Young Australian star Oscar Piastri is looking to chart his own path in Formula 1

MELBOURNE, Australia — They may both be from Australia and share Italian heritage, but that doesn’t mean Oscar Piastri is knocking on Daniel Ricciardo’s door for race info from the eight-time Formula One winner. 1.

In fact Piastri, the reigning Formula 2 champion and current Alpine reserve driver, says he only speaks with Ricciardo “when we cross paths” and has rarely asked his top compatriot for racing advice, so that the young Melburnian seeks to carve out a place for himself. his own way in the sport.

“We get along well and we talk a little [but] he’s extremely busy, especially this weekend, focusing on his own career,” Piastri told ESPN ahead of the Australian Grand Prix. “I don’t expect him to give me advice or something like that.

“Of course I want to be friends and have a good relationship with him, but that’s motorsport. We’re from the same country, but everyone here in F1 is trying to fight. That’s the beauty of motorsport. , you’re all friends off the track, or most of us are friends off the track, but once the helmet is on, the old saying goes, you don’t have to. ‘friends.”

That’s not to say the couple doesn’t have a healthy relationship. Ricciardo said last month he would “warmly welcome” Piastri as his replacement at McLaren had he not beaten COVID-19 and been fit to race in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

Piastri also told ESPN that Ricciardo is “a big personality for F1 and the way he is on camera is exactly the way he is off camera as well”.

This weekend, Piastri finds himself in the position of experiencing an Australian Grand Prix at home without ever having been able to drive on the track. As Alpine’s reserve driver, he is on standby in case one of the team’s full-time drivers, Fernando Alonso or Esteban Ocon, is unable to compete.

But instead of being overwhelmed with jealousy, Piastri, who celebrated his 21st birthday earlier in the week, is looking at the weekend from a different perspective. He enjoys the electric atmosphere of Albert Park, a weekend when F1 expects to draw 410,000 spectators and break the all-time attendance record for an Australian sporting event.

“Of course, as a racing driver I would love to be on the track, but there are definitely aspects [of 2022] which are going to be beneficial without driving,” Piastri told ESPN. “This weekend is a perfect example, experiencing my first home race without the pressure of having to go out, perform and drive. It’s quite nice, in some ways, to take it all in, get used to it, and know what to expect.

“I got off the plane on Sunday evening and people were waiting there for autographs and photos that I hadn’t really had before. Walking the Melbourne Walk was quite special. I’ve signed autographs before and other things, but not like that and the crazy thing is I’m a reserve pilot, I’m not even a full-time pilot yet, so to have this reception was really, really special.

“I think I would be able to handle the addition of driving now, but I knew when I signed on as a reserve driver that it would be the deal for the year.”

Many expect Piastri, who for the past three years has won Formula Renault Eurocup, Formula 3 and Formula 2 titles, to land a Formula 1 seat for 2023. But until a contract is signed, he seeks to learn and ensure that he is better prepared. for when his chance presents itself.

“In terms of race results, I have them on the board now and I’ve won my championships, so there’s not much to add on that front. Now I’m going to try to fit into the team as much as possible and learn the specific F1 stuff, whether it’s driving and with the car or even just media activities and anything non-driving related,” he said.

“I don’t think taking a year off adds more motivation to come back. I’m certainly not the first person to have spent a year on the sidelines as a reserve, so I don’t feel like been tough at all. If I get to F1 I hope I will be fully focused on trying to do my best every weekend. There’s no point in trying to prove why you would have had to be there the year before because you don’t get anything out of it. It’s just a bad mindset to fall into.