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INTERVIEW: Oscar Piastri Reflects on his Dominant F2 Season

5 Mins read
Oscar Piastri
Credit: Alpine Racing

The FIA Formula 2 season opens in Bahrain in just a few days time, which means it’s not long unti twenty-two of the brightest talents in single seater motorsports compete for glory and achieve their dream of reaching the Formula 1 World Championship.

The Checkered Flag talked with the the 2021 Formula 2 champion and Alpine F1’s 2022 Reserve Driver, Oscar Piastri, about his journey to the 2021 F2 crown and his role with the French team for the upcoming season.

Upon reflecting on 2021, Piastri see’s it as “best season of my career so far and we just got better and better the whole year”. This is a big claim, as it’s the third season in a row where the Australian has won the championship starting with the Formula Renault Eurocup in 2019 and FIA Formula 3 in 2020.

One of two moments last season that stand out in particular for Piastri include his first win in Bahrain in Sprint Race 2 of the opening weekend. It was a massive confidence boost for the rookie,

“I think that win was quite a surprise and to be completely honest, we were a little bit fortunate with the timing of the safety car and with the switch to soft-compound tyres, though of course I did have to make my way through the field and get to the front afterwards.”

Credit: Alpine Racing

Off the back of the win, he took even more confidence into that weekend’s feature race where he unfortunately missed out on points after contact with Dan Ticktum.

“It was actually the feature race in Bahrain that was the most confidence boosting for me. We were leading the race, we were by far the quickest in our strategy – which in the end didn’t quite work out – but I was really confident after that and I think for me that was more of a boost than the race I won.”

The F2 title was Piastri’s second championship win with the Italian racing outfit, PREMA Racing who aren’t strangers at all to future Formula 1 talent. For his rookie season, Piastri hopped into Mick Schumacher’s seat who departed for Haas F1 Team in 2021. When asked if the Australian felt any pressure in hopping into the reigning champions seat, he replied:

“Not massively no, to be honest. I didn’t really think about external pressure – the media or anyone else. I just wanted to improve and get good results for my own sake. So I guess I put some pressure on myself, but I knew that coming into F2 was going to be such a big step up from F3.”

He continued, “Obviously there’s a lot of difference; a turbo-charged engine, 18-inch rims, a much bigger car, a much heavier car, compound changes, pit-stops…all these new things. I knew that it was going to be a big learning curve so I didn’t put too much pressure on myself, I just wanted to learn as quickly as I could.”

Credit: Alpine Racing

One word can be describe Piastri’s performance in 2021 and that is ‘domination’. He took six fastest laps and eleven trips to the podium which include six race wins on his way to a sixty-point advantage on team-mate Robert Shwartzman in second place. But the key to his domination didn’t happen in the races but instead, qualifying.

Out of the eight rounds, Piastri took pole position at all of the last five which was a big leap from when he didn’t manage one in F3. He said, “I think there was a variety of things that helped with that.  Firstly, my driving style naturally suited F2 a bit better. Then in F3 we only had three test days in Bahrain and it wasn’t a particularly good test for me to be honest, so I was quite glad we had a bit of a break and a re-set.

Hi first pole position came at Silverstone and once he got one, he knew what he needed to do to continue with his excellent one-lap form, “We basically just nailed it every time. After the first pole position I knew exactly what I needed the car to do and feel like to be quick and we manged to execute that every time, so it was very much a team effort.”

While he didn’t convert his Silverstone pole to a victory, he achieved just that next time out in Monza and kept up that same streak to the end of the season. When I asked which race win was his favourite, Monza did come to mind, “My favourite would probably be the Monza feature race, my first feature race win of the year.”

Credit: Alpine Racing

“I think the Bahrain sprint race was probably the most exciting race that I won, but Monza was the first time we converted pole position to a feature race win and I had four or five safety cars that I had to manage, being in the lead. So that race was my favourite of the year.”

As well as his superior race pace, Piastri is well known for his ultra-calm and collected mentality when racing at frightening speeds. He puts this down to his naturally calm and collected personality which is invaluable in such a high risk sport.

He also added, “It is also something that I have consciously worked on, especially for the high-pressure situations like getting towards the end of a championship. It’s a very intense time and there’s a lot of pressure and a lot at stake.”

“Especially so in the junior categories, you’re fighting for your career and you’re fighting to try to get into F1 – in the case of F2 – so it’s something I’ve consciously worked on as well, mainly just in terms of dealing with the pressure.”

Looking forward, it is clear that it won’t be long until we see Piastri in Formula 1 and off the back of his single-seater history, he is extremely unlucky to be missing out on a full-time drive in 2022. However, as Alpine’s Reserve Driver, he has found being behind the scenes for the preparation of a new season really interesting and exciting.

Credit: Alpine Racing

He commented on his experience during the pre-season, “It’s been really interesting so far. Obviously there has been a massive regulations change so everyone has sort of started from scratch to some degree.”

“It’s been very interesting to see firstly, how a team prepares for a season, but given the big changes, it’s also quite a unique opportunity to see how much effort and development is going into these new regs. It’s been an exciting welcome to the world of F1 and I’m enjoying it so far.”

It will be onwards and upwards for Piastri in the future after he has already proved himself worthy of a seat in Formula 1, whether that will be at Alpine in 2022 or anywhere else on the grid. He is easily the biggest name in up and coming prospects, so if Alpine can’t give him a seat then I’m sure plenty of other teams would be interested in his services.

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