Young Australian racing driver Oscar Piastri has joined McLaren’s group of reserve drivers for the Formula One season and could get a start if one of their drivers is unable to race.
The 20-year-old from Melbourne has had an incredible rise through the ranks after winning the Formula 2 Championship last year and the Formula 3 Championship in 2020.
Ahead of the upcoming Formula One season, Piastri became the reserve driver for the Alpine F1 Team.
Piastri would replace two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso or Esteban Ocon on the grid if either Alpine driver was unavailable to race due to illness or injury.
In a huge boost for Piastri, an agreement was reached between Alpine and McLaren that would see Piastri replace Lando Norris or fellow Aussie Daniel Ricciardo if either McLaren driver was unable to compete.
In a statement, the Alpine team said they are happy for their young drivers to be given an opportunity in the Formula 1 season.
“In the spirit of offering maximum racing opportunities to our stable of young talent, we have agreed that McLaren may call upon Oscar Piastri in the event one of their drivers is unable to race,” the statement read.
The statement said Piastri is still contracted to Alpine and he would be required to drive for the team if required.
“Oscar will remain fully contracted to Alpine, and we will retain first options on his services.”
Ricciardo was recently struck down by COVID-19 and has been isolating, which could mean Piastri makes his Formula One debut at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
McLaren however expect Ricciardo will be fit to race and are counting on his experience to get him over the line, even though the virus prevented him missing recent testing in Bahrain.
McLaren’s German boss Andreas Seidl believes Ricciardo will be ready by race day.
“I expect Daniel to be back in good shape next week,” he said.
“He’s feeling better already but, as we know, it simply takes a few days until you are fully back in good shape.”
“With the experience Daniel has and going also now into the second year together with the team, I’m still optimistic that the small disadvantage he will have starting the race weekend next week, that hopefully it doesn’t take that long until it is fully compensated for.”
Ricciardo is a huge fan of Piastri’s talent, saying last year: “He didn’t just win the F2 title, he dominated.”
The first race of the Formula 1 season is at Bahrain on March 20.