Oscar Piastri Alpine Test Driver 2022

If paddock scuttlebutt is to be believed, Australia could boast two drivers on the Formula 1 grid as soon as next month.

Over the Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend, speculation that Oscar Piastri is set to replace Nicholas Latifi at Williams reached fever pitch.

The Canadian has had a tough start to the campaign, being involved in a number of incidents while also struggling to come to grips with the FW44.

Officially, he sits 21st in the drivers’ championship standings without a point to his name, behind even Nico Hulkenberg who twice substituted for Sebastian Vettel at the start of the season.

Williams’ other driver, Alex Albon, has hardly fared better; he has just three points to his name from the opening eight races, but has been a more consistent performer.

Latifi was coming under fire as far back as the Spanish Grand Prix, with the team’s head of vehicle performance, Dave Robson, having to defend his driver.

“I think he has struggled to get to grips with it a little bit more than Alex, I suppose,” he said of the 26-year-old’s performances to that point.

“Alex came in quite fresh, not knowing what to expect necessarily from either Williams or the new regulation set.

“His mindset was just to jump in and get on with it and deal with it.

“Nicholas tends to think about things much more and, as soon as things aren’t quite as he wants them, then he does struggle a little bit more.

“So we’re still coming to terms with exactly how we set the car up around the tyres for any particular circuit to allow him to drive the car as he wants.

“It’s just not quite clicking for him yet.

“Obviously we’re working very hard with him to work out exactly how we get the best out of it.”

Three races on, Latifi’s performances have not improved, leading to speculation that he could find himself out of the drive as soon as the British Grand Prix.

Once upon a time such a move would have been incomprehensible given the funding the Canadian’s family brought to the team.

Latifi’s father, Michael Latifi, is the owner, chairman, and CEO of Sofina Foods, whose branding once adorned the team’s cars.

However, that has disappeared over the last two seasons, tying in with Dorilton Capital’s acquisition of the operation.

Officially, the team refuses to speak about its driver pairing, a move which neither supports Latifi nor denies the pending arrival of Piastri.

The Melburnian is understood to have already had a seat fitting at Grove, though that can be conveniently explained away through his role as an extended reserve driver if needed, much as he is for McLaren.

Piastri is one of the brightest young drivers currently on the market.

Having won three junior titles in as many seasons, being resigned to a reserve driver role is viewed by many as unbecoming of his talent.

Indeed, the likes of Martin Brundle have suggested its now imperative for the 21-year-old to find his way onto the grid for 2023 however he can.

That opportunity may now present itself rather sooner.