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OPINION: Could Piastri Join Red Bull?

Written by Emily Blake, Edited by Meghana Sree

The focus has turned to McLaren rookie Oscar Piastri, following his P2 finish in the Sprint race at Spa, and it’s unsurprising that viewers are beginning to speculate about his future in Formula 1.

Image Credits: Andrew Diodato

As of 2021, Red Bull’s appointed drivers are Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez with their contracts ending in 2028 and 2024 respectively. Despite many contract renewals, Pérez’s current results pose a threat to his place on the grid which former driver Nico Rosberg has described as a “dark hole” phase during the Sky Sports coverage of the Budapest practice session. Thus, the potential for an open Red Bull seat in 2025 with Pérez possibly returning to a junior team is highly likely.

Unsurprisingly, many expect Daniel Ricciardo to rejoin Red Bull following his 2018 exit from the team, subsequent turnover from Renault to McLaren, and eventual return to his rookie team, AlphaTauria (formerly Toro Rosso). This suspected rejoining is further cemented by Verstappen’s friendship with Ricciardo. In the press conference for the 2023 Hungary Grand Prix, Verstappen’s admiration for Ricciardo was clear as he stated: “I spoke already quite a bit with Daniel last week. I could see he was very excited also after driving our car. Of course, it’s great to have Daniel back on the grid, within the family.”

However, Ricciardo may not be the Australian that CEO and Team Principal of Red Bull Racing, Christian Horner, has in mind.

Horner is obviously keen for a contract renewal for Verstappen, particularly when taking into account his record-breaking 12th Grand Prix win in a row that saw McLaren losing the title of most consecutive wins in the history of F1. Unfortunately for Horner, Verstappen’s recent comments to Sky Sports suggest otherwise, stating: “I know that I will be 31 when it’s the end of my contract. At that point already I will have been in F1 a very long time and it’s a lot of work.” So, how would Horner keep Verstappen interested in racing for a longer term?

A key point to consider is Verstappen’s competitive attitude and comments on motivation: “I like to be competitive, and I like to win but if you can’t fully motivate yourself to get to every race, then that’s the point you have to question yourself, ‘Do you really want to continue?’”

Perhaps Horner is looking for more in-team competition for the accomplished driver?

Image Credits: Mark Thompson

As often said in F1, “your teammate is your biggest rival” which raises the question of whether Ricciardo’s return to Red Bull would be competitive enough to keep Verstappen engaged.

Keeping in mind Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber’s retirements at their respective ages of 35 and 40, Ricciardo will be 36 when the Red Bull seat is free and his results may not hold up against younger drivers. In particular, Oscar Piastri. When comparing the two, the rookie has gained more points than Ricciardo’s beginning three seasons combined. Over the 2023 season thus far, Piastri has collected 34 points, whilst Ricciardo’s 2011 to 2013 seasons saw him gain 30 points altogether.

It’s evident from the 0.011 second gap between Verstappen and Piastri in the Belgian Sprint Shootout that Piastri’s talent is undeniable, especially in his rookie season. Although Piastri is fairly calm on track, his determined approach is not missed. In a YouTube video for McLaren alongside McLaren teammate Lando Norris, he stated his belief that he is the best driver on the grid.

Remind you of anyone?

Image Credits: Dan Mullan

Both Piastri and Verstappen share a similar determined and somewhat self-serving approach to racing. Verstappen stated in his 2020 driver profile: “I’m the best driver because I believe I’m the best. Because every driver needs to think like that otherwise it’s better to stay at home.”

Although other drivers’ names have been thrown around like Norris, Liam Lawson, and Yuki Tsunoda, Piastri is the front runner – at least in my opinion.

Image Credits: Kenzo Tribouillard

From Piastri’s perspective, moving to Red Bull may be a smart choice. Driving a Red Bull car would certainly give Piastri more potential for overtaking and winning against the ‘forever-reigning’ Verstappen.

Thus, Horner would keep his majority point earner interested in continuing to race with them and would also gain a promising new driver.

Aside from speculation, the most convincing evidence of Piastri’s potential move to Red Bull is Horner’s previous comments about his regret for not signing the young Australian to Red Bull’s junior team years earlier. In a podcast episode of Beyond The Grid, Horner stated: “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 I regret.”

1 comment

1 Comment

Aug 09, 2023

Can't honestly see it happening, for two specific reasons that are related. Firstly, who wants to drive in the same team against Max ? Linked a little tediously but linked all the same is the relationship Piastri has with Webber, a driver who knows only too well the peril of the second RB seat. Surely Webber will wade in if Piastri felt inclined to consider it.

Lastly, I would be hugely hugely surprised if McLaren don't have a clause giving them options beyond 2024 on their side, for sure Piastri might find a team willing to pay a buy out clause, but would that be Red Bull, do they need to do that, do they need Piastri 🤔

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