Oscar Piastri could cement his future in Formula One today (Sunday).
But it won’t be easy.
After an up-and-down year he faces a winner-takes-all grand final at Mugello in Italy for the FIA Formula 3 Championship.
The Melbourne teenager is tied on points for the title lead but, critically, will be starting six places behind his championship rival – and Prema Racing team-mate – Logan Sargeant.
If Piastri can get ahead of Sargeant, an American who is being seriously groomed for a grand prix future, it will prove that he has the right stuff for F1.
“It’s all on. We are even in the points at the top. It’s going to be a tough one. I look forward to a straight fight for the title,” says Piastri.
But he is not alone, as a long line of Australians have used success in Formula 3 – often against the odds – as a springboard into Formula One.
The first was little-known Dave Walker, who is now retired in Queensland after a relatively short career in the 1970s that pivoted on an F3 title in Britain and took him into the Lotus F1 team.
Larry Perkins, best known for his six wins in the Bathurst 1000, was also an F3 champion in Britain and raced F1 for a string of middling teams including BRM and Brabham.
David Brabham, youngest son of Sir Jack, also won the British F3 title but never made it beyond the tail end of F1 while Daniel Ricciardo was also the British F3 champion before graduating to F1.
For Piastri, there are also examples of Aussies who were more than good enough for F1 but didn’t quite make the grade in F3.
Alan Jones never had enough money in his early European racing and lost the British F3 championship at the last round, while Mark Webber – also cash strapped in F3 – finished his series in fourth.
The 2020 campaign has not been easy for Piastri, even though he is a member of the Renault Sport Academy and was placed with the crack Prema team for a serious tilt at the title in his F3 rookie year.
He was a star from the start, winning the first race of the season, but has had a number of mechanical problems which have cost him points. The F3 format, where the second race each weekend has a reverse grid for the Top 10 finishers from the Saturday feature, has also cost him points.
But his biggest problem is a lack of qualifying pace, which hit him hard at Mugello when he had to start from 16th in the feature and could only make it back to 11th.
“A bittersweet feeling. I felt like I drove a pretty good race, attempting everything I could have done,” Piastri says.
“It’s just a little bit painful to end up one spot away from the reverse grid pole. I can’t control that, but I can be happy with what I did.”
Going into the final F3 race of the year, Piastri has the benefit of proven pace and the ability to overtake.
His racing ability is reflected in his career statistics in only his fourth season of car racing, which show 15 wins from less than 100 starts, as well as 34 podiums, 11 pole positions and 15 fastest race laps.