DRIVER MARKET: Is Oscar Piastri in line for a seat at Williams?

Over the previous couple of days, one of many hottest subjects in System 1 has been the way forward for Oscar Piastri, with the Alpine reserve driver linked with a possible transfer to Williams. F1 Correspondent Lawrence Barretto assesses the state of affairs.

Alpine are in a spot of trouble. They’ve three drivers they charge extremely however solely two race seats for 2023. Esteban Ocon is on a long-term deal that runs till at the least the tip of 2024. Fernando Alonso’s deal expires on the finish of the yr, however there’s a need from each side to proceed, so spectacular has the double world champion been, and a lot has he loved life since returning to System 1 after a two-year hiatus.

INTERVIEW: Oscar Piastri on why his yr on the sidelines is a press release of intent from Alpine

And which means Alpine’s reserve driver Oscar Piastri, the reigning System 2 champion who’s highly-rated by the French producer and others within the F1 paddock, faces the prospect of a second yr on the sidelines and shedding the momentum that he’d constructed profitable the System Renault Eurocup, F3 after which F2 title in succession.

Alpine don’t wish to threat that occuring and subsequently have been actively chatting with different groups on the grid within the hope they’ll discover him a seat for subsequent yr, with the concept when Alonso chooses to name it a day, they’ll recall Piastri, who by then can have F1 expertise underneath his belt and be race sharp.

A kind of groups whom they’ve contacted is Williams. Because it stands, Williams have two free seats for 2023, although the truth is that Alex Albon shall be with the crew subsequent yr, and certain within the medium to long-term if he retains delivering, so robust have his performances been this yr.

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Piastri’s unbelievable momentum is prone to faltering

The opposite seat, although, is up for grabs, with Nicholas Latifi’s three-year deal coming to an finish this yr. The Canadian has actually struggled to get on high of what’s believed to be a really troublesome automobile to get efficiency from. He is additionally been damage by the very fact his crew mate Albon has are available and overdelivered, scoring factors twice with a automobile that actually isn’t able to doing so on pure efficiency.

Latifi’s struggles, mixed with Piastri’s availability, has led to hypothesis that the Australian will soar in mid-season, as early because the British Grand Prix, however I perceive that isn’t the plan. For now, the main focus is on attempting to get Latifi on top of things and on the tempo this yr.

READ MORE: ‘It’s a head sport’ – Capito says Williams working to rebuild Latifi’s confidence after robust begin to 2022

That isn’t to say that Williams aren’t already fascinated about how their driver line-up evolves with an eye fixed on subsequent yr – and it’s true that Piastri is excessive up on the checklist. An Albon-Piastri line-up could be thrilling – and an actual assertion of intent.

However they don’t have to take him – and they aren’t in a rush to resolve. In the event that they do signal him up, it must be on their phrases – a multi-year deal or probably a one-year contract with an choice on Williams’ aspect to retain him. Williams will wish to keep away from being a stopgap and agreeing to a easy one-year deal, solely to then lose him to Alpine the next yr.

Albon has shone on his F1 return, whereas the going has been more durable for Latifi

I perceive any deal could be a driver-only association. Williams have a long-term and profitable partnership with Mercedes, taking their engines and gearbox. There is no such thing as a need to finish that and swap to Renault variations of these parts.

They are going to think about retaining Latifi, too, if he turns issues round. He’s a well-liked member of the crew and has proven flashes of pace. The British crew are planning a big replace, which could assist the Canadian really feel extra comfy behind the wheel and assist him unlocking the automobile’s potential. However he might want to step it up and accomplish that shortly and persistently if he’s to remain on.

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Trying additional forward, Williams have choices from inside, with Staff Principal Jost Capito eager to convey by means of the younger expertise they’re working with by means of their Driver Academy. Ought to American Logan Sargeant win F2 this yr or subsequent, he could be an actual contender for a race seat as Williams look to construct their model in the US. Additionally they have Briton Zak O’Sullivan in F3, who might be within the body for a seat in three or 4 years’ time.

Whereas they’re struggling proper now, their house owners Dorilton Capital are supportive financially, permitting the crew to function on the funds cap, and as soon as they get on high of the brand new technology of vehicles, they are going to be a really engaging proposition. They don’t have to take pay drivers any extra, nor have they got to take drivers on much less beneficial circumstances.

Piastri is their lead contender – but when they get collectively, it’ll be on their phrases.

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