‘He is going to do it at some point’: Piastri on track to break Australia’s 44-year F1 drought


The author of a new book on Aussie F1 prodigy Oscar Piastri believes the Melbourne driver has what it takes to become Australia’s first Formula 1 World Champion in close to 50 years.

Renowned motorsport journalist and editorial director of Speedcafe Andrew van Leeuwen says that Piastri has shown early signs that he is the man to bring a championship back down under for the first time since Alan Jones took out the crown in 1980.

“I think that Piastri is going to work his way into a race-winning car at some point in his career,” he told The Roar. “I think he has shown in the junior formula that he is consistent enough and fast enough to win a championship. I will be surprised if the guy goes his entire Formula 1 career and doesn’t win a championship.”

In an era of Formula 1 where Australia has been spoilt for choice with drivers in the last 20 years, with both Mark Webber and Daniel Ricciardo experiencing success without quite reaching the pinnacle, Van Leeuwen said that Piastri could be our last chance to break the championship drought for some time.

Oscar Piastri of Australia and McLaren F1 Team. (Photo by Qian Jun/MB Media/Getty Images)

“(With) Jack Doohan, there is a big question mark over whether he has missed his window to get into Formula 1,” he said. “We might be waiting a little while for the next Aussie to come along, so there’s plenty of time for Oscar to be the next guy to win us a title. I think some pretty safe money would go on the fact that he is going to do it at some point.”

Van Leeuwen’s book, ‘Oscar Piastri: The Rookie’, follows Piastri across his debut season in Formula 1 in 2023, chronicling his performances in each of the races that saw him complete the most successful season by a rookie in Formula 1 since Lewis Hamilton debuted in 2007.

Through behind-the-scenes access and a variety of interviews from notable F1 personalities including 1996 World Champion Damon Hill and current F1 pundit and former driver Karun Chandhok, the book also gives extensive insight into the brutal nature of the sport as well as the complicated world of F1 contracts.

Van Leeuwen said it was important to cover this, particularly when it came to the infamous saga involving Piastri’s entry into the sport back in 2022 and the warring of words surrounding him and his relationship with the Alpine and McLaren teams.

You thought we’d left Australia… ???????? pic.twitter.com/jbmJdj4CmK

— McLaren (@McLarenF1) March 29, 2024

“There was just so many interesting parts of that,” he explained. “The one big and important part to tell was that obviously at the time it was such a PR hit for Oscar and for McLaren. On the surface, it looked like McLaren had done the dirty on Daniel Ricciardo. They had done the dirty on Alpine by pinching their boy Oscar. Oscar had done the dirty on Alpine by abandoning the team that had given him so much and supported him so much in the junior formula.”

“I think the goal there was to really tell in the most concise and clear way that that’s absolutely not what happened. When the details came out from the contract recognition board, it was clear that is not what happened and what actually happened was that Alpine wouldn’t make the commitment that the Piastris needed. McLaren had already gone down the path of its divorce with Daniel Ricciardo because that relationship was not working. And McLaren came to Oscar and said we really want you.”

After his successful debut season brought him a sprint win, two podiums and 97 points for a ninth-place finish in the Driver’s Championship, Piastri has started off 2024 equally as impressively with two fourth-place finishes and an eighth to currently sit fifth overall in the standings.

Next Sunday we’re back racing at Suzuka!

27 Sundays ago… ????????#JapaneseGP ????????pic.twitter.com/ySwOwq08jL

— McLaren (@McLarenF1) March 31, 2024

Van Leeuwen believes that podiums and possibly even a win will come to Piastri if he keeps up his strong form.

“I think there is a potential for podiums and a potential for wins,” he said. “Obviously the team (McLaren) is so much better placed than it was this time last season. But that potentially means that the room for improvement isn’t quite as big as well.”

“They’re kind of locked in a battle with Mercedes as the third and fourth fastest team. Ferrari has definitely taken a step forward over the off-season and we know the Red Bull package is what it is…so I would guess right now McLaren are targeting third in the Constructor’s standings. And every good result like on the weekend (at Albert Park) …that’s huge.

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“That’s the sort of area we’re going to see that team fighting for at least until we get into the European season and we see if anybody has brought any upgrades that have made a huge difference.”

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