In the first of a new series profiling up-and-coming talent, Elliot Wood looks at a standout rookie in British Formula 4
Australian Oscar Piastri has been the surprise package this season in British Formula 4, and has often been the only man to seriously challenge the often-dominant Jamie Caroline.
A regular on the karting circuit in his home country, Piastri stepped up full-time on to the world stage last season with the crack Ricky Flynn Motorsport squad and was quick. In the CIK-FIA World Junior Championship he finished sixth, and he was 16th overall in the European series.
Last winter he stepped up to car racing in the new UAE F4 Championship, completing a part-season with Dragon Racing (a successful GT team that runs in Arabian series, no relation to the Formula E squad), which was also making its first steps in single-seaters.
?The UAE races were obviously the first racing in cars I?d done, ever,? said Piastri when Formula Scout spoke to him over the Rockingham weekend. ?The team I was with, they were quite inexperienced as well; that was their first time they?d run formula cars. So I think that didn?t help.?
In the 11 races Piastri entered he finished on the podium twice, and by finishing in the top six every race he ended the season fourth in the standings. ?I think by the end of that series we were there or thereabouts. Obviously I had Logan [Sargeant] as a sort of reference.?
In British F4, Sargeant is at Carlin – which with Caroline is on course to achieve its third title from as many attempts – while Piastri is at Arden and is beating him in the standings. ?I think we knew from testing in the British car that our patch was bit better than in the UAE car,? he says.
Piastri was often fastest in pre-season testing and he kicked off the season with two podiums on the Brands Hatch Indy circuit. His first win came at Oulton Park, and he has triumphed four times since, all on tracks he has never raced on before.
As his race engineer, Pedro Matos knows Piastri better than most, and believes he knows why the man from Melbourne been so strong of late.
?Oscar?s strongest features are that he learns from his mistakes quite quickly and he doesn?t usually repeat them, which is one thing I?ve got from working with him since UAE F4,? said Matos.
?He just needs to be told what he did good on the last lap and that he needs to do it again. He has a high rate of progression. He?s headstrong, and doesn?t get affected by outside circumstances. I think that?s the main focus.
?Obviously he?s really talented naturally, and he?s a very dedicated driver. He?s also really really intelligent, compared to other drivers I?ve worked with. He?ll integrate the data that I?ve told him, and normally he?ll be doing it by the next run.?
Piastri does not rate himself as someone who has improved massively, rather heaping the praise on the Arden team around him.
?The team?s done a great job this year. All four of us have been quick basically every weekend
?To be completely honest, I don?t think my driving has changed. I don?t think it has improved a lot. I think my one lap pace has probably improved, and I think that?s been the key factor to my recent success.?
However he admits that his working relationship with his engineer is a successful one. ?I?d say that I do pick up things pretty quick. Usually my first session at a new track is pretty good. If my engineer is saying that then I?ll just go with that.?
At Rockingham Piastri?s title challenge took a huge hit, with a clash with rival Caroline and an engine failure meaning he only scored one point over the weekend. The title could therefore be sewn up by his rival at the Silverstone round in three weeks time, but he knows there will be no shame in second place.
?The title?s looking a bit hard. Logan?s caught up a bit, which is never ideal. But Jamie?s been driving round these tracks for four years and this is my first year. I came into this championship obviously looking to win, and I knew it wasn?t going to be easy and I knew Jamie was going to be quick.?
?At the end of the day, I think we?ve just got to focus on being quick.?
D/O/B April 6, 2001
2017:?currently 2nd in British F4 (5 wins, 4 poles, 4 fastest laps)
2016-17: 4th in UAE F4
2016:?6th in CIK-FIA World Junior Championship – OKJ,?12th in WSK Super Master Series – OKJ,?16th in CIK-FIA European Championship – OKJ
2015:?26th in CIK-FIA European KF-Junior Championship,?3rd in Australian Kart Championship – KF3
2014:?8th in Australian National Sprint Kart Championship – Junior National Light,?2nd in Australian National Sprint Kart Championship – Junior Clubman
2013:?3rd in IAME International Final – X30 Junior