Oscar Piastri edges closer to mid-season Williams debut as rumors swirl, Nicholas Latifi, Alpine
Australian youngster Oscar Piastri is closing in on Oscar Piastri on his Formula 1 debut as speculation mounts there could be an opening for him on the grid as soon as this season.
Piastri has been forced to bide his time as Alpine’s reserve driver this year, despite winning three consecutive titles during a glittering career as a junior driver.
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With Esteban Ocon under contract and former veteran world champion Fernando Alonso in fine form, it seems unlikely that Piastri will drive for Alpine next year.
But the France-based team announced earlier this year that they would allow Piastri to be loaned out to another team in a bid to develop his craft before possibly returning to Alpine.
And the opportunity to drive in F1 could come sooner than expected, largely because of Nicholas Latifi’s disappointing form at Williams.
Latifi, whose crash sparked the dramatic end to last year’s championship battle between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, is one of only two drivers (along with Haas’s Mick Schumacher) to have yet secured a point. world championship this season.
Despite assurances from his team boss he won’t be dropped mid-season, pundits believe Latifi could be forced out of his seat within weeks.
“The rumor is getting stronger and stronger that Latifi would have to be replaced mid-season, which wouldn’t be great for him,” Times F1 correspondent Rebecca told News Corp’s Track Torque podcast.
“It’s really sad because what happened in Abu Dhabi last year – his accident led to this whole debacle.
“He received death threats and his confidence plummeted. He crashes most race weekends and he’s in a tough spot. It’s not good for his future in F1. »
Speaking on the RacingNews365 podcast, Dutch racing driver Tom Coronel added that there is a “strong rumour” that Piastri will replace Latifi at Williams very soon.
“We will of course see Alpine reserve driver Oscar Piastri driving there,” he said.
“It seems to have already been signed in Monaco. I don’t know when they’re going to release this. It’s a strong rumour.
With Alpine set to retain Ocon and Alonso as drivers for 2023, Coronel said the team would be foolish not to give Piastri the chance to gain all the F1 experience possible.
“If you want to mature someone in Formula 1, like Piastri, then Alpine has a decent budget for that: a budget to park them and get them used to Formula 1,” he said.
“You wouldn’t lend a driver like Piastri.
“You don’t put him in a Williams for nothing.
“This means that (Alpine) would like to keep its driver line-up unchanged.”
Alpine team boss Otmar Szafnauer has said a decision on Piastri’s future will be made when the British Grand Prix takes place in mid-July.
Piastri has driven Alpine’s F1 car, the A521, three times this year at various circuits as part of its test programme.
Last year, the 21-year-old won the Formula 2 championship in dominant fashion to clinch his third junior title in as many years.
The F1 season continues at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday at 9 p.m. (AEST).