McLaren: Piastri case won’t change F1 junior programmes

McLaren CEO Zak Brown has denied that the Oscar Piastri case will have an impact on young driver programmes run by Formula 1 teams.

McLaren: Piastri case won’t change F1 junior programmes

Paddock insiders have suggested that the ease with which 2021 Formula 2 champion Piastri was able to walk away from Alpine, after the team had invested heavily in bringing its reserve driver through the ranks, will discourage people from spending in the future.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff noted at Spa that “it's important that junior programmes are being respected,” while RBR’s Christian Horner expressed similar sentiments, saying “there has to be an element of loyalty.” 

However Brown insisted that this was simply a case where Alpine dropped the ball on the contractual side and left Piastri “vulnerable”, and thus it won’t change the overall picture.

OPINION: Why Alpine only has itself to blame for its F1 driver market blunders

“No, I don't think this changes anything,” he said when asked by Autosport if junior programmes might be affected.

“I just think if you have a driver and you're stable, you need to have a contract with them.

“Because it's very competitive as we know and all teams are always looking around to get the best talent they can, and if you don't have a contract, then you're vulnerable.”

Zak Brown, CEO, McLaren Racing

Zak Brown, CEO, McLaren Racing

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl suggested that some people who were critical of Piastri and his manager Mark Webber didn’t know the full story.

“I was a bit surprised about some of the comments I've read also from people that had no detailed knowledge of what was actually happening,” he said.

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“And I think some of these comments were therefore also inappropriate and not fair. And yeah, just not respecting what was happening.

“If I just look at myself in such a situation, if I only know what happened from one side, I try to stay away from making comments on it. And I think that is also important to mention in order to protect Oscar.”

Brown said McLaren’s own test programme with Indycar drivers Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta was not affected by Piastri’s signing, which effectively closes the door to a race seat for the foreseeable future.

“They've been all about their TPC test programme,” he said.

“And of course, we need to put in a rookie, or a couple of rookies in free practice one this year and in the foreseeable future, and you've also seen situations where drivers get COVID or get injured.

“The responsible thing to do as a racing team is always have your two main drivers and, we all have reserve drivers and then you never know what can happen and what opportunity that may create.”

Colton Herta, McLaren MCL35M

Colton Herta, McLaren MCL35M

Photo by: McLaren

Brown confirmed that the team would be happy if Herta was able to take up an opportunity with AlphaTauri, should a deal go through and the American be granted a Super Licence by the FIA.

“I think we would never want to hold a driver back,” he said.

“Racing drivers want to drive, I think it's admirable that someone like Oscar sits out a year.

“We've seen Esteban [Ocon] sit out a year. But we want to encourage racing drivers to race.”

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