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Oscar Piastri signs deal as Alpine reserve driver for 2022

Australia’s Oscar Piastri is on the verge of joining Daniel Ricciardo on the Formula 1 grid, after signing with Alpine as its reserve driver for 2022.

The 20-year-old currently leads the F2 championship with just two rounds remaining, a result that comes on the back of his F3 title as a rookie in 2020.

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A member of the Alpine Academy since the start of last year, Piastri has impressed on the occasions he’s tested the F1 car, most recently in Barcelona last week.

As the reserve driver, he’ll take part in an “extensive” testing program for Alpine next year.

“I’m super excited to be joining Alpine F1 Team as reserve driver,” Piastri said.

“I’m looking forward to being much more involved with the team and contributing to its intended success next season.

“The reserve driver role is the next step towards my aim for a race seat in 2023, which is very exciting.”

That race seat is likely to come with Alpine, with former world champion Fernando Alonso entering the second and final year of his contract in 2022. Alonso will turn 41 midway through the season, and the pressure will be on Alpine management to look towards the future.

Piastri will have the opportunity to drive at at least two grand prix weekends in 2022, with new rules requiring teams to run a rookie during free practice sessions.

“I’ve proved myself in the junior formulas over the last couple of years and feel like I’m ready for Formula 1 now, along with the trackside experience at race weekends, we will put together a substantial test programme in order to keep developing myself to grow even more prepared for a race seat,” he said.

“I’m very thankful to Alpine for their support. We’ve enjoyed two very successful seasons together in the Academy and I’m grateful for the faith they’ve put in me for this next step with an eye on a bigger future.

“My focus now is finishing the Formula 2 championship in the best possible way with Prema and I’m looking forward to being back in the car and pushing hard on track.”

If Piastri wins this year’s F2 title the rules prevent him from returning to the category next season, meaning he’ll be without a race drive in 2022, something he recently admitted to Wide World of Sports “is certainly not ideal” but a move he’d be “reasonably OK with.”

“But if it looked like two years out there’d be some pretty heavy discussions about the best way forward,” he added, in a clear indication that he expects to be on the F1 grid in 2023.

Alpine boss Laurent Rossi says Piastri’s ability puts him above the other members of the Alpine Academy, including his F2 title rival, Guanyu Zhou, who is widely expected to be confirmed as Valtteri Bottas’ teammate at Alfa Romeo later today.

Zhou and Piastri tested the F1 car in Barcelona last week on consecutive days, with the similar conditions for each driver giving Alpine the perfect opportunity to compare the merits of both.

“Oscar’s natural talent is clear to see, so we’re very proud and privileged to have him as part of our team as our reserve driver from next year,” Rossi said.

“Not only does Oscar have the on-track skills, as demonstrated over the last couple of years in the junior categories, but also the maturity and composure that makes him really stand out from the rest.

“At Enstone he has been a real asset to the team as he has aided the simulator and testing programme and I am certain he will continue to do so in his new role.”

Rossi says it’s not a matter of if Piastri graduates to a race seat, but when.

“The next step will be to consistently attend Grands Prix to fully integrate with the race team, learn what is expected of an F1 driver and be ready for when the opportunity comes,” he explained.

“In addition, we look forward to having Oscar’s input and expertise in driving the team forwards next year.

“Oscar’s graduation highlights the success of our Alpine Academy and underlines its strength as one of the best young driver programmes in motorsport. We look forward to seeing our young talents continue to blossom through the years to come.”

Piastri is managed by nine-time grand prix winner Mark Webber, who recently told Wide World of Sports that the Melburnian is the real deal.

“He’s one of the best three juniors in the world in my opinion,” Webber said.

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