Piastri on right path but Verstappen comparisons premature, says Hill

Former world champion Damon Hill says Oscar Piastri has impressed early in the Formula 1 season, but poured cold water on calls that he is the next Max Verstappen.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner, speaking on the Netflix series Drive To Survive, said he regretted a missed opportunity to sign Piastri, who made his F1 debut with McLaren earlier this year.

Oscar Piastri is preparing for his first Australian Grand Prix.Credit:Getty Images

Hill said that while Piastri has shown promising signs in two rounds of the 2023 season calls that the Australian was a champion in the making were premature.

“That’s a big call, isn’t it? You don’t need that really, that sort of label being pinned on you,” said Hill, who will be Ten’s expert commentator during next weekend’s Australian Grand Prix coverage.

“I think Oscar needs to be himself, and we’ll see how he develops.

“We’ve only just got the first Max Verstappen, do we need another one yet?”

But the 1996 world champion said Piastri showed some of his promise last weekend at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, qualifying in the top 10 before finishing 15th.

“That’s good, it’s good to get those good results in early because there’s going to be some bumps in the road as we go through the season,” Hill said.

“I think all that people look for is that the guy is improving and learning, and if he keeps doing that, the trajectory is going to be improving through the season.

“There are going to be moments, there are going to be hiccups. Every driver has a bad moment somewhere where they’ve made a mistake, and it’s been costly, and they get criticism for the first time, and that can be tough to take.

“But I think he’s got a good head on his shoulders, so he should be fine.

“I think he’s settled in very well and shows quite a lot of confidence, and he’s compared well to [teammate] Lando [Norris].

“I think Australia should be optimistic for Oscar.”

Asked how Piastri would handle his first home grand prix, Hill said he should love it.

“He’ll suddenly realise he has friends he never thought he had,” laughed Hill.

“I hope he enjoys it. You still have to keep a little bit of yourself for the race, but I hope he revels in it and laps it up because he’s already won by getting his drive in F1.

“It’s early days yet, and he needs the car, McLaren need to provide him with a more competitive car, but he’s doing well already. I hope he can celebrate his home grand prix, of course he’s Melburnian, so it’s even more special to him, I’d think.”

Anticipation is building for the grand prix, which has been bolstered by the Drive To Survive phenomenon. Hill said the best thing about the series was people could learn more about the characters of the sport.

“It’s been phenomenal, it’s just woken up an entirely new generation to the sport,” he said.

“I don’t know if [that’s] what they expect to see at the grand prix because what Netflix do is quite cleverly spiced up to make a story, to make a show, but nevertheless the characters are real, and the stories are real, and the rivalries are real.

“I think it’s helped to explain this underlying thing we have in Formula 1. I think a lot of people think it’s cars going around, but it’s not really. They are obviously a big attraction, but the good thing about our sport are the characters involved. They’re interesting people.”

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