Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc warned about up-and-coming F1 reserve driver

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Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc look set to do battle for this season’s Formula 1 crown, but have been warned about another potential future world champion they might soon have to contend with. He was not offered a place on the grid this year, but F2 champion Oscar Piastri has been tipped to shine when his chance in the top category does eventually come along.

Piastri drove superbly in last season’s F2 championship, winning the title to secure a hat-trick of successes in consecutive years across three different racing categories. Many expected teams across the grid to be lining up for his signature, but no offer came and the young Australian does not have a drive.

Instead, Piastri is currently filling the role of reservedriver at Alpine, whose driver development programme he has been part of for a number of years. He supports racers Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon with testing and simulator work, and is also on standby to step in if one of them is unable to take part in a Grand Prix weekend.

Despite being snubbed for 2022, it seems only a matter of time until the 21-year-old is given the shot he has proven he deserves to impress in motorsport’s top single-seater category. Alpine are certainly excited to see what he can do in the future, as chief executive Laurent Rossi explained as he spoke about the youngster in a media session.

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“I would love to have Oscar as my driver for the future Alpine,” Rossi told reporters as he talked up his belief in Piastri’s ability to challenge for the world championship in the future. “For me the ideal scenario is that he wins races and championships with us. This is basically what we’re trying to achieve.”

Alpine have been back in F1 since 2016, returning under the Renault name after a period out of the sport. The team’s plan to return to title contention has been delayed, but they intend to be among the top teams by the 2024 season. And in the French team’s eyes, Piastri is a driver capable of delivering the goods if they are able to provide him with a car capable of achieving that goal.

A talented enough driver is capable of great success in their rookie F1 season – Lewis Hamilton proved as much in 2007 – but experience certainly helps. The veteran Alonso’s future in the sport is unclear, but if the Spaniard decides to stick around beyond the end of the current season then Alpine will have no room to give Piastri that chance to get to grips with F1 in 2023.

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With that in mind, Rossi admitted that the team must be “realistic” in terms of its options and revealed that the idea of loaning Piastri to a rival is “part of the scenarios we need to explore”. He said: “I want to develop Oscar. I don’t want to have him sitting on the bench waiting forever.

“He needs to be ready when the day comes, and the day will come, because he’s extremely talented.” The Alpine chief went on to add that he is “not against having collaborations” with rivals who do not run with Renaul engines – the current total on the grid other than Alpine being zero – implying he is open to any other team pitching a plan to take Piastri as a driver for next season.

“I’m not opposed to these solutions,” he said. before specifying that any such deal must ensure that Alpine have the power to bring the Aussie back into the fold when they have the chance. Rossi added: “If it’s a solution that allows me to get him back at some point, I might think about it, yeah.”

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