Rising Rookies: Oscar Piastri’s Debut Season

Following his success at the Belgium Grand Prix, Oscar Piastri is quickly emerging as the rookie to watch this season. But just how does he compare to other rookies in the past, and to his fellow rookies on the grid?

Written by Aimée Jenkins

September 3, 2023

Just last year, the contract dispute between Alpine and McLaren over Oscar Piastri, 2021 Formula 2 Champion, was the height of silly season. Caught in a web of infamous tweets, court rulings by the Contract Recognition Board, and all set into motion by the retirement of none other than Sebastian Vettel himself, one question was for certain.

Was Oscar Piastri, a rookie to F1, worth all this?

A rookie season carries with it the peculiar mix of high expectations and an acknowledgement of the driver’s inexperience and youth. At 21 years of age on debut, and the fifth driver to consecutively win the F3 and F2 Championships before entering F1, Oscar seemed to embody both these expectations perfectly.

At the season’s opening, it seemed as if McLaren’s gamble to secure Oscar had failed. With an uncompetitive car, both Lando Norris and Oscar struggled to get into the points, with Oscar taking his first points in Australia and Monaco after successfully navigating the chaos of these races.

However, Silverstone would soon silence any doubts. With upgrades finally delivering, Oscar stormed to an impressive P3 in qualifying, behind only his teammate and Max Verstappen. He would secure fourth on race day, followed by fifth at the Hungarian Grand Prix. At Belgium in the wet though, Oscar would truly shine.

Second in the Sprint Race for Oscar (Photo via @McLaren on Instagram)

Qualifying P2 at just 0.011s behind Max Verstappen for the sprint race, all eyes were fixed on the Australian. And when he jumped the reigning World Champion in the pits to lead a F1 race for the first time in his career, any worries McLaren may still have had were put to rest for good. Ultimately finishing second in the sprint, Oscar became the first rookie to achieve a podium in any F1 race since Lance Stroll at the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Of the three rookies that entered F1 in 2023, Oscar is currently the highest points scorer, ranking twelfth in the standings with 36 points to Nyck de Vries’ and Logan Sargeant’s 0. And while this season is far from over, it isn’t hard to describe Oscar’s performance in his rookie season as successful. But how does he rank compared to other rookies in the past?

Oscar Ahead of Monaco Grand Prix (Photo via @McLaren on Instagram)

It should come as no shock that Lewis Hamilton has what has been lauded as one of the most impressive rookie seasons in F1. Taking third at his first race and a successive nine podiums that season, including his first win at only his seventh showing at Canada, Lewis would finish second by a point in the World Championship, a stunning declaration of the legend he would go on to create.

Jacque Villeneuve’s rookie season in 1996 would also prove one for the history books. Fresh off winning the 1995 IndyCar Championship, he took pole position and came second at his first race and won his fourth race at the European Grand Prix. Three more victories would follow to secure Jacques second in the Championship behind his teammate Damon Hill.

Among the drivers currently on the grid, there is no shortage of impressive rookie seasons. Charles Leclerc, Pierre Gasly and Max Verstappen would each finish ahead of their older and more experienced teammates in relatively uncompetitive machinery in their rookie seasons, with Max securing the youngest ever points finish for any driver at his second race at 17 years old and 180 days. Oscar’s teammate Lando also had an impressive first stint, out qualifying Carlos Sainz Jr. at 11 of the 22 races in 2019, and taking a best position of sixth at his second race.

While not the legendary rookie seasons of Hamilton and Villeneuve, Oscar has had a flying start to his first season and with his current twelfth position, he has already out scored last year’s only rookie, Zhou Guanyu’s 2022 position. In the competitive midfield that is taking shape this season, he continues to impress and if this rookie season is a sign of things to come, the future is very bright for Oscar.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aimée has been a fan of Formula 1 since she first saw Sebastian Vettel terrorize the entire paddock in the early 2010s. While this has unfortunately translated into supporting Red Bull in the recent seasons, her favourite driver remains Lewis Hamilton. When she’s not studying for her Masters in Criminal Law, you can find her rewatching the older series of Formula 1 as far back as she can find, or doing her best to catch up on her new interest in electric racing in the FE and Extreme E seasons. She is particularly interested in the legal side of the formula series and in the world of electrical racing. Outside of the world of motorsports, you can find her horse- riding, auto- testing, reading, trying to learn a new language or indulging in a glass of wine with her friends.

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