Oscar Piastri: Nico Rosberg predicts 'big challenge' at McLaren, while Red Bull 'regret' not signing youngster
"Daniel [Ricciardo] is a multiple race winner, one of the best drivers in the world, and has found it unbelievably tough against Lando [Norris]. Oscar [Piastri] is brand new to this sport!"; Sky Sports F1's Nico Rosberg has his say on McLaren's new driver line-up
Last Updated: 22/09/22 9:07am
Sky Sports F1's Nico Rosberg has predicted a "big, big challenge" for Oscar Piastri up against Lando Norris at McLaren next season, insisting the "world-class" British driver is "championship material".
After a drawn-out and contentious transfer saga, current Alpine reserve Piastri will replace Daniel Ricciardo as Norris' team-mate next season, with McLaren set to have the youngest driver line-up in Formula 1.
But while only 22 years old, it is Norris' speed that has ultimately sealed Ricciardo's fate - and now Piastri, 21 and one of the most successful and highly-rated juniors, faces what could be a poisoned chalice against Norris.
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"It is going to be tough for Oscar to do well there," said Rosberg, the 2016 world champion. "Lando is world-class, he's world championship material there so it's not going to be easy to go there and do better than Daniel.
"Ricciardo is a multiple race winner, one of the best drivers in the world, and has found it unbelievably tough against Lando. Oscar is brand new to this sport!
"All the indications are that Oscar really is one of those future superstars. But I can't really believe that suddenly Ricciardo has unlearned to drive super fast.
"Therefore, I think it's Lando who's just performing like a world champion at the moment, he's just driving so incredibly well.
"So I really think it will be a big, big challenge for Oscar next year to be close to Lando."
Norris scored 45 points more than Ricciardo in 2021 at McLaren, while he leads his eight-time race-winning team-mate by 88 points to 19 this season. He is also up 14-2 in the qualifying head-to-head this year.
Piastri arrives having won back-to-back titles in Formula 3 and Formula 2 in 2020 and 2021 - a feat previously achieved by Charles Leclerc and George Russsell - although couldn't land a race seat for 2022.
"It's a brave move by Oscar, it really is," said Rosberg. "It is either he beats Lando or he's out basically of the sport, so it's really, really tough, but he believes in himself. And if you think you're that good, you've got to go for it
"For Oscar, if you're a young driver and you have the opportunity to race for McLaren, and you're free to do so, you have to take it. Opportunities like that don't come around all the time, so he's done everything right."
Speaking of his move to McLaren, which came after a Contract Recognition Board ruled Alpine didn't have a valid contract for him for 2023, Piastri told F1: "Their enthusiasm to have me was very attractive.
"McLaren have a competitive car. Obviously it's a tight battle between Alpine and McLaren right now, but they are a competitive team with a hell of a lot of winning history, and I think the environment is a great fit for me.
"The team has great plans and the future is exciting. I'm also looking forward to working and driving alongside Lando. I know it's going to be a challenge, but I feel McLaren is the right place for me to start life in F1. I'm super excited to get started."
Red Bull regret not signing Piastri
Red Bull have been famous for developing young talent in F1 - and team boss Christian Horner admits he regrets not signing Piastri.
"Oscar drove for the Arden team in Formula 4 and Formula Renault, and was obviously a significant talent," Horner said on F1's Beyond the Grid podcast. "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.
"But what he went on to achieve is phenomenal in Formula 3 and Formula 2."
Horner added that "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" and called Piastri a "great driver".
"The only problem that he now has to deal with is the expectation on him will be immense," stated Horner.
Horner continued that he rated Norris "very much".
"He's going to have to get in and deliver against Lando, which is no mean feat," he said. "But you either sink or swim in this business. And he's a very, very capable driver. I'm sure he's going to do very well."