Home Formula 4British F4 The timeline of Oscar Piastri’s journey to an F1 seat

The timeline of Oscar Piastri’s journey to an F1 seat

by Ida Wood

Photos: McLaren Racing

From starting his car racing career to becoming a McLaren driver, this is the drama and win-filled route Oscar Piastri took to becoming a Formula 1 racer

Friday, December 16 2016

A 15-year-old Piastri, who came sixth in the CIK-FIA World Karting Championship for OK-Junior karts earlier in the year, makes his car racing debut at Yas Marina Circuit in the second round of the new Formula 4 United Arab Emirates championship. He finishes sixth, and follows it up later that day with a fifth place as future rival Logan Sargeant takes a clean sweep of second places from the weekend.

Piastri goes on to come sixth in the standings, contesting two further rounds but skipping the season finale, and racking up his first two podiums on the return trip to Yas Marina. His opposition in the series includes Sean Babington, now driver coach to McLaren junior Ugo Ugochukwu, prototype sportscar racer Jonathan Aberdein, IndyCar rookie David Malukas and FIA president Muhammed ben Sulayem’s son Saif.

Wednesday, February 8 2017

Arden names a four-strong line-up in British F4, with sophomore Ayrton Simmons joined by rookies Yves Baltas and Piastri. Olli Caldwell is also signed but does not debut until turning 15 halfway through the season.

Sunday, May 21 2017

Piastri’s first car racing win comes in the reversed-grid Oulton Park race, which is a battle between himself and Sargeant after he makes a few mistakes in the lead. The pressure from Sargeant is ultimately relinquished when the race is red flagged due to a crash.


Photo: Jakob Ebrey Photography

Saturday, July 29 2017

Two rounds later at Snetterton, Piastri demonstrates his potential to be involved in the title fight by taking two pole positions and converting the first of those into a win later that day. On Sunday he repeats the feat.

Saturday, October 7 2017

Piastri makes his Formula Renault 2.0 debut with Arden in the FR Northern European Cup finale at Hockenheim, and comes eighth in both races.

Wednesday, December 20 2017

After finishing as runner-up in British F4, Caroline steps up to FR2.0 full-time with Arden to contest the FR Eurocup.

Friday, December 21 2018

Piastri and highly rated team-mate Sami Taoufik perform far worse than expected as FR2.0 rookies, with Piastri bagging three podiums and a lowly eighth in the Eurocup standings. For his second season, he signs with the crack R-ace GP team.

Saturday, May 11 2019

A switch to Formula Regional technical regulations doesn’t shake up the Eurocup’s competitive order too much, and Piastri’s first pole and win came in round two at Silverstone. Qualifying took place on a drying track and he mastered the conditions to be quickest, but he lost the lead to team-mate Alexander Smolyar in the race and it was only after he retired with a car issue that Piastri was able to romp away to win by a massive 12.693 seconds.

Photo: DPPI / Renault Sport

Sunday, September 8 2019

In a critical weekend for the title fight between Piastri and MP Motorsport’s Victor Martins, Piastri spins off on the sighting lap for Saturday’s race at the Hungaroring and is unable to start. However rainy conditions means it only runs for three laps and Martins gets half-points for victory, then on Sunday Piastri bounces back by dominating qualifying and taking a controlling win to head into the final three rounds with a big points lead.

Friday, October 18 2019

There’s a lot of interest in Prema’s FIA Formula 3 seats after it dominates the inaugural season of the championship, and it can only trial so many drivers in the post-season test at Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo circuit. Piastri makes the shortlist of five.

Friday, October 25 2019

Martins cuts the gap to Piastri before the final round at Yas Marina, and beats Piastri to pole for the series’ first ever night race. However he fluffs his start, handing Piastri the lead. It takes a while for Martins to recover back to second place and he then goes on an intense chase of his rival. They finish 1.2s apart, and Piastri calls it “the most nervous half an hour of my life”.

Saturday, October 26 2019

Martins still had the pace advantage going into the title-deciding day, and beat Piastri to pole. This time he was able to convert it into a dominant win, but Piastri only needed to finish seventh to become champion. Fourth place was more than enough to take the crown.

Sunday, January 26 2020

Piastri’s future is confirmed as off the back of his Eurocup crown he is announced as a Renault F1 junior and a Prema driver in FIA F3 for 2020.

