Christian Horner speaks on missed chance to sign Oscar Piastri to Red Bull Academy

Oscar Piastri’s contract saga between the BWT Alpine F1 Team and McLaren F1 Team has been the talk of the paddock this summer, and now Oracle Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner has spoken on his regret that Red Bull failed to sign the young Australian to it’s young driver programme a few years ago.

After moving to the United Kingdom in 2016, Piastri would race under the Arden International team, which was originally founded by Horner in 1997, in the 2017 British F4 Championship and the 2018 Formula Renault Eurocup. Piastri amassed an impressive six wins in British F4 and would finish second in the Drivers’ Standings behind Jamie Caroline.

Speaking on the most recent episode of Formula 1’s Beyond the Grid podcast, Horner revealed that shortly before Piastri made the move to the FIA Formula 3 Championship, Red Bull had the opportunity to sign Piastri to it’s young driver programme.

“He drove for the Arden team in Formula 4 and Formula Renault, and was obviously a significant talent.

“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.

Piastri would join the Renault Driver Academy at the beginning of 2020 and would go on to claim the championship in both Formula 3 and the FIA Formula 2 Championship racing under Prema Racing.

This season Piastri had undertaken the role as Reserve Driver for Alpine and looked set to replace the departing Fernando Alonso at the Enstone-based team, before it was revealed that McLaren had struck an agreement with the Australian to replace his fellow countryman, Daniel Ricciardo, for the 2023 season.

After the intense contract saga between Alpine and McLaren was resolved at the beginning of September, it was finally made official that Piastri would be leaving the Alpine Driver Academy and joining Lando Norris at McLaren in 2023.

Christian Horner stated that had Piastri been signed to the Red Bull Academy, the team would have locked Piastri down for a long-term contract that he would have been unable to simply break free from, just as Piastri did with his original contract with Alpine.

“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. As I say, I wasn’t party, it’s difficult to judge what was promised or reneged on or so on. But certainly, it was unexpected, probably from several areas.”