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Mark Webber Lauds Piastri’s Stellar F1 Debut

21/01/2024

Oscar Piastri, McLaren’s F1 rookie, made an extraordinary impact in his debut season. Mark Webber, his mentor, sees a bright future, but notes the need for continuous improvement.

As the 2023 season progressed, one thing quickly became apparent: McLaren driver and rookie Oscar Piastri is poised for an extraordinary Formula 1 future.

The young Australian, already a standout in Formula 2 and 3, surprised many, but even his mentor Mark Webber believes Piastri couldn’t have dreamed of such a successful debut season.

However, both compatriots agree now that his first season in Formula 1 has officially ended: there’s room and need for improvement in the coming years.

Piastri, who began his junior classes as a prodigy after clinching titles in his debut seasons in both Formula 3 and Formula 2, managed to maintain this status in his first Formula 1 season. McLaren had a rough start to the season but turned things around in Austria.

Piastri quickly followed suit and by the second half of the season, he was even competing for podium positions. At the season’s end, with two podiums and a sprint race victory under his belt, he could look forward to the next season with confidence, though undoubtedly much awaits him.

Fifteen Months Idle Hurt Piastri’s Form

In an interview with Motorsport.com, the Australian former driver emphasized his happiness with his compatriot and protégé’s success.

“Overall, I’m extremely proud of him and very happy with his results. Even in our wildest dreams, we didn’t foresee him starting his Formula 1 career in this way.”

His performances in junior classes were indicative, but the premier class of racing is a different ball game. “Now that he’s competing against the world’s best drivers, he realizes there’s much he can and needs to improve.”

According to Webber, Piastri already started at a disadvantage in his Formula 1 adventure after unexpectedly finding himself without a seat in 2022, following his Formula 2 championship win in 2021.

“It’s far from ideal for a driver to go fifteen months without racing because the testing he was able to do just doesn’t compare to real race action on the track.”

As a result, the young Australian often found himself playing catch-up during his initial months as a Formula 1 driver, a fact Webber acknowledges.

“But he doesn’t want to use that as an excuse,” emphasized the former driver about his young protégé. “That’s just not in his nature. It’s just unfortunate that at this level, being sidelined for fifteen months without any track action doesn’t help.”

Webber Praises Piastri, Sees Growth Potential

Webber noted that it was somewhat of a wake-up call when Piastri realized he was losing significant ground compared to his direct competitors.

“But he handled it well,” Webber had to admit. “The team also had a really tough time those first few months, and his third race was in Australia, so that period was particularly challenging for him on a psychological level.” Yet, the season ended even better than hoped for the then-rookie, with the sprint victory in Qatar as a highlight. “Listening to him over the radio was special,” Webber emphasized.

“The way he prepared himself to battle with Max (Verstappen, ed.) surprised the team, but that’s why we love Oscar so much.”

According to the former driver, they knew at McLaren that drivers usually show such traits in their third or even fourth year, but Piastri did it in his debut season. Hence, it’s no secret that the Australian driver is made of exceptional racing material, but Webber believes there’s still plenty of fine-tuning to be done. “There are plenty of areas for improvement, and that’s to be expected. But we’re going to work on them over the next two to three years so we can tackle them one by one.”

Oscar Piastri’s F1 Rookie Year: McLaren Incredible Success. Oscar Piastri’s F1 Rookie Year: McLaren Incredible Success

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