F2 star Piastri reflects on ‘Oscar’-winning championship
As the globally-recognised entry point to the FIA’s Single-Seater Pathway, the F4 British Championship certified by FIA currently boasts a star-studded list of graduates now rising through the ranks towards the pinnacle of the sport.
With six races remaining in the FIA Formula 2 Championship, Australian rising star Oscar Piastri holds a healthy 36-point margin over closest rival Guanyu Zhou as the 20-year-old from Melbourne chases a third successive single seater crown.
Title glory on the final step of the ‘Road to F1’ would cap off a meteoric rise for Mark Webber’s protégé who, after finishing as runner-up to Jamie Caroline on British shores in 2017, secured both the Formula Renault Eurocup and FIA Formula 3 titles back-to-back internationally in 2019 and 2020.
Piastri entered this season as a Rookie to F2 but wasted little time in asserting himself with victory at the Bahrain season opener. He has since made a further two trips to the winner’s circle at Monza and Sochi, and with seven podiums in total this campaign, Piastri’s stock has risen to an all-time high.
During an extended break from F2 action, we caught up with Oscar to reflect on his time in Britain’s FIA Formula 4 series.
F4: “Oscar, it would be good to start with your recollections of your year in British F4?”
OP: “In general, it was a good season, a pretty fun year. I finished second, so it was pretty solid. I had done a couple of F4 races in the UAE before that, but it was my first proper championship in cars.
“It was good, I was sort of there or thereabouts on the pace straight away; there were a few challenges, but it was really good, I learnt a lot. Just experiencing a car racing weekend compared to karting and being on the touring car package and having fans watching for the first time, so that was cool. Just a lot of different experiences.”
F4: “The circuits in the UK can be notoriously unforgiving; how important was that for you in terms of ironing out mistakes?”
OP: “That was definitely one of the challenging parts of F4. When you rock up to places like Knockhill or Oulton Park, you get very heavily punished for a mistake.
“I think because it was my first proper championship with testing, I didn’t really know any different at that point. That was a good learning experience I think, because it taught you where the limit is and not to over-push it. It reminded you from very early on in your single-seater career that mistakes come with punishments, especially at tracks like those I mentioned before.
“I loved it, really. On pretty much all the F4 circuits, there was no grey area because you were on the track or in the grass, the gravel, or a wall.
“That part I really liked, and it was a good challenge.”
F4: “We have a lot of the world’s best single-seater teams here in the UK; what are your memories of the standard of the championship?”
OP: “Stepping up from karts, it’s a pretty big step up. I think most people that come from European karting are probably familiar with analysing data and working with maybe not their own personal engineer but an engineer of some sorts, somebody that can help guide them.
“Coming from that side of things wasn’t so much of a big step, but having your own engineer like we did at Arden, and I’m sure most of the teams do for each driver, working with somebody personally like that and going to a factory, going to Arden’s workshop and spending time there, going on the sim – there was a lot of different things going on to prepare besides actually going to the race track, which was a big step up from karting.
“There was a lot more to it when I jumped up to F4 and that carried through to the rest of the single seater categories as well.”
F4: “Of course, you get plenty of track time across the ten weekends – more so than any other Formula 4 series in Europe – how did the format help develop you as a driver?”
OP: “It’s 30 races, but it’s only ten weekends, so you’re not constantly on the road. Compared to the higher categories of single seaters, you’ve got a lot more track time, we had a lot more testing as well so you could get familiar with the circuits and the car.
“And then on the race weekends, you had two races where qualifying mattered and then you had the experience of the reverse grid, which could be your friend or your enemy, depending on where you qualified or finished!
“In terms of developing my race craft, the reverse grid probably helped quite a bit, because I think my qualifying that year was quite good, so I was generally starting at the front, but in the reverse grid races I had to make up positions, so I think that helped. Whilst sometimes it was frustrating, I think in the long run it probably helped with my race craft as well.”
F4: “Are there are any strategies or skills you use today in FIA Formula 2 that you can trace back to your development as a driver in F4?”
OP: “In terms of actually driving, there’s not really that much that transfers any more, but in terms of the external things, even just experiencing a race weekend with fans, or the pressure of a race weekend, I wouldn’t under-estimate how much of a step up that is and how that helped.
“Going to places like Thruxton, it was a full house when we raced there. Coming into F4 where every race counts towards the championship was a bit of a mindset change and that is the same in any category from F4 onwards.
“From that side of things, it definitely transfers and there are still some things I use because in my F4 year there were a few ups and downs. When you look back on it in hindsight, obviously you take the good things but also maybe the biggest learnings come from the things you did wrong.
“I think learning from my mistakes in F4 is the biggest thing I’ve taken forward, and subconsciously that general experience of racing single seaters in front of a crowd, with the pressure of trying to prove yourself and, at that point, trying to get to an F1 academy or stuff like that, there’s a lot of pressure from even in F4. I think carrying that forward has helped me.”