Christian Horner regrets not adding Oscar Piastri to the Red Bull driver’s academy when the opportunity presented itself a few years ago.

Piastri, who will drive for McLaren in 2023 after a long contract saga with Alpine this summer, has risen in the French company’s driving academy in recent seasons before winning last year’s Formula 2 championship.

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Horner says Red Bull would never let the highly acclaimed Piastri slip away the way Alpine did.

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“He drove for the Arden team in Formula 4 and Formula Renault and was undeniably a significant talent,” Horner said on the Beyond the Grid podcast, referring to the team he co-founded with his brother in 1997.

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“At the time, Red Bull had the opportunity to take a look at him and we didn’t take that option, which I regret. But what he has achieved is phenomenal in Formula 3 and Formula 2.”

“Now, if he was a driver here, there’s no way he could not be locked up for a certain period of time. As I said, I was not a participant, it’s hard to judge what was promised. Or refused or so on [at Alpine].

“But of course it was unexpected, probably from several areas.”

Piastri will replace Australian Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren next season.

Ricciardo has yet to confirm his next move, while Alpine has yet to take the place that Piastri did not want to take. Alpine is believed to be in talks with Red Bull to sign AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, although the move is contingent on the latter being able to sign Nick de Vries as a replacement.

AlphaTauri was initially eyeing IndyCar’s Colton Herta, but the American driver was not granted the super-license exemption he would need to race in Formula One.