Sunday, March 1 2020

Just as the COVID-19 pandemic starts to have global implications, and later put the Australia-located Piastri at risk of not being able to race in Europe, the 18-year-old becomes a personal protege of his countryman Mark Webber, a former F1 star.

Wednesday, May 27 2020

With the world in lockdown and very strictly regulated international travel, possibly the most important moment of Piastri’s career comes as he is granted exemption to travel from Australia to the United Kingdom and then serve a two-week quarantine once he arrives in the country. Piastri’s exemption is also the firmest indication yet that FIA F3 will be racing.

Saturday, July 4 2020

In a race he thought “had ended in the first 10s” following a dramatic first two corners, Piastri came from third on the grid to win on his F3 debut ahead of old British F4 and FR2.0 rival, and now Prema team-mate, Sargeant.

Friday, August 7 2020

Piastri’s season is at a doldrums, as title rival Sargeant takes his second pole in a row at Silverstone while Piastri’s first qualifying run ends at the pit entry and then his second run comes to a halt at Luffield due to technical trouble. He qualifies 11th, and at no point does he make the front row during the season.

Photo: Formula Motorsport Ltd

Sunday, August 16 2020

After Sargeant moves into the points lead at Silverstone, Piastri undoes some of the damage of that weekend by picking up his second F3 win in the reversed-grid Barcelona race after going from fifth to first in four corners on the opening lap.

Saturday, September 5 2020

Piastri becomes championship leader once more by charging from 15th to third at Monza and calls it “a lot of fun”.

Sunday, September 6 2020

Neither Piastri or Sargeant avoided contact with other drivers in race one, and it is the same in race two. Piastri forces David Beckmann off and gets a five-place grid penalty for the final round, while Sargeant ends team-mate Frederik Vesti’s hopes by crashing with him and is penalised three spots on the grid at Mugello.

Friday, September 11 2020

Sargeant qualifies second, but will start fifth, and Piastri is only 11th in a close qualifying session at Mugello, meaning he will start from 16th for the penultimate race of the season.

Saturday, September 12 2020

Sargeant recovers to seventh in the Mugello opener, and Piastri makes up several places but by finishing 11th is just short of the points positions, bringing Sargeant back level in the title race, and of getting the reversed grid pole for the title decider.

Photo: Prema

Sunday, September 13 2020

The title hopes of Sargeant expire on the opening lap as he is sent into the gravel, while some help from Vesti (as requested by Prema) enabled Piastri to get up to eighth and then snatch seventh in a photo finish. The outcome was title success, by just three points over ART Grand Prix’s Theo Pourchaire.

Friday, October 30 2020

A landmark day in Piastri’s career, he gets his first taste of F1 machinery in Renault’s R.S.18 car from 2018 at Bahrain.

Tuesday, December 1 2020

Webber works to land Piastri the best F2 seat possible, and he delivers as Piastri stays with Prema for the step up.

Tuesday, December 8 2020

A week later, Piastri gets his first official running in a F2 car at Bahrain and goes fastest several times before ending the first day of post-season testing as the top debutant in fifth place.

Saturday, March 27 2021

Piastri finishes fifth on his F2 race debut, again at Bahrain, and later that day gets to race again. This time he starts sixth, makes a pitstop and beats Zhou Guanyu, a fellow junior of the now rebranded Alpine, to victory with a final lap pass. Afterwards he calls it the craziest race and win of his career.

Tuesday, May 25 2021

Piastri sits second in the points behind Zhou after two rounds, and Alpine is gearing up F1 preparations for both by handing them further private tests. As rumours swirl that the team will be retaining Esteban Ocon on a long-term contract though, it looks unlikely either driver will be rewarded with an F1 race seat if they become champion. Piastri says “it changes nothing”.

Friday, July 16 2021

A breakthrough for Piastri as he claims his maiden F2 pole at Silverstone, his first front row start since his Eurocup campaign.

Friday, September 10 2021

For several months after Ocon signs his long-term deal, Piastri is bombarded with questions about if he has an F1 future. He opened up to the press at Monza as his hopes diminished just as he asserted himelf at the top of the F2 points table.

Sunday, September 12 2021

Later that weekend, Piastri turns his second pole in a row into his first F2 feature race win. It would mark the start of an immense run of performances across the next three events.

Tuesday, November 16 2021

Zhou’s yet-to-be-announced but widely anticipated move into an Alfa Romeo Racing F1 seat for 2022 opens up a vacancy in the reserve driver role at Alpine, and the team all but confirms Zhou’s exit as it announces Piastri will take his place for the next season. At the same time, it’s an admission that it has been unable to loan him to a rival team.

