McLaren Team Principal Andrea Stella has expressed that he sees similarities between Oscar Piastri and World Champions Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher.
Piastri has enjoyed an encouraging rookie campaign in Formula 1, culminating with the newcomer securing his maiden front-row starting berth and podium in Japan.
Prior to that weekend, McLaren confirmed that it had struck an agreement with Piastri to renew the contractual agreement between the parties through to the end of 2026.
Stella contends that McLaren was already certain about securing Piastri’s services on a long-term basis much earlier than when the eventual announcement arrived.
“It is a new contract because it became very apparent for us that we wanted to secure this prospect and we wanted to realise the full extent of the collaboration,” Stella stated.
“It came at the point in which it was very apparent for us that Oscar is the right driver for McLaren, because of the many, many reasons. I would like to say that this has been clear to us very early.
“The announcement comes now but actually the agreement was found pretty early on because what we needed to assess became clear and apparent to us very soon.
“I’m happy to say that the same was on Oscar’s side. It was recognised by both parties that this is the collaboration that should lead both parties — from a team point of view and from a driver point of view — into the future.”
McLaren began the year battling to even score points, but the introduction of a revised car in Austria in July has elevated the British squad into regular podium contention.
McLaren has since scooped five podiums and scored 137 points at the previous eight rounds compared to a pitiful total of 17 in the eight rounds proceeding the Red Bull Ring.
When asked how big a role the Austria upgrades played in Piastri’s new deal, Stella responded: “How much this played a part for Oscar I can’t actually say, but I know how much this played a part for me and for Zak [Brown, McLaren CEO], because we didn’t want to approach conversations by saying, ‘Ah, this is going to be a team that knows how to generate competitive[ness] on track by improving the car, where we want to establish this kind of culture, where we want to support drivers in a certain way, where we want to have a certain collaboration between the two drivers’.
“We needed to prove this to ourselves. We were sort of believers, but it was really useful to prove all these, for instance, from a development point of view — some of the things were clear much earlier than that — so that our conversations were based on things that we truly believed and were just facts.”
(L to R): Oscar Piastri (AUS) McLaren celebrates his third position with Andrea Stella (ITA) McLaren Team Principal and second placed team mate Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren. 24.09.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 17, Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka, Japan, Race Day.
Aside from Piastri hitting the ground running on the track, Stella underlines that he has been impressed with his continuous desire to improve during his debut year.
The Italian believes Piastri shares that particular trait with two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso, whom Stella previously worked with whilst the pair were at Ferrari.
“We saw the qualities [of Piastri] at the attitudinal level, and these qualities have to do with being able to continuously improve,” Stella noted.
“You may be as talented as I’m saying, but there’s I’m sure there are a lot of people that were talented but didn’t lead anywhere because there was no attitude to continuous improvements.
“I think we have really good examples now on the grid of drivers that can keep being extremely competitive at ages that we didn’t think that will be obvious because of continuous improvements — just attitude to continuous improvements. In this sense, I think this one is a similarity with Fernando.”
Meanwhile, Stella has also commended Piastri’s character, citing that the values he brings to the McLaren team resemble those of seven-time title winner Schumacher.
“Then we have the person behind the driver,” he continued. “For us, it was important to make sure that the person that we keep on board is a person that not only fits our culture but will contribute to establishing the culture even more and potentially adding to the culture, adding to the values and the behaviours that make us become a team of mates.
“And in this sense Oscar, I have to say, from just a personal point of view, if he wasn’t a Formula 1 driver, I would appreciate him as a person. The values he brings into the sport and the values he brings into the collaboration with the team in this sense make me think about Michael.
“Somebody who worked with Michael here in the paddock — he is at another team — said to me he was so capable of building families. It was definitely tough on track, but within the team, the spirit, the sense of unity was not short of like a family, a sense of family.”
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