McLaren concerned about trusting Oscar Piastri

Oscar Piastri looks likely to join McLaren next season.

1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve is excited to see what happens next with Oscar Piastri amid his continued links to McLaren.

The reigning Formula 2 champion turned down a seat with Alpine for next season following Aston Martin’s announcement that Fernando Alonso will be replacing Sebastian Vettel when the German retires.

Piastri continued his relationship with Alpine’s academy having been with them for several years dating back to their Renault guise, and he is currently acting as their test and reserve driver.

It is not yet known whether the French side still intend to run him in any practice sessions between now and the end of the season, but it can likely be said with some certainty that he will not be racing for them in 2023.

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The reason for the rejection of Otmar Szafnauer’s side is reportedly that his manager, Mark Webber, has signed a contract with McLaren to partner Lando Norris next year.

Daniel Ricciardo was contracted to the British side until the end of next year, but it was confirmed on Wednesday that the Australian will leave the team at the end of this season by mutual consent.

This massively strengthens the links between McLaren and Piastri, who could be taken to court by his current employer.

However, it does not appear that the Enstone-based side have any intention of keeping the 21-year-old to his contract, but rather to demand compensation for the investment they have put into his career before he decided to leave.

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Villeneuve has questioned Piastri’s behaviour though, insisting that he is putting a lot of pressure on himself by publicly turning down Alpine to race for McLaren.

“This one is fun to watch because it just surprised everyone, to start like that with that kind of pressure is not easy,” he told Reuters before the Ricciardo announcement was made.

“It brings to your name into question that whenever a team or sponsor will sign a deal with you there will always be this question, umm how will we be treated?

“What will happen when we trust this person? It’s a very dangerous game to play.”

The Canadian referred to drivers like Jolyon Palmer, who won the GP2 championship in 2014, but was sadly never quite able to replicate that form when he signed with Renault in 2016.

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Plenty of others too, such as Marcus Ericsson and Stoffel Vandoorne, have found life in Formula 1 difficult having performed well in the junior series.

But will the same happen with Piastri? Time will tell, but Villeneuve is fascinated.

“There’s F1 and then there is the rest of world and there are so many drivers over the years who have been kings in every other form of racing and winning everything,” added the 51-year-old.

“Then the minute they got to F1 they just couldn’t handle it because it is huge step up both in talent, pressure and mental ability. 

“Piastri has been amazing all the way through but how is he in F1 we don’t know yet, that is the big question.”

Piastri picked up four wins on his way to F2 title success in 2021.