Oscar Piastri called out over 'astounding' move ahead of Australian GP

McLaren have been off the pace and Alpine looking better and better - much to Oscar Piastri's chagrin.

·4-min read
Oscar Piastri.
Oscar Piastri's F1 debut has been dampened by McLaren's struggles off-track. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Oscar Piastri's manoeuvre to switch teams from Alpine to McLaren before he'd driven a single lap in Formula One has been labelled 'astounding' by former F1 team manager and writer Peter Windsor, ahead of the Melbourne-born driver's first Australian Grand Prix. Piastri rose to the F1 ranks thanks to his stellar junior career, in which he won the F3 and F2 championships in back to back years with the support of Alpine.

Piastri will hit the streets around Albert Park in just his third F1 outing, after finishing 15th ahead of Lando Norris in the last round in Saudi Arabia. It's been far from smooth sailing for McLaren, whose start to the season has been a disappointment after high expectations heading into the season.

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McLaren's admission that they missed key off-season development targets, with major upgrades not expected until the Azerbaijan GP later this year, has left them as one of two teams yet to score a point so far this season. It's also left the early returns of Piastri's decision to switch to McLaren last year looking fairly unimpressive - particularly with Alpine having achieved three top 10 finishes already.

Piastri turned his back on the French manufacturer after it seemed unlikely they would give him a seat in 2023, until Fernando Alonso's shock move to Aston Martin opened the door. But by this time, Piastri's move to McLaren was well underway, leading him to publicly reject Alpine's announcement that the seat was his following the two-time world champion's departure.

His move to McLaren ultimately only proceeded following a ruling from the FIA's Contract Review Board. However the significantly stronger early form from Alpine left Windsor pondering on a Twitch stream prior to the Australian GP whether Piastri regretted the move.

"You've got to say Alpine is not doing a bad job, Mr Piastri," Windsor told his Twitch channel. "This is the guy that turned down the Alpine race drive and chose McLaren – and of course, McLaren will get better and, who knows, four years down the road Piastri might be world champion in a McLaren.

"That could well happen. He's got the talent, he's got the pace – no doubt about that. But the significant point is that he actually said no to Alpine and yes to McLaren and that's one of the most astonishing decisions ever taken by a young driver who'd never started a grand prix that I've ever heard of or seen in my life."

McLaren struggles pose interesting proposition for Norris

Windsor also claimed Piastri's camp, which includes his manager and former F1 driver Mark Webber, had been proven wrong about their beliefs regarding Alpine's intentions. Piastri was desperate to get on the grid in 2023, with Alpine likely to have loaned him to another team for the season in the event that they re-signed Alonso.

Instead, with fellow Aussie Daniel Ricciardo on the outer, a deal was struck with McLaren to pair him up with Norris for 2023. Interestingly, Windsor questioned how Norris would react to Alpine's early success.

McLaren's team garage.
McLaren have been off the pace after missing crucial development targets during the off-season. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

"So here's a question," he said. "If Lando Norris was offered an Alpine drive for next year, would he take it?

"That's an interesting one, isn't it? He might think, 'Well, they're not too bad, a breath of fresh air – why not give it a go?'

"He probably wouldn't take it, but he might. He might. Depends who's in the other car, of course. I think he'd probably prefer to have (Esteban) Ocon than (Pierre) Gasly, but both of them are pretty quick."

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