It might come as something of a surprise to learn that Melbourne teenager Oscar Piastri is yet to properly celebrate his win in the Formula 3 championship.
That’s not because the 19-year-old doesn’t recognise the significance of the achievement, instead it highlights just how focused he is on what’s ahead.
Described by those who know him as possessing an intensity not seen in Australian motorsport since Mark Webber was the same age, Piastri has spent the months since his championship win sorting out a Formula 2 drive for 2021, and driving a Formula 1 car for the first time.
It’s why he still finds it difficult to comprehend all that he achieved in 2020.
“It was pretty unimaginable to be honest,” Piastri told Wide World of Sports.
“The year definitely exceeded expectations on a lot of fronts, I definitely wasn’t expecting to be jumping in an F1 car this year.
“Even the F3 championship, I was optimistic I could make it happen, but actually doing it is a whole different story.
“It was a very solid 12 months.”
Piastri will step into the Formula 2 car vacated by newly crowned champion Mick Schumacher, who is moving to Formula 1 in 2021.
It gives Piastri a decent shot at winning a championship for a third consecutive year, after his Formula Renault Eurocup win in 2019 and Formula 3 in 2020.
Realistically, however, 2021 will be a learning year for the Australian, ahead of a full-on assault at the 2022 title.
“I’m trying to keep the same mentality as I did this year,” he explained.
“I’ll go in thinking I can win, but the first year in F2 is a step up, the field is going to be extremely competitive, and there’s a lot of things in F2 that I haven’t done before.
“We’ll go to new tracks, different formats, pit stops, there’s some things to learn that will be new for me.
“A lot of teams have different strengths in different areas, and there’s a whole lot of things to consider. Some teams are good in qualifying but not the race. The grid as a whole is quite even. In F3 if you had a solid car in qualifying you could be pretty sure the race would be good as well.
“I don’t have any specific goals, because it won’t be easy.”
Piastri’s F1 debut, in a test session for Renault in Bahrain in October, was very much an opportunity for him to get accustomed to the speed of the car.
By all reports the Renault team was very impressed by the feedback he gave, with suggestions that further opportunities aren’t too far away.
And while outsiders might think the power of an F1 car is the biggest difference, that’s actually not the case.
“I’ve spoken to a few people who have driven an F1 car, and we all say the same thing, it’s the braking that stands out the most,” Piastri explained.
“Bahrain probably amplified that as well, because there’s not a lot of high speed corners, but there’s a lot of braking zones.
“Even the straight line acceleration, there’s not a lot there. It’s the braking that makes the most difference.
“I don’t know whether I was on full beans in terms of power, so there might be some more to come in terms of power, but I felt the braking was the biggest step up for sure.”
Bahrain was the same circuit where Haas driver Romain Grosjean had his horrifying crash last month, with the Frenchman lucky to escape the inferno that engulfed his car.
Piastri was watching when it happened, but says the accident hasn’t caused him to reconsider his future in the sport.
“Obviously, it was pretty scary when it happened. I was in the operations room at Renault when it happened, so I heard all the radio communications that were going on,” he said.
“It was pretty quiet for a few minutes after the crash.
“I didn’t really have any people questioning whether I was in the right sport or anything like that.
“Obviously, it’s never nice seeing something like that, but nobody was asking me if I was having second thoughts about what I was doing, and I certainly haven’t thought about it.”
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