Certainties are always a rare commodity when it comes to the annual musical chairs event that is Formula 1’s ‘silly season’.
Alpine single-handedly raised the bar this week, announcing on Tuesday that Oscar Piastri had been promoted from reserve driver to partner Esteban Ocon and would replace Aston Martin-bound Fernando Alonso from next season.
However, the Australian was quick to deny that an agreement had been reached, leaving Alpine with a seat for 2023 and picking up the piece of an embarrassing PR own goal.
Oscar Piastri is Formula 1’s next property, but his future remains unclear
“I understand that Alpine F1 without my permission issued a press release late this afternoon that I will be driving for them next year,” Piastri said in a message on his official Twitter account.
“This is not true and I have not signed a contract with Alpine for 2023. I will not be driving for Alpine next year.”
While it might be premature to suggest that the Australian has already secured a seat elsewhere for next season, young drivers rarely turn down offers to drive in Formula 1.
The pinnacle of motorsport has been in Piastri’s sight since he took his first steps into karting at the age of 10. Four years later, he left friends and family behind to move to Britain to attend boarding school and continue his career.
“That was a big change for me – moving at 14 and going to school outside Australia – but it was a necessary step to get into F1,” he said. Official website of the FIA last year.
“I think I’ve grown a lot because of it.”
Incidentally, his future could now lie with a British team.
Piastri has been linked with a move to Williams to replace struggling Nicholas Latifi midway through the season and his name has also been mooted as a possible replacement for compatriot Daniel Ricciardo.
Piastri has been linked with a move to McLaren to replace compatriot Daniel Ricciardo
Ricciardo’s future at McLaren remains under a cloud after disappointing season so far
McLaren boss Zak Brown has hinted the team could move on from Ricciardo
The latter is under contract with McLaren until the end of the 2023 season, but his future is under discussion after a largely disappointing second campaign with the Woking team.
As if the prospect of Piastri replacing his compatriot wasn’t intriguing enough, a third Australian could play a significant role in this particular scenario.
Former Red Bull star Mark Webber is Piastri’s agent and several reports have suggested he might try to send his client to McLaren.
Ricciardo has repeatedly insisted he will see his deal, but McLaren boss Zak Brown has hinted that his contract includes a ‘mechanism’ that will allow the team to part ways with the 33-year-old before the end of next season.
Former Aussie F1 star and Red Bull driver Mark Webber (left) is Piastri’s agent and several reports have suggested he would try to send his client to McLaren
Rumor has it that McLaren is also considering hiring Piastri as reserve driver for 2023, before replacing Ricciardo (right) next season
Could McLaren get Piastri as reserve driver for 2023 and then promote him once Ricciardo’s deal expires or will he try to secure a seat for next season?
In any case, it looks like the 21-year-old will make his debut on the grid and it was no surprise that Alpine wanted to promote him to replace Alonso.
The French team knows all about Piastri’s potential, having signed the Australian to their academy in 2020 – then under the Renault brand – after he triumphed in the 2019 Renault Eurocup series.
The Melbournian immediately impressed and won the Formula 3 World Championship the first time he asked for it at Prema Racing.
After winning the 2019 Renault Eurocup series, Piastri moved to Formula 3 in 2020 (above)
The Australian won the Formula 3 title in his rookie season, beating teammate Logan Sargeant
Piastri won just two of the 18 events on the calendar, but showed remarkable consistency as he took four podiums and nine points in the other 16 races.
He went into the final weekend of the season eight points ahead of teammate Logan Sargeant, but the advantage evaporated after he finished 16th in Race 1 of the final round – each event consists of two races – in Italy.
Similar to points with his teammate when the final race of the season got underway, a seventh place finish was enough for Piastri to seal the championship when Sargeant crashed.
The Alpine reserve driver believes winning the title was a pivotal moment in his still young career.
Piastri stayed with Prema Racing in 2021 but switched to Formula 2
He took the title again the first time he asked for it and won a total of six races
“Coming out as champion was definitely a moment that made me,” he said last year.
‘Still, I can still improve and deal with it even better. But can do enough to come out victorious both times [in Formula 3 and the previous season in the Renault Eurocup series] has been a real confidence boost.’
Promoted to Formula 2 to replace Formula 1 tied Mick Schumacher, Piastri wasted no time trying to find his way around the new series.
A win in the second sprint race on his Bahrain debut was followed by five more wins and a further five podiums in eight rounds – each consisting of three races – as Piastri comfortably took the title.
Piastri has already had a taste of a Formula 1 car by driving for Alpine last year and ahead of the current season in test sessions
This made him only the sixth driver after Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Hulkenberg, Charles Leclerc and George Russell to win the Formula 2 title in his debut season.
Hamilton, Hulkenberg, Leclerc and Russell are the only drivers along with Piastri to have won the Formula 3 and Formula 2 titles in consecutive seasons.
His success in both feeder classes did not go unnoticed and the Australian was promoted to reserve driver in Formula 1 for the 2022 season.
Piastri has already had a taste of a Formula 1 car by driving for Alpine during test sessions, but admitted the reserve driver role was nothing more than a stepping stone to a spot on the grid.
The Australian was promoted as reserve driver behind Esteban Ocon (left) and Fernando Alonso (center) for the 2022 Formula 1 season
Alonso replaces Sebastian Vettel (right) who leaves Aston Martin to retire from F1
“The reserve driver role is the next step in my pursuit of a race seat in 2023, which is very exciting,” he said in November last year.
“I have proven myself in the junior formulas in recent years and I feel that I am now ready for Formula 1.”
Whether that will be in Alpine livery, McLaren’s orange or Williams’ blue-and-white livery remains to be seen, but Piastri looks set to become a mainstay of Formula 1 in the coming years.
Expect another dose of Aussie grit to hit the grid sooner or later.