Oscar Piastri reveals why his respect for Daniel Ricciardo has increased

Oscar Piastri will partner Lando Norris at McLaren next year.

Alpine reserve driver, Oscar Piastri, has revealed that he was considering calling Daniel Ricciardo to smooth out any awkwardness over the 21-year-old taking his compatriot’s seat at McLaren.

Piastri started the year as a test and reserve driver for Alpine, shadowing full-time drivers, Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon.

Team principal, Otmar Szafnauer, was trying to negotiate a deal with the Spaniard that extended beyond the end of this year, but they cited his age as a factor towards only offering him one more season.

They also had the issue of getting Piastri in the car as soon as they could, but that might not have been until 2025.

READ: Alpine reveal their 2023 driver shortlist as they want to avoid ‘another mistake’

According to CEO, Laurent Rossi, the French side wanted to give Piastri to Williams on loan, but he did not want the move, so they had the former Formula 2 champion eagerly pushing to be put into the car by 2024 at the earliest.

Therefore, Alpine were tentative to offer Alonso any more than one season, but because this was a possibility, neither the Spaniard nor Piastri were happy, and they both signed contracts elsewhere.

Piastri signed with McLaren CEO, Zak Brown, in a move that will see Ricciardo released from his contract a year early, while the double world champion will move to Aston Martin in place of the retiring Sebastian Vettel.

Ricciardo has struggled for form since he left Renault at the end of 2020, and his lack of suitability with the McLaren car has proven insurmountable.

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Piastri worked his way into the Woking-based side with the help of his manager, Mark Webber, and the Melbourne-born racer’s move has come at the expense of eight-time race winner Ricciardo.

But the 33-year-old understood that this is all just business, so he called Piastri to make sure that there were no hard feelings, which the youngster greatly appreciated.

“I was planning on getting in touch myself, but with the timing of things, he was obviously at races, quite frankly I didn’t know if he wanted to hear from me,” said Piastri.

“I was trying to think of what to say, but he beat me to it. That was a true professional, my respect for him was already extremely high and it’s only got higher in the way he’s responded.

“Him getting in touch like that, that was great for me personally, knowing that there were no hard feelings. That really helps me quite a lot, and it was good to get in touch.

“It was a nice moment. If I can get close to emulating the success he’s had on track and the character he is off the track, I think I’ll be doing a reasonable job.”

The 21-year-old has also chosen the number 81 for next year, and he elaborated on why that will be on his car.

“So 81 was the number I had in karting, the story of how I got 81 is not particularly interesting, but I’ll explain it anyway,” Piastri elucidated.

“Basically, when I did my first race, I had to pick a number for my first race and the kart shop I went to only had number ones in stock. 

“It had to be a one or two-digit number and I obviously couldn’t be number one for obvious reasons. So I was actually number 11, for my first couple of races.

READ: McLaren make Daniel Ricciardo prediction as his F1 career could end in 6 races

“Then we entered, I think it was the Victorian state titles, and somebody had already entered as number 11. 

“So, I don’t know what inspired me to pick 81, but I changed the first one for a number eight, and it’s stuck ever since.”

Piastri will be Lando Norris’ third team-mate in Formula 1 and, having partnered Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz, this will be the first time the 22-year-old will race alongside a younger driver than him.