Cool, calm and collected. PETER COSTER looks at a champion in the making.
Let’s talk about Oscar. The McLaren driver in his first year in F1 is showing he’s the real deal.
At the British Grand Prix, two weeks before Sunday’s race in Hungary, he was unlucky not to finish on the podium.
He was third and finished fourth through no fault of his own after a red flag incident. At the Hungaroring on Sunday, the 22-year-old Melbourne driver was lying second before third-placed teammate Lando Norris was brought in for a pit stop ahead of him.
The team excused the swap by saying Norris was in danger of being overtaken by Lewis Hamilton. Norris finished second behind Max Verstappen with his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez in third place.
Hamilton was fourth with Piastri fifth. Just as impressive as Piastri’s performances in the resurgent McLaren is his calmness in the cockpit.
“What do you want me to do now,” he said quietly on team radio while holding second place?
No histrionics after trading places with Norris, no after-race meltdown. Of course, he’s the new boy on the block, but his behaviour along with his performance reminds us that he won every junior championship before he signed with McLaren.
Now he is proving himself in F1 and there is much to come.
Daniel Ricciardo, whom Piastri replaced at McLaren, is also showing the pace that made him an eight-time race winner.Embed from Getty Images
Back in an F1 seat with Red Bull feeder team Alpha Tauri, Ricciardo finished 13th on Sunday after being rear-ended at the first turn.
His car is the slowest on the grid but Ricciardo finished two places ahead of teammate Yuki Tsunoda, which was the real test.
The Honey Badger started 13th after making it into qualy 2 while Tsunoda failed to make the cut from qualy 1.
The moves behind the scenes still have much to play out. Ricciardo was a contender when he was driving for Red Bull alongside Sebastian Vettel and later Max Verstappen
He won seven GPs for the Austrian outfit before going to Alpine when it was Renault and then McLaren where he won at Monza in 2021.
Everyone loves Daniel, or so it seems. Red Bull boss Christian Horner was blindsided by Ricciardo when he left the team and delighted to see him back in a Red-Bull car in Hungary.
Horner reached in to shake Ricciardo’s hand on the grid after praising the Australian following a tyre test at Silverstone, saying his times would have seen him second on the grid for the British Grand Prix alongside Verstappen.
As Danny Ricc was replaced by Piastri, so Ricciardo is being looked at as a possible replacement for Sergio Perez at Red Bull next year.
That’s if Perez does not lift his performances and Ricciardo consistently outraces Tsunoda at Alpha Tauri.
Perez crashed in Hungary in practice after what was considered a rookie’s mistake in getting his wheels on the grass under braking.
The Mexican driver needs to do better, not that he is expected to outperform Verstappen, but because the team needs points from him for the constructors’ championship.
Perez is signed for next but F1 teams are only too willing to tear up contracts if they can sign a winning driver.
Ricciardo was generally considered one of the top five on the grid before he left Red Bull, but was unable to return to his winning ways at McLaren.
The car seemed to be driving Ricciardo rather than the Honey Badger driving the McLaren.
Now he appears to have regained his mojo although he is guaranteed only the rest of this season in the Alpha Tauri.
The drivers’ championship is already a forgone conclusion with Verstappen having won nine of the 11 races this year, the past seven in succession.Embed from Getty Images
Perez won in Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan with Red Bull on a 12 run streak, breaking the record held by McLaren when Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost were driving for the team in 1988.
Who will be driving for which team next year is a known unknown as F1 enters the silly season.
Lewis Hamilton took pole position by a razor-thin three thousandths of a second from Verstappen in Hungary and is likely to stay with Mercedes.
This in spite of team and driver unable to agree to terms on his contract, which ends this year.
The sticking point appears not so much the $70 or so million dollars being bandied about, but the seven-times world champion’s role as as a Mercedes “ambassador” when he does retire.
There is also confusion at Ferrari with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz showing signs of frustration.
The team has scored only a single podium, courtesy of Leclerc in Azerbaijan and is fourth in the constructors’ championship behind Red Bull,. Mercedes and Aston Martin.
Aston Martin, which saw Fernando Alonso switch seats from Alpine in the Piastri defection from Alpine, is on a charge.
The Spanish double world champion has picked up four podiums and is the oldest driver on the grid at 41, nearly double Piastri’s age.
Those old enough will remember the great Fangio, who won five world championships and did not retire until the age of 47.