Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has revealed that his team passed up the opportunity to sign highly rated young driver Oscar Piastri.
Piastri was the subject of a high-profile legal battle between McLaren and Alpine over the summer, with both teams claiming to have the Australian contracted to drive for them in 2023.
McLaren won that fight, with the 21-year-old now set to make his Formula 1 debut next season.
Although he is still only a rookie, there are huge expectations on Piastri’s shoulders on account of his stellar junior career, that includes the 2021 Formula 2 title which he won with ease.
However, his journey to the pinnacle of motorsport could have looked very different had he joined Red Bull’s academy instead of Alpine’s, something that Horner claims nearly happened.
The Red Bull boss first came across Piastri as he was progressing through Formula 4 and Formula Renault, where he drove for Arden, the team founded by Horner and his father Garry.
‘There was an opportunity for Red Bull to look at him at the time and we didn’t take up that option, which is something that I regret,’ Horner admitted on the Beyond the Grid podcast.
‘What he went on to achieve is phenomenal, in Formula 3 and Formula 2.
‘[Piastri is] a great driver. The only problem he now has to deal with is [that] the expectation on him will be immense.
‘He’s going to have to get in and deliver against Lando [Norris], which is no mean feat. But you either sink or swim in this business. He’s a very, very capable driver, [so] I’m sure he’s going to do very well.’
Red Bull have received plenty of praise over the years for producing many great racers through their driver development programme, including Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.
Asked about the dispute surrounding Piastri’s contract situation, Horner commented: ‘Now, if he’d have been a driver here, there is no way that he wouldn’t have been under lock and key for a period in time.
‘I wasn’t party [to the situation], it’s difficult to judge what was promised or reneged on and so on, but it certainly was unexpected – probably from several areas.’
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