Oscar Piastri’s move to McLaren was certainly not a simple one, as his former employers Alpine clearly believed that their contract with the Australian tied him down to racing for the team in 2023.
The French team were rocked when their academy driver publicly rejected their race seat in favour of replacing Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren and launched a legal case against the 21-year-old.
A hearing with the Contract Recognition Board saw Alpine’s worst fear realised, as it was deemed that Piastri was free to sign for McLaren despite having a young driver contract with Alpine.
The Australian has been heavily criticised by Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer but has kept a low profile amidst all the drama, sensibly leaving the legal teams to do the talking.
With his move to McLaren confirmed, Piastri might have a lump in his throat when thinking about the daunting challenge of matching Lando Norris that awaits him, something that his fellow countryman Daniel Ricciardo failed to do.
Norris outscored Ricciardo by 85 points in 2022 as the young Brit continued to prove himself as one of the stars of the future, even beating both Alpine drivers who had looked consistently impressive all year.
McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown has suggested that there is no reason why Piastri cannot live up to the expectations set by Norris, claiming that he is also going to be part of the future of F1.
“I think he’s going to be a future star,” Brown told Motorsport.com.
“I think what’s important is that we understand he’s not raced for the year. We don’t have a lot of testing. I wish there was more pre-season testing, not just for Oscar, just in general. He is effectively going to get a day and a half, which is not a lot.
“I think he’s going to be competitive and push Lando, we just need to give him time to get into the team. He is a very serious individual. And he’s ready to go.”
It will be interesting to see how Lando Norris adapts to the new dynamic at McLaren this year, as for the first time in his career he will be the senior driver, having been paired with Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz in the past.