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Sunday, April 14, 2024

How Oscar Piastri learnt to embrace being the Melbourne hometown hero

“I kind of know what Google can tell you, and not much more. I do get asked quite a lot, but leaving home so early I’m just as much as a tourist as some of the others.”

Piastri felt the pressure to prove himself before last year’s race as the only Australian on the grid, but the always-smiling Daniel Ricciardo has since returned to the top level with RB, Red Bull’s feeder team. Melbourne proved a turning point for Piastri, who was rookie of the year in 2023 and is fighting for podium spots after finishing 8th in Bahrain and 4th in Saudi Arabia.

After one of the sport’s most chaotic races ever at the Albert Park circuit last year, he emerged with the first championship points of his F1 career.

“I feel much more relaxed from that point of view. I’ve sort of established myself in the sport much more… Of course the expectation is still there, the home crowd I’m sure will want me to do well,” said Piastri, who is fifth in the driver standings.

“Quite a lot of things have changed, to be honest. Last year I came into this race, first home race, I didn’t have any points in F1 at that point. We had a tough start to the year.”

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While Piastri might feel like a tourist in his own city, he does have a distinctive Melbourne quality. The 22 year-old is a Richmond Tigers diehard. Sporting the yellow and black jersey while greeting fans and media on Thursday, he tried to see if there were any games on during his time off in town.

“I don’t think the timing is great for the games. It’s kind of the only time of the year I can actually watch the footy properly because the time zone in Europe it’s impossible.”

Asked about his hopes of beating the Red Bulls, Piastri said: “It’s going to be very tough. They are looking incredibly strong, they have been for the last couple of years.”

“I don’t think we’ll be beating them this year without some good fortune but we will certainly try.

“We’re close. I think the whole field is probably as closest they’ve ever been, just Red Bull are doing a very good job, and we need to try and catch up.”

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