Oscar Piastri’s superb performance at the 2023 Qatar Grand Prix in Doha sparked inevitable talk about what the future holds for the Australian driver.
He finished ahead of Max Verstappen in the sprint race on Saturday, before claiming second spot behind the three-time world champion in the main event the following day.
Described as ‘absolutely the real deal’ by Formula 1 commentator David Croft earlier this year, Piastri’s rapid progress has been remarkable to watch.
A quick look at the latest odds for the United States Grand Prix on October 22 highlights how far he has come, with online bookmakers making him third favourite to win the race.
Leading Australian sportsbook PlayUp will likely see plenty of interest in Piastri ahead of the race following his stunning efforts in Qatar. Odds of 12/1 on the McLaren driver to claim top spot on the podium in the US would have been unthinkable at the start of the season.
Juan Pablo Montoya (2001) and Lewis Hamilton (2007) are the only drivers this century to win an F1 race in their rookie season, highlighting the magnitude of Piastri’s achievement in Doha.
The 22-year-old will be eager to add a full race victory to alongside his sprint success, and it would be no surprise to see him achieve the feat before the end of the season.
Respected correspondent and presenter Lawrence Barretto is among the F1 experts who have been waxing lyrical about Piastri in recent weeks.
“As rookie seasons go, Oscar Piastri is knitting together a mighty fine one that delivers on his immense promise,” he told formula1.com.
“One of his great strengths behind the wheel is his speed and commitment through high-speed corners, as displayed at Spa when he dominated the middle sector and had a significant advantage over all the field bar championship leader Max Verstappen.
“McLaren have seen relentless growth in all areas since he joined the team, particularly in terms of one-lap speed. It’s also been noted that Piastri can understand in near real time where he has lost and what he needs to do to improve it.
“That is the skill of champions – and one which has proved invaluable to not only help him get up to speed quickly and prove a match for (Lando) Norris but also help McLaren play catch up in 2023.”
Having won the Formula 3 and Formula 2 titles before stepping up to F1, Piastri’s talent was no secret. McLaren moved quickly to sign him and their decision has been vindicated.
The major question now is whether they can hang on to Piastri. They recently extended his contract until the end of 2026 – a move which gives both parties some security.
However, it is likely to be just a matter of time before Red Bull or Mercedes come calling, and McLaren could find it tough to retain his services if that happened.
Sergio Perez’s contract with Red Bull expires in 2024 and there is no guarantee he will be offered an extension after being consistently outperformed by Vertsappen this term.
Mercedes may also be in the market for a new driver in the next couple of years, with seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton now in the latter stages of his career.
Some F1 experts have suggested that rule changes in 2026 could boost McLaren’s hopes of delivering a championship-contending car, which would strengthen their hopes of retaining Piastri’s services.
Given the progress he has made, the Australian looks nailed on to be one of the most sought-after drivers on the grid over the next couple of years.