Piastri signs new deal
McLaren's Oscar Piastri has been compared to a couple of Formula One greats by his team boss. Image by AP PHOTO
  • motor racing

Piastri hailed for Michael Schumacher-like qualities

Ian Chadband September 22, 2023

Oscar Piastri has been compared to a couple of Formula One greats as McLaren celebrated capturing the services of the young Australian prospect until 2026.

And while McLaren boss Andrea Stella was enthusing about Piastri’s new deal with the British F1 giants, the Victorian’s teammate Lando Norris was also quick to suggest the pair are now the strongest combination of drivers in the sport.

The 22-year-old rookie Piastri has signed with McLaren for at least three more seasons after agreeing to a long-term contract extension following an impressive start to life in the fastest lane, meaning he and Norris will be teamed together until at least the end of 2025.

Speaking in Suzuka on Thursday before the Japanese Grand Prix, Italian Stella, who’s previously worked with double world champion Fernando Alonso at McLaren and legendary seven-time winner Michael Schumacher at Ferrari, revealed how he saw some of that pair’s exceptional talent and professionalism in the Melbourne youngster.

“You may be as talented as (Piastri is), but there are a lot of people that were talented but it didn’t lead anywhere because there was no attitude to continuous improvements.

“I think we have really good examples now on the grid of drivers that can keep being extremely competitive at ages that we didn’t think that will be obvious because of continuous improvements — just attitude to continuous improvements. 

“In this sense I think this one is a similarity with Fernando (Alonso).

“Then we have the person behind the driver. For us it was important to make sure that the person that we keep on board is a person that not only fits our culture but will contribute to establishing the culture even more and potentially adding to the culture, adding to the values and the behaviours that make us become a team of mates.

“And in this sense Oscar, I have to say, from just a personal point of view, if he wasn’t a Formula One driver, I would appreciate him as a person. 

“The values he brings into the sport and the values he brings into the collaboration with the team in this sense makes me think about Michael (Schumacher).

“Somebody who worked with Michael here in the paddock — he is at another team — said to me he was so capable of building families. It was definitely tough on track, but within the team, the spirit, the sense of unity was not short of like a family, a sense of family.

“So I think I’m referring to natural talent attitude and culture and values. These three things became apparent to us (about Piastri) relatively soon, and that’s why the conversations (over a contract extension) started soon.”

In a car which wasn’t competitive until recently this season, Piastri has performed admirably this season, with his more experienced British teammate Norris declaring in Suzuka on Thursday that they were “the strongest” pair of drivers in any team.

“He’s performed, he’s done everything he needed to, and I think it exceeded most people’s expectations from what he’s been able to achieve already this season,” Norris said of Piastri.

“He’s pushed me a lot – it’s not a nice thing, it’s not what I want – but he’s done a very good job, so congrats to him.”