Skip To Main Content

Every product is carefully selected by our editors and experts. If you buy from a link, we may earn a commission. Learn more. For more information on how we test products, click here.

Reinvention edition banner 1180x90
Reinvention edition banner 778x150

‘That Wasn’t a Fluke’: How Oscar Piastri Became F1’s Next Great Hope

On a sweltering March tarmac under brutal Bahrain conditions, a reinvention was brewing. Far from the warming glow of the dazzling light show, buried deep beneath a thick blanket of asphalt fumes and sweat, Oscar Piastri’s uprising was finally taking shape. With his hands clung tightly to the steering wheel and gaze fixed firmly on the starter’s sequence, the Aussie star felt the full weight of the last 12 months slowly lift from his slender shoulders. It all had all come down to this.


A lifetime spent behind the wheel, a highly-publicised departure and a revolving media circus finally behind him, Oscar Piastri was free to forge his own path. But it was far from the grandstanding spectacle that he had envisioned. As he tells me, Oscar’s long-awaited arrival on the F1 circuit couldn’t have been more different.

“It all happened pretty quickly. You go from one weekend, in my situation, not racing for a year, and then the next weekend you are on the grid,” he explains. “You start the formation lap and then before you know it, you’re racing 20 other cars out there.”

“There was definitely some expectation going in. The results I had in my junior years and also the way I entered Formula One, I was in the spotlight.”

Becoming the ‘Next Big Thing’

To truly appreciate Piastri’s first year as a permanent fixture in F1, you have to first go back to the beginning. After claiming the 2020 FIA Formula 3 Championship and 2021 Formula 2 Championship with Prema Racing, Piastri had deservedly earned the title of F1’s ‘next big thing’. Teams naturally came knocking and when he signed on as a reserve driver for Alpine F1, the trajectory looked more than promising. That season in the Alpine inner circle may not have embellished his driving credentials, but the experience gave him an unimpeded look at how motor racing’s most illustrious category operates.

An awkward and unceremonious usurping of the McLaren throne would follow, thrusting the Melbourne native into the eye of the F1 storm. With it came a swathe of criticism, levelled both at Team McLaren and, rather unfairly, the rising star himself.

But where others would have crumbled under the weight of sport’s brightest lights, Oscar Piastri stood tall, casting an imposing shadow that seemed completely at odds with his 5’8″ frame.

Image box
Image box
Image box

“You don’t really have much time to think about it,” the F1 star reveals. “I just try to enjoy my racing, go out there and improve as much as I can. Especially my first year, I had so many things to focus on, learn and then improve throughout the year, that there’s not really any space for distractions.”

“I was going into a new category and it wasn’t just any category, it was F1.”

“That meant a lot of added media attention, fan attention, sponsors, everything. There were a lot of new challenges and learning experiences. But it went back to natural instinct, even if I hadn’t raced for a while. You are always concentrating on the same things; getting a good start, where you’re going to position yourself for turn one and the gravity of what you’re doing doesn’t really kick in until after.”

Fast-forward to now and Piastri has not only silenced the critics, but converted the masses, and he’s got the silverware to show for it. The most successful debut season since Sir Lewis Hamilton’s maiden run at the top, Piastri’s 2023 campaign earned him two podiums, a legion of fans and a much-deserved Rookie of the Year title. What a difference a year can make.

The Resurrection of McLaren

Admittedly, Piastri’s initial F1 returns were disappointing, with engine failure putting an end to his maiden Grand Prix, but it wasn’t long before the prodigy found his footing at the highest level. A near-miss at Silverstone lit a spark in Team McLaren that Piastri and stablemate Lando Norris were all too happy to embrace. That renewed enthusiasm, coupled with a resounding team effort to get the McLaren vehicles up to scratch suddenly had the iconic Papaya livery back in the running. As Piastri reveals, the timeliness of McLaren’s resurrection surprised even him.

“I saw the team at a time when they were struggling in terms of results, but they were still very motivated, pushing extremely hard to turn it around,” Piastri reveals. “That was almost the more impressive part; to see was just how motivated and willing everyone was to put in the work to turn it around and then, of course, deliver on it.”

“Everything we put on the car did what we wanted, if not more in some cases.

“When we went to Silverstone, both (Lando and I) had the upgrades, qualified second and third and finished second and fourth, I think everyone kind of went, ‘okay, that was not a fluke. It was an eyeopener for me on just how quickly things could change. It was an eyeopener for everyone on how quickly that could change.”

Getting the Monkey Off His Back

Turning heads is one thing, but in F1, success is measured in podiums. For Oscar Piastri, that defining moment would come with a third place finish at Japan’s September Grand Prix. Just a week later, however, he went one better.

“Qatar was an amazing weekend,” he beams. “Having had my first podium the weekend before in Japan, there was some kind of relief from that, there wasn’t the pressure anymore. It’s nice to get that monkey off my back. Sometimes just one good result can give you a hell of a lot of confidence.”


“(In Qatar) We were quick again, and I guess the stars aligned, especially for the sprint race. I managed to put in some good laps in qualifying and then had a really good run through the sprint.

Physically, it was, by far, the hardest race of my life.

It took a few days for me to recover and for it to sink in properly, but it’s very much a team game. You can’t achieve those results without a good car behind you. That was a very special weekend that will stay with me forever.”

Reinventing the Kid

As I sit across from him, it’s almost hard to believe anyone could have painted Oscar as anything other than a consummate professional. Clearly more relaxed behind the wheel than parked in front of the camera, Piastri has a kind of youthful calmness about him that only comes from being completely at peace with who you are. As he explains, the secret is simple.

“I just try to keep it normal. I get to do an amazing job that I’m very lucky to do, and I say job very loosely because it’s certainly not a real job,” he laughs. “To be able to do that is already an incredible place to be.”

Image box
Image box
Image box

And it keeps getting better. Recently, Piastri’s work on the track has seen him become the face of adventure brand Quad Lock’s driver safety initiative ‘Keep Your Hands Off It’. The project urges Aussies to stay locked into the road, something the Formula 1 driver is extremely passionate about.

“It’s a very important thing for all of us in Formula One to feel safe,” he says. “Of course, as a sport, we’ve made leaps and bounds on the safety front in the last 10 years, especially the last three or four years, and now Formula One is as safe as it’s ever been. Whether it’s the regulations, the engines, or safety, it’s always important, but what is most important is being able to translate that to the real world.”

Finishing out his debut year on a high is all the motivation Piastri needs to keep grinding, which is good news. Just days out from the start of the Australian Grand Prix, McLaren fans are expecting big things from the young gun, hoping he will capitalise on his good form. Pressure, it would appear, is never far from Oscar Piastri. Not that it seems to bother him.

“For me, I just want to try and leave each weekend feeling like I’ve done a good job and being satisfied with my performance regardless of where I end up. Definitely with how we’ve finished the season, it’s hard to not be excited for what could come. So let’s see what we’ve got.”

F3 champion, F2 champion, now the F1 Rookie of The Year, the blond-haired 22-year-old with the baby face is fast becoming our most important export yet. A vision bathed in a papaya golden glow, Piastri is no longer the usurper, he is Australia’s crown prince of the track. Make no mistake, the kid is no ordinary rookie.

Image box
Image box
Image box


Words – Nick Hall
Photography – Quad Lock/
Special thanks: Rebecca Clark