RACE DEBRIEF

    Australian racer Oscar Piastri will make his Formula 1 debut with McLaren next season, and ahead of his maiden campaign he explained why he's chosen #81 as his race number when he graduates to motor sport's top tier.

    Piastri was snapped up by McLaren after a tug-of-war with Alpine, with the 2021 Formula 2 champion opting to replace compatriot Daniel Ricciardo at the papaya team. He ran #28 in a private test at the wheel of McLaren’s MCL35M in late November, and in the post-season Abu Dhabi test, but is set to race with #81 in 2023.

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    “Correct, it will be [#81], as long as nobody pinches that before we put in my number, but I think that’s pretty safe!” said Piastri on In the Fast Lane, the official podcast of the Australian Grand Prix.

    “Eighty-one was the number I had in karting. The story of how I got 81 is not particularly interesting but I’ll explain it anyway…”

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    Piastri ran #28 in post-season testing but will use #81 in 2023

    The 21-year-old, who won the 2021 Formula 2 Championship but sat on the sidelines as Alpine’s reserve driver in 2022, explained: “When I did my first race I had to pick a number for my first race and the kart shop I went to only had number ones in stock, and it had to be a one or two digit number.

    “I obviously couldn’t be number one because yeah, for obvious reasons, so I was actually number 11 for my first couple of races, and then we entered – I think it was the Victorian state titles – and somebody had already entered as number 11.

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    “I don’t know what inspired me to pick 81 but I changed the first one for a number eight, and it stuck ever since. So, there you go!”

    Piastri will become the first driver to carry #81 since drivers were able to choose their race number in 2014, while fellow rookie Logan Sargeant will sport #2 for Williams in 2023.