines and this and that, what the team is discussing.
“To be honest, already, let’s say before that date, let’s say months, we were already discussing, not my future, but of course where we can improve to try to have a better future with the team.
“So I’m aware there was going to be talks ongoing. In terms of timelines, I guess what the team does, let’s say preparing Oscar, that’s not also my business in terms of what they spoke this or that.
“If that’s the case, then so be it. It’s not really my decision to make.”
Ricciardo's name has been linked with what is now a vacant seat at Alpine in 2023, with the French team accepting the FIA's ruling on Piastri.
Alpine had been enraged by Piastri's stance, with Szafnauer saying last week he wished the youngster "had a bit more integrity".
But on Friday, the Victorian thanked the team for the backing they had long given him.
"I've been racing for 12 years and this was my dream from the very beginning," he said.
"So I just want to thank everybody who supported me throughout my journey, including my colleagues at Alpine for the past few years."
Oscar Piastri and McLaren relishing partnership
Piastri added on social media that he was "super-excited to be joining the grid and with such a prestigious team like McLaren."
"I have no doubt it's a great place to start my career. It's been a long road up until this point."
McLaren's team principal Andreas Seidl welcomed the Australian, saying: "Oscar has an impressive racing career to date, and we are sure that together with Lando, he will be able to help us move another step forward towards our ambitions."
Indeed, Piastri has a remarkable motorsport resume already, having won the 2019 Formula Renault Eurocup before going on to win the 2020 Formula Three title and last year's Formula Two crown in successive rookie seasons.
"The team has a long tradition of giving young talent a chance, and I'm looking forward to working hard alongside Lando (British teammate Lando Norris) to push the team towards the front of the grid," said Piastri.
"I'm focused on preparing for my F1 debut in 2023 and starting my F1 career in papaya."
McLaren CEO Zak Brown hailed Piastri as "one of the up-and-coming talents" and said he could form a potent, youthful combination with Norris, who has had six podium finishes by the age of 22.
"In Lando and Oscar we have a young, exciting F1 line-up with a huge amount of potential, standing us in good stead to achieve our future ambitions," Brown said.
"Oscar is an exciting addition to the McLaren family, and we look forward to seeing him grow with our F1 team."
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