Piastri's first podium in F1: what kind of kart driver was he?

Columns: From Kart to F1
At the beginning of 2023 we spoke with David Sera and Ricky Flynn about Oscar and his history in karting. Those who saw him born in Australia and one of the most well-known Team Managers in FIA karting confirmed to us that he was an 'out of the ordinary' talent... (fm)

Piastri's successful career in Motorsport, the one that launched him – almost by right – into Formula 1 from the main door, also generating a lively legal battle (how many can boast of having made two F1 teams 'quarrel' even before having raced a single Grand Prix?) does not start, as for others, from great results in karting, nor from an infinite militancy in European karting races – a stage that Oscar trod in passing until 2016. What made him special in his single seaters journey? We talked about it with David Sera, multiple Australian kart Champion, Coach driver who together with his cousin James he saw Piastri take his first steps in Australian karting, where it all began.

Let’s go a little deeper in Oscar's karting history, from the beginning to the moment he switched to cars. That's there that he showed his full potential. That's been for sure because he was a great karting driver, but he was that even before moving to Europe. Now, in your opinion: was Australian karting "enough" for him? From your coaching perspective - not just about him, I am now speaking in general - is moving to Europe for karting so mandatory?
«Oscar was an exceptionally smooth driver. One who would manage his tyres and races to be won in the back half of the race. You would often see other drivers have an advantage in the early part of the race, driving more aggressively, but Oscar had a more calm approach. This was really evident in high grip conditions and the faster the category he drove, the more he excelled as his driving style didn’t lend to many mistakes. Because most kids starting out in karting, their goal is Formula 1. The heart of Formula 1 is in Europe, so the general mindsight is that all drivers need to be racing in Europe to be seen by these teams. For sure, many manufacturers and team principals are more aware of the racing scene in Europe, but this doesn’t mean they are necessarily producing the best drivers. You only have to look at the talent pool coming from small countries like New Zealand & Australia, where drivers learn on much smaller circuits, with tighter corners and less track overtaking opportunities. These drivers are having to work extremely hard to perfect their skills, that when they get an opportunity to compete on the world stage, they are ready to perform.»
Tell us more about Oscar as a karting driver. When did you firstly meet him? Any anecdote?
«Oscar burst onto the karting scene at my local kart track in Oakleigh, Victoria when he was 10 years of age. From his first outing in a kart, my cousin James who coached him said “he was the best driver he has seen on day 1”. Coming from a remote control car background where concentration, finesse and smooth inputs, these were the traits we saw in Oscar in the cadet category. To this day, Oscar still maintains that same driving style which is what sets him apart in the open wheel categories where endurance, tyre management, decision making and smoothness are mandatory.»
Which categories did he raced in?
«Oscar started his karting in Cadets with a SW80 engine, before moving into the Junior National (Yamaha 100cc) category and finished his karting in Australia competing in OKJ and Junior Performance (Yamaha 100cc no restricter) before embarking on his maiden European karting season with RFM in OKJ.»

The other karting master we had a chat about Oscar was Ricky Flynn, who followed him during his year of top-level karting, remembers the young Australian thus:
«Oscar raced with us in 2016 in OKJ. It was me personally who took care of his inclusion here, given that when a driver arrives from so far away, his first need is for a relocation that allows him to settle in Europe: he has found a home near the headquarters of our Team and where I live. A bit like it was for Jack Doohan, these guys who arrive from Australia, it's a big step not only in competitions, but in life. It is not a purely financial commitment, but it is really a reorganization of one's life, made when one is still a teenager. Mainly for reasons related to the language and the ease of fitting in, the place where it made the most sense for him to move was UK.»
On the other hand, on a technical and driving level, what kind of kart driver was Piastri? «He was incredibly calm and clean in driving: one of the smoothest. What I remember most about him is his calmness, both on and off the track. Maybe he wasn't very aggressive on the track but keep in mind that he only raced here for one year without knowing the circuits, and that means a lot because he was racing against drivers who have been racing on those tracks for years, every year. In Portimao, the only track he knew from having raced there with IAME, he took pole. His best result was 6th place in the World Championship in Bahrain that year and I am convinced that if he had continued in karting (he turned 16 in 2017, he was planning the F4 British Championship for 2017, a championship where he second on his debut ...ed.) he would have won a lot in FIA karting, surely battling for the Euro and World Championship. I'm honestly not surprised, as for Lando, another guy from our Team - this year his team mate in Mclaren - that he has arrived where he is, he really deserves it. »

Created by: fmarangon2 - 25/09/23

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