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

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In recent days, one of the hottest topics in Formula 1 has been the future of Oscar Piastri, with the Alpine reserve driver linked with a possible move to Williams. F1 correspondent Lawrence Barretto assesses the situation.

Alpine is in a place of nuisance. They have three drivers that they rate very well, but only two race seats for 2023. Esteban Ocon has a long-term contract that lasts until at least the end of 2024. Fernando Alonso’s contract expires at the end of the year, but there is a desire. from both sides to go on, so impressive has the two-time world champion been, and so much has he enjoyed life since he returned to Formula 1 after a two-year break.

INTERVIEW: Oscar Piastri on why his year on the sidelines is a statement of intent from Alpine

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And that means Alpine reserve driver Oscar Piastri, the reigning Formula 2 champion who is highly rated by the French manufacturer and others in the F1 paddock, faces the prospect of a second year on the sidelines and losing the momentum he had built winning. the Formula Renault Eurocup, F3 and then the F2 title in succession.

Alpine doesn’t want to risk that happening and has therefore been actively talking to other teams on the grid in the hope that they can find him a seat for next year, with the idea that when Alonso decides to give up At the end of the day, you may remember Piastri, who by then will have F1 experience and be ready for the race.

One of those teams they have contacted is Williams. As it stands, Williams has two free seats for 2023, although the reality is that Alex Albon will be with the team next year, and probably in the medium to long term if he continues to deliver, that’s how strong his performances have been this year.


Piastri’s incredible drive risks faltering

However, the other seat is up for grabs, as Nicholas Latifi’s three-year contract comes to an end this year. The Canadian has really struggled to keep up with what is believed to be a very difficult car to pull off. He has also been affected by the fact that his teammate Albon has come in and gone overboard, scoring points twice with a car that really isn’t capable of doing so based on pure performance.

Latifi’s problems, combined with Piastri’s availability, have led to speculation that the Australian will jump mid-season, already at the British Grand Prix, but I understand that is not the plan. For now, the focus is on trying to get Latifi up to speed and on pace for this year.

READ MORE: ‘It’s a mind game’: Capito says Williams is working to rebuild Latifi’s confidence after rocky start to 2022

That’s not to say that Williams isn’t already thinking about how its driver line-up evolves for next year, and it’s true that Piastri is high on the list. An Albon-Piastri lineup would be exciting and a real statement of intent.

But they don’t need to take it away, and they’re not in a hurry to decide. If they do sign him, it would have to be on his terms: a multiyear deal or potentially a one-year deal with an option on Williams’ part to keep him. Williams will want to avoid being a stopgap and agree to a simple one-year deal, only to lose it to Alpine the following year.


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Albon has shone on his return to F1, while things have been more difficult for Latifi

I understand that any agreement would be a driver-only arrangement. Williams has a long-term and successful partnership with Mercedes, taking over their engines and gearboxes. There is no desire to end that and switch to Renault versions of those components.

They will also consider keeping Latifi, if he changes things. He is a popular member of the team and has shown flashes of speed. The British team is planning a major update, which could help the Canadian feel more comfortable behind the wheel and help him unlock the car’s potential. But he will have to step up and do it quickly and consistently if he wants to stay.

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Looking ahead, Williams has options from within, with team principal Jost Capito keen to bring in the young talent they are working with through his Driver Academy. Should American Logan Sargeant win F2 this year or next, he would be a real contender for a seat in the race as Williams looks to build his brand in the US. They also have Britain’s Zak O’Sullivan in F3, who could be in the field for a seat in three or four years’ time.

While they are struggling at the moment, their owners, Dorilton Capital, support them financially, allowing the team to operate within the budget cap, and once they are aware of the new generation of cars, they will be a very attractive proposition. They no longer need to accept paid drivers, nor do they have to accept drivers on less favorable terms.

Piastri is their main contender, but if they get together, it will be on his terms.

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