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Sport Aussie racing prodigy's coronavirus concern

12:06  29 may  2020
12:06  29 may  2020 Source:   wwos.nine.com.au

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a man looking at the camera: Oscar Piastri. © FotoFormulaK Oscar Piastri. One of the rising stars of Australian motorsport is on his way back to England after the COVID-19 lockdown left him stranded for more than two months.

Oscar Piastri is the reigning Formula Renault champion, and had been due to make the step up to F3 this season. After signing with the Renault Sport Academy, he returned to his hometown of Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix in March, and has been stuck here ever since.

What should have been a weekend of shadowing Daniel Ricciardo at his home race at Albert Park turned into frustration when the event was cancelled on the Friday morning. As the health crisis escalated, the England-based Piastri found himself spending a lot more time back home than initially planned.

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"I came back for just Grand Prix week, and here I am two months later, finally leaving. It's been unexpected for everyone, but I've made the most of the time with my family – it's been good," Piastri said.

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"It's been the longest stay I've had with my family for the last five years, so it's been good to spend good quality time with my parents and sisters."

Piastri has been granted an official travel exemption by the Australian government, and is now on his way back to London, ahead of his F3 campaign later this year.

a person standing posing for the camera: Oscar Piastri leaves his Melbourne home on his way back to Europe, watched by parents Chris and Nicole. © Supplied Oscar Piastri leaves his Melbourne home on his way back to Europe, watched by parents Chris and Nicole.

The F3 series runs in conjunction with Formula One, with the rescheduled series likely to kick off in Austria in July.

Piastri will drive for the Prema Racing team, who won the championship in 2019.

"We're starting in Austria for what's likely to be back-to-back race weekends, but we don't actually know where the second round is yet, so we've just got to take it one race at a time and, hopefully, have a good start to the year," he said.

COVID-19 has delivered one bit of good news for Piastri, who turned 19 last month. He had been at boarding school in England, but his final exams have now been cancelled due to coronavirus.

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"I'm now officially finished with school, so getting [my studies] out of the way before the season started is probably an unexpected bonus from the pandemic for me," he said.

a red and white boat parked on the side of a road: Oscar Piastri during testing in Bahrain. © FotoFormulaK Oscar Piastri during testing in Bahrain.

According to Piastri's father, Chris, watching his son travel to COVID-19 hotspots is a concern.

"It's an interesting one being asked: 'What do you prefer, Oscar going back to Europe with the coronavirus pandemic going on or seeing him belt around a race track at 250+ kilometres an hour?'

"In Australia, we've been pretty lucky keeping things under control and now Oscar is heading back to countries where things haven't been so much under control. We've got friends in the UK who have had the virus.

"It is a worry, but he's also a pretty sensible kid and I know the race teams will be very careful with what they do and who they come in contact with.

"Europe's still on a knife edge but the FIA will want everything to go as smoothly as possible and will have all of the right checks and measures in place to keep everyone safe, and we can get through some races without the hiccup like the Grand Prix."

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