Mark Webber hails Oscar Piastri’s ‘extremely positive’ start to his Formula One career at McLaren – Maxsports
May 15, 2024

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Mark Webber hails Oscar Piastri’s ‘extremely positive’ start to his Formula One career at McLaren

Mark Webber hailed Oscar Piastri‘s ‘extremely positive’ start to his Formula One career, but conceded the Aussie debutant was still getting used to the challenges of driving in motorsport’s premier class.

The 21-year-old replaced Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren after spending last season as the reserve driver for Alpine and arrives at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix this weekend with two points finishes under his belt.

‘He’s driven fantastically so far this season,’ Webber, who is Piastri’s agent, told Mail Sport.

‘McLaren have been brilliant with him and the same can be said about Lando Norris.

‘It’s been an extremely positive start, but it’s a tough assignment being up against Lando, who is one of the best drivers in the world.

Mark Webber (right) believes Oscar Piastri (left) has made a fantastic start to his first season in Formula One with McLaren

Mark Webber (right) believes Oscar Piastri (left) has made a fantastic start to his first season in Formula One with McLaren 

Piastri is in his first season in Formula One after replacing Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren

Piastri is in his first season in Formula One after replacing Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren

Piastri claimed his first points in Formula One in front of his home crowd in Melbourne in April, finishing eighth as Max Verstappen took the chequered flag behind the safety car after the race was stopped with two laps to go for a third time following a major crash at the first corner. 

By scoring his first Formula One points in his home GP, Piastri emulated Webber, who finished fifth with Minardi at the end a similarly incident-strewn race at Albert Park in 2002 on his debut in the sport. 

Six weeks after his Melbourne exploit, Piastri finished 10th in Monaco behind teammate Lando Norris and narrowly missed out on points in Azerbaijan and Canada, finishing 11th on both occasions.

Aside from retiring in Bahrain in the season opener due to electrical issues, Piastri has shown remarkable consistency so far, finishing all the next eight races.

A world champion in Formula 2 and Formula 3 in 2020 and 2021, Piastri has long been considered one of Formula One’s rising stars and his move to McLaren only enhanced his reputation.

But the young Australian was eager to keep expectations in check ahead of his debut season, warning it could take time for him to get used to the demands of the sport after spending last year on the sidelines. 

Webber, however, believes Piastri has already taken significant strides forward in his first months in the paddock.

‘Oscar is slowly establishing himself in the sport and is working extremely hard,’ he said.

Piastri finished eighth in the Australian GP in Melbourne in April to claim his first points

Piastri finished eighth in the Australian GP in Melbourne in April to claim his first points

Lando Norris (right) has helped Piastri settle in his debut season at McLaren

Lando Norris (right) has helped Piastri settle in his debut season at McLaren

‘He’s accounted himself extremely well, particularly when you consider he didn’t drive for 15 months. 

‘I mean, he didn’t do a Friday [practice session] in the whole of last year and despite having so little testing available he’s improving all the time.’

The Australian, who will be part of Channel 4’s coverage of the British Grand Prix, acknowledged ‘establishing himself in Formula One remains a huge process’ for Piastri.

And the biggest challenges may be off the track, rather than in the cockpit.  

‘I don’t think there have been any unexpected challenges on the track, but the aspects of being a Formula One driver off the track can take time adjusting to,’ Webber said..

‘The commercial side of the sport is so much bigger than in the junior categories and is something you have to get used to. Nobody can prepare you for it. 

‘But Oscar has adapted quickly, he’s incredibly mature and has an incredibly cool head for the age he is.’ 

The 46-year-old Webber will be at Silverstone working as analyst for Channel 4 this week

The 46-year-old Webber will be at Silverstone working as analyst for Channel 4 this week

The Australian considers Silverstone 'still a special place' with plenty of history

The Australian considers Silverstone ‘still a special place’ with plenty of history

Webber noted Silverstone's sheer scale and the fact most Formula One teams are based in the UK make the Northamptonshire track an iconic venue

Webber noted Silverstone’s sheer scale and the fact most Formula One teams are based in the UK make the Northamptonshire track an iconic venue

The next stop for Piastri is Silverstone, a special track for McLaren, which has finished on top of the podium at the Northamptonshire track 14 times – second only to Ferrari’s 18 victories.

It is a special place for Webber too, as the Australian triumphed at Silverstone in 2010 and 2012.

And the 46-year-old is relishing the opportunity to work at the British Grand Prix as analyst for Channel 4.

‘Silverstone is still a special place,’ he said. 

‘The sheer scale of the venue and there’s so much history about it. And you have to factor in that all the teams are based in the UK, which is unique.

‘The place just has this fabric and character that talks to you. As a driver it’s incredibly fast, very demanding. It can be windy, which makes it even trickier for drivers.’

Webber won nine races and finished on the podium 42 times in 215 starts. 

With 14 and 12 victories respectively, three-time world champion Jack Brabham and 1980 world champion Alan Jones are the only two Australians to have won more Formula One races than the former Red Bull star.

Webber has fond memories of Silverstone, winning  there in  2010 and 2012 (above)

Webber has fond memories of Silverstone, winning  there in  2010 and 2012 (above)

Could Piastri follow in such illustrious footsteps?

‘It’s great to have Oscar representing Australia,’ Webber said..

‘We are a relatively small country and it’s great to be represented on such a stage. 

‘If Oscar can better our achievements he will only raise the profile of Formula One in Australia, but he’s solely focused on his career and improving himself at the moment.’

Watch the British Grand Prix free-to-air this weekend on Channel 4 in the UK