Ferrari star slams Aussie prodigy’s F1 snub

Ferrari star Charles Leclerc says Australia’s Oscar Piastri deserves a Formula One spot in 2022, despite it appearing likely the Melbourne driver will be forced to spend a year on the sidelines.

Piastri currently leads the F2 championship, having won the F3 series last year, and is poised to join Leclerc and George Russell as just the third driver to win both junior categories as a rookie.

However, there’s only one spot left on the F1 grid for 2022, with Alfa Romeo yet to announce the identity of Valtteri Bottas’ teammate. Piastri told Wide World of Sports recently that he’s not expecting to get that drive.

“He is a very, very talented driver,” Leclerc told the-race.com.

“I obviously look at all the F2 races and he’s incredibly consistent, always there when he needs to be.

“It is impressive and he definitely has the merit to be in F1.

“I really hope for him – he should be in F1. So, I really hope he will be very soon.”

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While Piastri remains the outsider to get the Alfa Romeo drive, the favourite remains the less accomplished Guanyou Zhou, who has taken six years to progress through F3 and F2. The sport is keen to crack the Chinese market, and Zhou brings with him a hefty war chest to fund the drive.

Piastri’s manager, former grand prix winner Mark Webber, told Wide World of Sports earlier this year that he doubts Zhou has the talent to succeed in F1 over the long term.

Reports have emerged this week of tension between Zhou and Alfa Romeo over the length of a possible contract, with Zhou pushing for a longer duration than Alfa Romeo is willing to offer. That stand-off may enable Piastri to steal the seat.

Regardless, it appears the Australian has a reasonable fall-back position, with all indications pointing to him signing a test and reserve driver deal with Alpine for 2022, with a view to replacing double world champion Fernando Alonso in the race team in 2023.

Some have expressed disquiet that Piastri isn’t guaranteed a drive in F1 if he wins the F2 title, but that’s not a position Leclerc would support.

“It is a difficult one,” he conceded. “I wouldn’t do it as an automatic move, that you win F2 and you go to F1 because this wouldn’t be fair in some cases.

“But it’s also pretty clear once a driver deserves it.

“Oscar it’s his first year in F2 and [it looks likely] he wins it straight away – that’s been the case for other drivers, too.

“I don’t think there needs to be a rule for it. It’s quite obvious that some F2 winners need to get a seat.”

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