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Webber backs Piastri for 2023 seat


Nine-time Grand Prix winner behind rising star

Mark Webber is working hard to put Australian Oscar Piastri on the Formula 1 grid next year.

The nine-time Grand Prix winner is full of confidence that Piastri, who is BWT Alpine F1 team's reserve driver at the Formula 1® Heineken® Australian Grand Prix 2022, will be on the grid in 2023.

Webber was an impromptu Master of Ceremonies at a function to mark Piastri’s 21st birthday on Wednesday, and was full of praise for what he has achieved so far. In consecutive years, Piastri has won the 2019 Formula Renault, 2020 Formula 3 and 2021 Formula 2 titles.

“It has been a great journey to this point,” Webber said.

“He is going about his career in a very special way, going through the categories quickly as you like. It is a little bit gut-wrenching, of course, to know that he is not going to be on the grid this year.

"A little bit of patience is required right at the end here.”

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Webber, who acts as a manager and mentor for his countryman, hinted that he was expecting Piastri to take his place on the grid in 2023.

“Hopefully this year will go very quickly and he can get stuck into stuff next year. There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes, so it is exciting times," Webber said.

While the rising star is clearly established in the Alpine team, it is by no means certain that is where he may drive. Esteban Ocon, who attended the birthday function, has a long-term deal with the team, while Fernando Alonso is contracted to the end of the year.

On the other hand, Piastri did have a seat fitting with the McLaren team prior to the Bahrain Grand Prix, when there was some doubt whether Daniel Ricciardo would recover from COVID-19 in time to be fit for the race.

Piastri had a seat fitting with the McLaren prior to the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, after the team announced they would use him as a reserve driver if one of their full timers was unable to race.

Daniel Ricciardo was struck down with COVID-19 at the same time, but recovered days before the race weekend was scheduled to begin.

The self-effacing Webber, who left Australia at 19 to pursue his own career, also praised his protege for his demeanour, saying “my wife says that Oscar is the most sophisticated Australian that has ever left Australia!”