Aussie motorsport prodigy closing in on F1 future
Mark Webber is in talks with the top Formula 2 teams over a move to the rung just below Formula One for his protege Oscar Piastri next year.
After sealing the Formula 3 championship in a thrilling finale at the Tuscan Grand Prix last weekend, the Australian teenager is set to graduate to the final step on the ladder before Formula One in 2021.
Piastri completed an eye-catching rookie season in F3, in which he claimed two race wins and six podiums overall on the nine-race calendar.
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Webber, who manages and mentors 19-year-old Piastri, said the Melbourne racer's performances this year had impressed the "biggest influencers" in the sport.
There are still two races left in this year's F2 championship, in which Mick Schumacher - the son of Formula One champion Michael - sits at the top of the standings.
Webber said he hoped to finalise a deal for Piastri's move up to the series soon.
"Clearly Oscar has to move into Formula 2 for 2021 and thanks to his success this year, the top F2 teams are talking to us," Webber said.
"We're weighing up the pros and cons at the moment but we should be in a position to finalise an agreement shortly.
"For sure, he will be in a F2 car for the end of season test in Bahrain."
Piastri's F3 title win came after winning the Formula Renault Eurocup drivers' championship last year, which secured him a place in the Renault Sport Academy.
Webber, a nine-time Formula One race winner, said F1 teams all took F3 results seriously and he continued to discuss his young charge with the sport's "biggest influencers"
"To win back-to-back championships as Oscar has is impressive by anyone's standards, but for him to win the FIA Formula 3 Championship in his rookie year is just sensational," Webber said.
"People in F1 take F3 seriously and that's evident by teams like Renault, Ferrari and Red Bull all having their young drivers in the category.
"Being on the support program at F1 races is massive, too - it's been a bit different this year because of Covid-19 and everyone having to remain within their respective bubbles but even so, I've been messaging and catching up whenever I can with the biggest influencers in the game.
"They've all been very impressed by Oscar and there's no doubt they will continue to monitor his progress.
"While Formula One is very much the end goal for Oscar, he knows he has to continue to deliver on-track year-on-year. Renault through its Renault Sport Academy have shown great faith in him, so he's in tremendous shape at this stage of his career."
The rising champion
Piastri's Formula One ambitions were given a turbo charge after he claimed the Formula 3 championship in Italy.
Webber declared last week "all the F1 teams are watching" the 19-year-old, Piastri completed an eye-catching rookie campaign to seal the F3 title in the final race of the season at the Tuscan Grand Prix.
Moving up an extra position right on the finish line, Piastri's seventh-place finish in the last race was enough to hold off French driver Theo Pourchaire, who finished the race in third, in the title battle.
Piastri finished just three points ahead of Pourchaire in the championship standings.
The Melbourne teenager's championship hopes were boosted on the opening lap when his Prema Racing teammate and chief championship rival, American Logan Sargeant, was run off the track at turn two, ending his campaign.
Piastri, who was signed up to the Renault Sport Academy ahead of the 2020 season, and Sargeant had shared the championship lead ahead of the final race.
Confirming his status as Australia's rising motorsport star and next Formula One hopeful, Piastri and his manager Webber embraced after the race.
Piastri's championship win was still sinking in after the race, which was won by New Zealand's Liam Lawson.
"I'm exhausted to be honest. It was a tough race and I think the last few weeks have put me to the test emotionally," Piastri said.
"I still can't really believe we won that thing.
"Obviously I feel really sorry for Logan, you never want to see that happen to your teammate and your title rival. That's the first thing I'm going to do when I get back is try to console him.
"I had a good start and then after that I could bide my time a little bit as long as Theo wasn't too quick.
"I have been quite consistent over the year. We bounced back from all setbacks we've had. (We) had quite a few technical issues and other problems to deal with .. but keeping my head cool and my consistency has been the biggest thing."
Piastri started the season with a win in his first race and had two wins and six podiums overall in his rookie season.
He had led the championship by eight points leading into the final weekend in Italy.