Oscar Piastri is nearing a deal to drive for Williams in Formula 1 next season, with his debut possibly confirmed by the end of the month.
The Alpine test and reserve driver is one of F1’s most promising young drivers, winning a hat-trick of titles in Formula Renault Eurocup, Formula 3 and Formula 2 from 2019 to 2021.
He immediately missed an F1 diploma for 2022 as Alpine had no room with his own team and couldn’t agree on a deal for Piastri to go on loan elsewhere.
Piastri tested last year’s Alpine in the 2022 season in addition to his role as the team’s reserve driver.
The Australian gladly took on that role for one season with the agreement that Alpine would find him a racing seat before 2023.
Piastri is under contract with Alpine for next year but is believed to have some sort of release clause if he doesn’t strike a deal to race in F1 by the end of June.
Alpine is still unable to place Piastri in its own team, as Esteban Ocon has a contract until the end of 2024 and two-time world champion Fernando Alonso is all but certain for 2023.
The extension of Alonso’s F1 comeback is seen as a formality given his desire to continue and the quality of his performances this year, even if they are not reflected in his results.
Alpine has made it clear that under the circumstances it would like to see Piastri join another team at short notice, but would not like to lose such a highly regarded driver permanently.
Multiple sources have indicated that it is increasingly likely that Piastri will be loaned to Williams.
It’s also likely that Piastri’s move will be announced at the British Grand Prix, as that event kicks off at the end of June – Alpine’s aforementioned contractual deadline to secure Piastri’s future, and the race Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer hoped it would be. be able to confirm driver plans.
Williams is clearly receptive to such an arrangement, as for the 2022 season it struck a similar deal with Red Bull to sign Alex Albon, with whom Piastri is likely to work with when he makes his F1 debut.
Albon was very impressive in 2022, while team-mate Nicholas Latifi struggled, lacked pace and also had some expensive crashes.
Latifi’s position at Williams has thus far been secured by the funding he brings and his father has also been integral in helping the team manage some of its debts at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That helped Latifi extend his stay until 2022, but he’s not expected to stay for more than a third season.
Latifi said during the Azerbaijan GP weekend that he is aware of his current situation after a lackluster start to the 2022 season.
“I definitely feel like I’m under pressure, that will be the same for any driver who doesn’t have a contract for next year,” Latifi said when asked by The Race about his position.
“I think that pressure is always there whether I’ve had great performances or where I am now, which of course isn’t where I want to be.
“I know I need to improve, I want to improve, I’m not happy with how things are going now, so I’m just trying to keep making steps to improve it.”
However, it seems unlikely that Piastri will replace Latifi from this year’s British GP, as has been reported.
A source well-versed in the situation told The Race that a mid-season change may have been suggested at some point, but not planned or discussed as of Azerbaijan’s GP weekend.
Latifi himself has flatly denied leaving the team mid-season and expects to stay until the end of the year.
Asked by The Race in Baku about the rumor, he said: “I know I’ll be riding for the rest of the year. So don’t really have much to say about that.”
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