Rising Australian star Oscar Piastri has made a stunning F3 debut, surviving a first corner crash to claim victory in the season’s opening race in Austria.
Starting from third on the grid, Piastri challenged for the lead into turn one, only to be hit by polesitter Sebastian Fernandez who had made a slow start.
The incident forced Fernandez to retire from the race, while the 19-year-old from Melbourne was able to continue, passing Lirim Zendeli for first place around the outside at turn three.
Piastri built a comfortable three second gap as the other drivers scrapped over second place, with the Australian able to manage the margin through the remainder of the race.
“Winning the first race is a great start to the year,” Piastri said.
“It was very scary at turn one at the start, and I thought that it was going to be race over 10 seconds into my debut, but thankfully I got through that and made a good move on Zendeli into turn three [to take the lead],” Piastri said.
“Then, I just controlled it from there. The tyre degradation was a bit more than we were expecting and halfway into the race I was struggling a bit with the rears. [Prema Team-mate] Logan Sargeant was catching me and bringing the train with him, so I had to stay on my toes.”
Piastri’s performance earned plenty of praise from his manager, former F1 driver Mark Webber, who said it was the perfect start to the season.
“What an incredible Formula 3 debut for Oscar. It’s been challenging times for everybody over the past few months, so this is a special moment for him,” Webber said.
“Oscar was quick in practice, good in qualifying, and he had a brilliant first lap with decisive moves at the first corner. From there he controlled the race very clinically to the chequered flag.
“I’m very proud of him, and he and Prema have got the championship off to a very nice start.”
Piastri was joined on the podium by fellow Australian Alex Peroni, who finished third in his first race since a frightening crash ended his 2019 season.
The Tasmanian suffered a broken back in the accident at Monza, and spent three months in a back brace in the off-season.
The Australian contingent was rounded out by Jack Doohan in 14th and Calan Williams in 21st.