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Mark Webber on how Piastri handled the Alpine-McLaren contract battle

Mark Webber looks into how "relaxed" and "loyal" Oscar Piastri remained throughout the tug-of-war between McLaren and Alpine

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Mark Webber admitted that being “wanted” by McLaren was essential for Oscar Piastri to make his move and finally get a drive in 2023.

Since 2020, Mark Webber has been mentoring Oscar Piastri (Image Credit: Herald Sun)

Having been sidelined for a year, Oscar Piastri wanted to find a seat for the upcoming season. When Sebastian Vettel announced his retirement from Formula One, Aston Martin confirmed that Fernando Alonso will replace him. Alpine were quick to confirm Piastri‘s promotion to Formula One.

However, the Aussie publicly came out and said that this decision was taken without his permission. The talks between McLaren and Piastri were revealed and the Woking team did everything in their hands to sign him on.

Mark Webber was essential in guiding Piastri to make the right decision and approach both teams professionally. His Formula One experience surely came in handy in teaching the 2023 rookie how to tackle such a tough situation so early in his career.

The battle went to the Contract Recognition Board (CRB) which ruled that McLaren may sign Oscar Piastri. The Aussie replaced compatriot Daniel Ricciardo and will now drive alongside Lando Norris.

His manager Webber told Speedcafe how Piastri approached such a situation and how he remained composed.

Mark Webber’s insight

In a very stressful situation, the 21-year-old remained “relaxed” as he waited for the decision on whether he’ll drive for McLaren or not. So early in his career, Piastri already had to face a situation which not only caused uncertainty but also a media frenzy.

Webber said when asked how Piastri handled this: “He was pretty relaxed, actually. Of course, he was ironically showing as much loyalty as he could do under the circumstances, because he was waiting for answers, and he was the one that was the most loyal out of the whole situation.

“And all the other shareholders and people who had been there since he’s been eight years old, were certainly a lot less patient. But Oscar was keen to be as loyal as possible, and it still was pretty challenging, what the future was looking like.”

It can be said that Piastri had the most to lose here. Webber pinpointed the fact that McLaren would still have gone with a change in drivers, even if Piastri wasn’t available. However, they still didn’t take the matter lightly. It showed from the fact that they fought with Alpine and went to the rarely-used CRB for him.

The former Red Bull driver added: “Then obviously McLaren said they wanted to make a change – whether that was Oscar, or whoever it was – that was the main thing, we could’ve had no Aussies on the grid next year. Who knows?

“A great opportunity for Oscar to get going. Of course he was mindful of replacing Daniel [Ricciardo], absolutely he was. He knows if it wasn’t him, it could’ve been someone else.”

Oscar Piastri waiting for a seat

It’s painful for any driver to spend a year waiting to get a seat. After winning the Formula 2 championship in 2021, he wanted to come into F1 bouncing. But he didn’t get the chance and that “was really hurting [him].” Webber added:

“He knows he should’ve been racing this year [2022]. That’s the big killer here. He did a few days testing but racing drivers have got to race – and that was really hurting [him]…”

The nine-time F1 race winner concluded: “They [McLaren] wanted him. That’s the first thing. That makes a pretty big difference. It’s important to be wanted, and be pretty clear and open on what the plan is.”

Featured Image Credit: Planet F1

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