Oscar Piastri’s career manager Mark Webber has provided insight into the Australian’s initial reluctance to replace Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren.
Oscar Piastri was initially reluctant to take on Daniel Ricciardo’s seat at McLaren mainly because Australia had little representation on the Formula 1 grid, according to former F1 driver Mark Webber.
At the conclusion of 2022, Ricciardo left McLaren following a turbulent campaign during which he struggled to keep up with teammate Lando Norris’s performance.
The biggest story of the 2022 silly season was Piastri’s entry in Formula 1. This came after Alpine had announced that he would take over as reserve driver for Fernando Alonso, but it was later revealed that he had already signed a pre-contract agreement with McLaren to take Ricciardo’s seat.
McLaren took advantage of Alpine’s delay in guaranteeing a spot for Piastri on the Formula 1 grid, signing the Australian driver as soon as possible and then settling Ricciardo’s early departure.
Upon Alpine’s announcement in 2023 that Piastri would soon be driving for them, he made a statement declaring he was not going to drive for them and the news went viral, with the inference being that he had an agreement in place with a different team.
Piastri embarked on his rookie season with the Woking-based team after an FIA Contract Recognitions Board hearing in which the board ruled in favor of McLaren. However, Webber clarified that the young driver initially expressed reluctance to replace another Australian.
Webber stated that McLaren was the most appealing and practical alternative available to them at the moment although it necessitated moving one of his compatriots to get into the grid.
“It’s clear that Daniel had two very tough seasons as a McLaren driver,” Webber said in an interview with GP Racing Magazine. “If Oscar hadn’t replaced him this year, another driver would have done it.
“He said at the time that he was taking the seat from another Australian and there aren’t many of us who have raced in Formula 1, but what can you say, it was McLaren’s decision and in the end, it’s clear that it was the right one.”
It was rumored that Alpine was considering sending Piastri on loan to Williams in order to retain Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon together for 2023.
“People thought we had a lot of options for 2023, but really, we didn’t. At McLaren they were fantastic and above all, very clear from the start, which was something Oscar loved.
“It was clear to him that someone wanted him to drive for them and it was an easy decision for us.”
Piastri had an exceptional rookie season with McLaren, winning a sprint race in Qatar along with finishing on the podium twice. He is the first rookie to achieve multiple podiums since Lewis Hamilton in 2007.
Meanwhile, Ricciardo returned to the grid in the middle of the season following a driver switch at AlphaTauri, taking Nyck de Vries’ seat.