Australian Grand Prix 2023: Alan Jones says Oscar Piastri will be world champion, McLaren fires the technical boss
Australian world champion Alan Jones has backed Oscar Piastri after a difficult start to his time in Formula One. And Jones is tipping him big this year and beyond.
Alan Jones has predicted that Oscar Piastri will be Australia’s next Formula One world champion as Damon Hill, a great F1 colleague, backed the young gun to take on McLaren team-mate Lando Norris at the track this year.
Ahead of Piastri’s debut in next week’s Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park, 1980 F1 World Champion Jones described the 21-year-old as a rare racing talent who has won everything he’s “ever put up his butt”.
Piastri entered Formula 1 with high expectations and a bright résumé as a junior racing driver that included back-to-back F3 and F2 championship wins, but it was a challenging start to his McLaren career.
The Melburnian (19th) and his British team-mate Norris (20th) occupy the bottom two positions in the F1 Drivers’ Championship, with Piastri’s 15th place in Saudi Arabia being the team’s best result.
Despite the dismal start, Jones, Australia’s last F1 world champion, believed Piastri was capable of great things in Formula 1.
“I think he can be world champion,” Jones said.
“Every once in a while somebody comes along who has tremendous talent and I guess he’s that kind of people.
“Everything he’s ever put up his butt, he’s won, and there aren’t too many people who can say that.
“He certainly has the ability to go on and become world champion.
“He’s just as impressive outside the car as he is in the car. He takes care of himself very well. I think that in addition to the results for the team, he will also be very good for the sponsors.”
Piastri retired with technical problems in the opening race in Bahrain, but his prospects in Saudi Arabia were dashed by a contact on the first lap after starting eighth.
Jones, who will be part of Channel 10’s commentary team for the Australian Grand Prix alongside Hill, said Piastri had already shown his potential amid the papaya fights.
“He had a bit of bad luck, none of it was his fault,” Jones said.
“But he certainly put in the performance that we expected from him, especially the last one (Saudi Arabia), I thought he drove particularly well.
“He hasn’t driven in 12 months so coming in after a 12 month break and then going into F1 and going to circuits he’s never been to is a pretty steep learning curve for him.
“But like I said, I think he has the ability, and I think he’ll bring it to Lando eventually and probably sooner rather than later.”
Hill, the 1996 World Champion, also had no doubt that Piastri, in his fifth season with McLaren, could be a headache this year as a competitive teammate.
“Absolutely, I think he can. I think it’s already obvious that he’s not that far off,” Hill said.
“I’m sure Lando has the experience advantage when it comes to tracks (Piastri) he hasn’t been to and also conditions and situations.
“But (Piastri) is an intelligent kid and he has bright eyes and can handle himself. He has confidence in his own abilities and I think that’s such a big part of the chemistry to have.”
Hill said Piastri already felt at home in Formula 1.
“[He was]very solid, very professional and confident,” Hill said.
“He hasn’t shown himself, he doesn’t look intimidated by Formula 1 at all.
“But Oscar seems to be home, that’s half the battle. He looks like he knows he should be there.
“He’s got a good experienced head in (manager) Mark Webber as an adviser and I think it’s really important to have people behind you who understand what the game is.
“It’s either a piranha pool or a snake pit or a shark tank, I don’t know what it is F1 but you sleep you lose and you have to keep your sanity but he’s got a good guy in Markus for that.”
Fired: McLaren make big changes on the eve of the Aus GP
Troubled Formula One team McLaren has sacked its technical director as part of a mass overhaul of its program to halt its slide to the bottom of the F1 grid.
McLaren boss Zak Brown announced overnight that executive technical director James Key would be leaving the team as part of a revamp that would introduce three new technical director positions.
The move comes after McLaren’s terrible start to 2023 when he was bottom of the Constructors’ Championship after two rounds without points.
McLaren endured a choppy year in 2022, falling to fifth in the overall title after losing a battle with Alpine for fourth when Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo was sacked on a year’s contract.
But Ricciardo’s departure did nothing to improve the Papaya’s performance as No.1 driver Lando Norris posted his worst career results in 2023 while Australian rookie teammate Oscar Piastri was also struggling to squeeze any performance out of his MCL60 .
As part of the changes, Peter Prodromou will move to the role of Technical Director Aerodynamics, David Sanchez will return to McLaren next season as Technical Director Vehicle Concepts and Performance after a decade at Ferrari, Neil Houldey will step into the newly created role of Technical Director Promoted to Engineering and Design, Giuseppe Pesce is promoted to Director, Aerodynamics & Chief of Staff to support the operations of the Aero department, which reports to Peter.
The F1 technical team will report to Team Principal Andrea Stella.
“Looking ahead, I am determined and fully focused on bringing McLaren back to the front of the field,” said Stella.
“Since taking on the role of Team Principal, I have been given the mandate to take a strategic approach to ensure the team is placed on a long-term foundation that we can build on over the years.
“This new structure brings clarity and effectiveness within the team’s engineering division and puts us in a strong position to maximize performance, including optimizing the new infrastructure upgrades coming in 2023.
McLaren CEO Brown acknowledged that the team had not kept up with the technical development of other racing teams, so a mass overhaul was needed.
“It’s important now that we ensure we have a solid foundation for the next phase of our journey,” Brown said.
“It has been clear to me for some time that our technical development has not progressed fast enough to meet our ambitions to return to the top. I am pleased that after completing a full review with Andrea we are now in a position to undertake the restructuring needed to get the wheels in motion to change this.
“These strategic changes ensure the long-term success of the team and are necessary for McLaren to get back on track for success.
“We’ve now got everything in order with our people and infrastructure and alongside an exciting driver line-up I’m fully committed to getting McLaren back to where we should be.”
Lead driver Norris supported the changes, tweeting on Friday: “From team changes to major infrastructure upgrades, each and every one of us is working flat out to bring McLaren back to the top. Seeya soon ‘straya.”
David Sanchez commented: “I am excited to be returning to the team at Woking and look forward to working with Peter and Neil and the rest of the team to achieve our performance goals. McLaren has always had an extremely talented group of people and alongside the new infrastructure upgrades coming online this year, we have an exciting prospect ahead of us that I am delighted to be a part of.”
Originally published as 2023 Australian Grand Prix: F1 News ahead of Albert Park as McLaren Sack Tech Chief
https://www.codesports.com.au/motorsport/australian-grand-prix-f1-news-updates-ahead-of-albert-park-race/news-story/837411486e1bea05543e42f9649d7874?nk=aaec28b93cd07b930b193f5b30206f86-1679706184 Australian Grand Prix 2023: Alan Jones says Oscar Piastri will be world champion, McLaren fires the technical boss