Reigning Formula 2 champion Piastri will make his F1 debut at McLaren next year after being at the heart of a contract saga involving both McLaren and Alpine in recent weeks.
Piastri climbed through the junior ranks as part of Alpine’s academy, but the team was found not to have a valid contract with him for an F1 drive in 2023.
The saga was the biggest talking point in F1 over the summer, with Horner previously saying there was “something not right” for Piastri not to have a solid ride in place with Alpine.
During the latest episode of F1’s Beyond the grid podcast, Horner said it was “difficult” for him to comment on Piastri’s situation, but that the contracts would have been watertight if he had been under the wing of Red Bull – something a few years ago a chance before he switched to Formula 3.
“He drove for the Arden team in Formula 4 and Formula Renault and was clearly an important talent,” said Horner.
“There was an opportunity at that point for Red Bull to look at him and we didn’t take that option, something I regret. But what he has achieved next has been phenomenal, in Formula 3 and Formula 2.
“Had he been a driver here, he would never have been locked up for a while. Like I said, I was no match, it’s hard to judge what was promised or forsaken or something.
“But it was definitely unexpected, probably from different areas.”
Piastri raced for Arden – the junior team founded by Horner – in British F4 and Formula Renault Eurocup until 2017 and 2018.
Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing
Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool
Horner said the fallout from Fernando Alonso’s decision to leave Alpine for Aston Martin in 2023 had “caused the ripple that spread across numerous seats”, including now Red Bull’s sister team AlphaTauri.
After losing the contract case to retain Piastri for 2023, Alpine has turned its attention to signing current AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly.
Red Bull will only agree to release Gasly if a replacement has already been drafted. The plan to sign IndyCar driver Colton Herta was shelved after the FIA refused to grant a super license waiver, but Nyck de Vries has now emerged as a candidate for the seat.
Red Bull is not thought to be considering any of its existing young drivers for an F1 promotion in 2023, but Horner felt the program was still in good shape.
“We continue to invest in the youth, we have some great young people in the program, all the way from karting and now the move up to Formula 4 up,” said Horner.
“I think it’s something that Red Bull has done so well, giving these kids a chance, investing in young talent and giving them opportunities that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.
“Isack Hadjar in Formula 3 has had a great debut season this year. I think [Ayumu] Iwasa in Formula 2 was a standout driver for me. They are just two of the guys on the program.
“Liam Lawson has had a difficult year but he is yet another talent. Dennis Hauger was a little disappointing in Formula 2 after such a dominant year in Formula 3. But again how much of that is he and how much of that is equipment ?”