The 2023 F1 season isn’t even underway yet but the rivalry between McLaren and Alpine is already heating up after McLaren CEO Zak Brown slammed Alpine boss Otmar Szafnauer for questioning Oscar Piastri‘s loyalty.
Former Alpine junior Piastri was set to sign with the team for 2023 and Alpine even announced the move on social media, but it transpired he was no long under their control and had signed with McLaren instead, much to the French team’s chagrin.
Szafnauer said he wished Piastri had ‘a bit more integrity’ after the saga, but Brown said the way Piastri handled the situation had impressed him.
“I was first getting to know him through last year,” Brown told the media. “I thought the way he conducted himself, carried himself in light of what were inappropriate and inaccurate accusations around his loyalty.
“Because that would be a lot of pressure to put on a young driver. He was fully within his right to look after his his his career and sign with McLaren.
“And so I thought the way he carried himself what we’ve seen, is that’s how he carries himself in his kind of day to day business very focused, very inquisitive, very calm.”
McLaren confident Piastri can deliver on track
There was a reason Piastri was so highly sought after – the Australian was an absoulte star in junior racing and was unlucky to to get to F1 straight after his F2 title in 2021.
The most decorated junior driver in a decade, that F2 championship was the last in an unprecedented three-year streatch where Piastri won Formula Renault Eurocup, F3 and F2 – the latter two as a rookie.
That eclipses even teammate Lando Norris‘ stellar pre-F1 career, and though Piastri will have his work cut out to beat a teammate who was one the top three drivers in 2023, McLaren are confident he can deliver.
“We say that Oscar is a man of few words, but the right words,” said McLaren team principal Andrea Stella. “And there’s one characteristic in the interactions we’ve had so far with him that he’s been demanding, but demanding in a very qualified way.
“Also, we’ve been impressed with his runs in the simulator, the way he’s been finding performance, just the level of awareness he has when he drives. So far, very happy and impressed.
Brown added: “Obviously his track record through the junior formulas is very, very impressive, very similar to Lando‘s in winning the majority of his championships his first time around, which is always a good sign of someone who has extreme talent.”