Piastri playing dangerous game, says former champion Villeneuve

Formula One F1 - Spanish Grand Prix - Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain - May 19, 2022 Alpine's Oscar Piastri ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix REUTERS/Nacho Doce

Aug 24 (Reuters) - The Oscar Piastri saga will provide fantastic fodder for Formula One's hugely popular Netflix series "Drive to Survive" but the young Australian is playing a dangerous game, former Formula One world champion Jacques Villeneuve has warned.

Despite having yet to appear on the Formula One starting grid, the highly-rated Piastri has been at the centre of a dispute involving McLaren and Alpine for the 21-year-old's services next season.

Alpine have spent heavily on preparing Piastri for Formula One, with independent tests and thousands of kilometres in last year's car.

The French team say Piastri has a contract with them and want him to replace departing double world champion Fernando Alonso, an offer the Australian has rejected.

Piastri's preferred destination appears to be McLaren, who cleared a spot for last year's Formula Two champion on Wednesday with Daniel Ricciardo confirming he is leaving the team at the end of the season.

Piastri's perceived snub of Alpine contributed to a drama- filled August break for Formula One before on-track action resumes at the weekend with the Belgian Grand Prix.

Villeneuve, who won the 1997 Formula One drivers title with Williams, says expectations on F1 drivers to deliver is immense and adding to that pressure with unwanted distractions is best avoided.

"This one is fun to watch because it just surprised everyone," Villeneuve told Reuters before Wednesday's announcement. "To start like that with that kind of pressure is not easy.

"It brings to your name into question that whenever a team or sponsor will sign a deal with you there will always be this question, umm how will we be treated?

"What will happen when we trust this person? It's a very dangerous game to play."

While Piastri comes with impressive credentials so have many others, Villeneuve said, and not many have enjoyed success.

"There's F1 and then there is the rest of world and there are so many drivers over the years who have been kings in every other form of racing and winning everything," said Villeneuve.

"Then the minute they got to F1 they just couldn't handle it because it is huge step up both in talent, pressure and mental ability.

"Piastri has been amazing all the way through but how is he in F1 we don't know yet. That is the big question."

Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, Editing by Ed Osmond

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