Photo: Formula Motorsport Ltd

Sunday, December 5 2021

Piastri puts one hand on the F2 title, and with a round still to go, by winning the shortened five-lap Jeddah feature race.

Friday, December 10 2021

A remarkable fifth pole position in a row goes to Piastri in the Yas Marina finale, and fellow Australian Jack Doohan qualifies second in just his second F2 appearance.

Saturday, December 11 2021

Pole position put Piastri 10th on the reversed grid for the opening sprint race of the weekend, but moved up to sixth on lap one. He and team-mate Robert Shwartzman, by this point his main title rival, then rose up the order together before Piastri passed him, netted a podium finish in third place and more importantly was crowned champion with two races to spare.

Sunday, December 12 2021

Piastri caps off a stunning year with an odd incident in which he had contact with another driver on the way to the grid, but then a fourth feature race win in a row.

Tuesday, December 14 2021

Piastri’s first miles in a contemporary F1 car as he drives Alpine’s A521 in the official young driver test.

Saturday, March 12 2022

Photo: Alpine Racing

The start of the Piastri to McLaren story, the drive-less champion is made available by Alpine to its rival team as reserve driver if his services are required. The agreement comes about after McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo, a fellow Australian, goes down with COVID-19.

Monday, July 4 2022

Unknown to the under-pressure Ricciardo, and most of the motorsport world, McLaren signs Piastri for 2023. It is not revealed publicly whether Piastri was signed initially as a reserve driver, given at the time Ricciardo was still contracted to be team-mate to Lando Norris for next year.

Monday, August 1 2022

Following Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel’s announcement in the lead up to the Hungarian Grand Prix that he will retire from F1 at the end of the season, Alpine’s Fernando Alonso swoops in and by the end of the weekend has got a deal with the team for the next two years. He is announced as switching allegiances on the Monday.

Tuesday, August 2 2022

Alpine start the day by saying they know Piastri could follow Alonso out the door, then announce via Twitter during the morning that he will actually step into seat being vacated. It makes him the first driver from the Alpine Academy and its predecessors to be signed to race for the Enstone-based F1 team since Robert Kubica, and the first to do so without aligning himself with a rival F1 team before that since Romain Grosjean in 2009.

By this point it is known that Webber had been talking to McLaren about putting Piastri in a race seat.

Photo: Alpine F1 Team

In a style mimicking Alex Palou’s denial he had signed an IndyCar contract with his current employer Chip Ganassi Racing, Piastri tweets: “I understand that, without my agreement, Alpine F1 have put out a press release late this afternoon that I am driving for them next year. This is wrong and I have not signed a contract with Alpine for 2023. I will not be driving for Alpine next year.”

Wednesday, August 24 2022

Ricciardo agrees to leave McLaren at the end of 2022, a year before his contract ends, opening up a spot for Piastri to race for the team in 2023. Piastri had already been in firm contention for a 2024 seat, and Ricciardo’s exit actually feeds interest that McLaren’s IndyCar stars and the drivers signed to its F1 test programme could move into the world championship.

Monday, August 29 2022

A tribunal appointed by the FIA’s Contract Recognition Board meet after Alpine challenges McLaren’s claim to Piastri’s services for 2023. At this point McLaren is yet to admit any involvement in the drama playing out, despite it being widely known to the world it has signed Piastri, and the CRB does decide in the team’s favour by saying “Mr Piastri is entitled to drive for McLaren Racing Limited for the 2023 and 2024 seasons” and that the contract Alpine wrote up is therefore invalid.

Saturday, September 2 2022

“I’m extremely excited to be making my F1 debut with such a prestigious team as McLaren and I’m very grateful for the opportunity that’s been offered to me.”

The words everyone was waiting for as McLaren announce Piastri as team-mate to Norris for the next two seasons.

He has now stopped his reserve driver commitments with Alpine, although the team is coy on the subject, and work begins on providing junior driver Jack Doohan with free practice opportunities to assess his suitability for the role while the search begins for Ocon’s 2023 team-mate.

Tuesday, November 22 2022

Piastri drives a McLaren for the first time in the young driver test.

Friday, March 3 2023

If everything goes to plan, then the date Piastri makes his grand prix weekend debut in free practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix, his first F1 race…