McLaren’s Oscar Piastri will make his home F1 debut in just his third race in the sport at the Australian Grand Prix; Australian journalist Stewart Bell gives a view from down under; watch the Australian GP live on Sky Sports F1 between March 31 and April 2
Last Updated: 27/03/23 9:01am
McLaren’s Oscar Piastri heads into his first home race at the Australian Grand Prix this weekend in Melbourne under the expectation by many to not just be Australia’s, but Formula 1’s next big thing.
The Melbourne-born rookie will hope to build on his Q3 appearance in Saudi Arabia, which saw him start alongside Lewis Hamilton, by scoring his maiden points around Albert Park.
We spoke to Australian journalist Stewart Bell to get a view from down under as F1 and Piastri go into round three of the 2023 F1 season.
Oscar Piastri already has a lot of hype as a highly-talented rookie, how has he been received in Australia?
Australians are right behind Oscar Piastri ahead of his home debut at Albert Park.
A lot of people became fans when they tuned into his title-winning campaigns in F3 and F2 during our extended pandemic lockdowns and followed his momentum into F1.
His Q3 appearance in Saudi Arabia was big news, whetting appetites for Melbourne.
Has the Ricciardo-McLaren-Alpine drama impacted the way Piastri is viewed?
Piastri’s journey to the McLaren seat was less than ideal, with the public shocked by each new detail – like his tweet stating he wouldn’t drive for Alpine in 2023.
But, F1 is a ruthless sport, and Australians could see Daniel Ricciardo wasn’t delivering beyond highlights like his Monza win.
Ricciardo won a lot of respect when he said he didn’t take Piastri’s move personally.
How much pressure is Piastri is under to deliver?
The pressure on Piastri to deliver is stratospheric.
Limited testing, an undercooked MCL60, and a rapid, established team-mate in Lando Norris are just the beginning.
Piastri put the car eighth on the grid in Saudi Arabia after Norris made an uncharacteristic mistake: clipping the wall at the final corner.
But, consistency is what counts – and McLaren has a long way to go to be competitive.
Is it extra difficult for him following in the path of a beloved character like Daniel Ricciardo?
Make no mistake, Aussies love Daniel Ricciardo – they’ve always seen him as he’s the mate next door you’d love to have a beer with.
When Ricciardo was winning with Red Bull, the PR train ran hot and he was absolutely everywhere.
So, it will be more difficult for Piastri to cut through as he is a more serious character and not in a winning drive.
But, Aussies also love seeing other Aussies deliver on the world stage, and if Piastri can keep Norris honest this year, his band of believers will slowly grow with his confidence.
While he made headlines with the silly-season saga, Oscar comes across as a quiet character – will he need to show a bit more personality to win the hearts of the Aussie public?
I think Piastri just needs to be himself, and bank the standout results to establish himself in F1.
We forget that Daniel Ricciardo was also quieter when he joined the grid with now-defunct squad HRT at the 2011 British Grand Prix – there’s plenty of time later for a laugh.
If he can continue to deliver on-track, the fans will back him.
Is being partnered alongside a driver of Lando Norris’ quality a blessing or a curse?
In reality, it’s both.
Lando Norris is the established star at Woking, has a deep understanding of McLaren F1 cars having raced them since he joined the grid in 2019, and has seen off challenges from Carlos Sainz and Daniel Ricciardo.
So, he’s a fantastic benchmark for Piastri.
But, measuring up to Norris over a season – it’s the Everest-sized challenge he’s locked into.
Is Piastri Australia’s best chance of having a world champion since Alan Jones’ 1980 triumph?
The history of sport is full of competitors who didn’t fulfil their potential for a variety of reasons.
Piastri has an enviable record with three-straight junior titles, and impressed at the last F1 event in Saudi Arabia, but he has a long way to go.
Can McLaren get its act together and build him a winning car in future, having just restructured its technical team ahead of Melbourne?
What is it about Piastri that gives you such confidence in his ability?
Piastri’s talent is crystal clear because of those junior series titles – with F3 and F2 won back-to-back in 2020 and 2021, matching the meteoric rises of other F1 top guns like George Russell and Charles Leclerc.
He’s serious, adaptable, and wrung the neck of his McLaren MCL60 in Jeddah – where there’s no room for error – to get it into Q3.
He now needs to deliver over his rookie season.
Australians have had bad luck at home with no Aussie winner down under since 1980 – how crucial is it for Piastri to be successful at his home race?
Aussies know that anything can happen in F1.
But, the fans in the Albert Park grandstands will be on their feet and cheering if Piastri can outqualify Norris.
If he scores his maiden F1 points on home soil, the crowds will go bonkers!
You only have to think back to 2002, when Mark Webber, Piastri’s manager, scored two points for his incredible fifth place in a barely competitive Minardi.
The entire circuit erupted – and the celebrations went on long into the night.
Watch the Australian Grand Prix live on Sky Sports F1 between March 31 and April 2. Get Sky Sports