A Lost Cause
And so he leaves, causing a bit of a dust storm in his wake, but after 28 races, Nelson Piquet Jr finds himself back out of Formula 1. But after the war of words issued by the ex-driver, has Piquet been treated unfairly in his short spell in F1?
Nelson Piquet didn’t do that bad before his step up into F1, he did have more of a reason to be in F1 than Sebestien Buemi for instance. Buemi only finished 6th as his highest championship position in GP2, compared to Piquet’s 2nd, in a year that also featured the likes of Lewis Hamilton, who did blitz the competition. He trounced his team mate, Alexandre Negrao and finished ahead of former/future F1 stars Timo Glock, Giorgio Pantano and Gianmaria Bruni. A fairly successful spell in the lower formulae if you ask, certainly worthy of an F1 drive. Especially if Buemi got one for what he had a unspectacular GP2 campaign.
But from here, did he get in bed with the wrong people before being pushed onto the floor? He tested with Renault in 2007 before being promoted to race driver alongside ex-two time champion of the world, Fernando Alonso. It was never going to be fair play from day one. Flavio Briatore was always going to give Alonso main priority in the team, hence why 2007 driver Heikki Kovalainen was not signed on.
But showing, on your first qualifying session at the 2008 Australian Grand Prix, you weren’t quick enough to beat Takuma Sato, in a Super Aguri, a team which had barely tested, a team which didn’t even know if it was going to start the season, then bad signs were ahead of you my friend. And then, first corner, you crash into Giancarlo Fisichella. Signs really aren’t pointing to stardom.
Two problems which plagued Piquet all throughout his F1 career, poor qualifying and the habit of spinning off at the worst possible moments. It wasn’t until the German Grand Prix in 2009 that he managed to out qualify Fernando Alonso for the first time. He failed to get out of Q1 an impressive eleven times, in a car equal to that of say, Williams. Comparing him to Kazuki Nakajima, who has done one more race than him (doing the 2007 Brazilian Grand Prix replacing Alex Wurz), Nakajima has failed to get out of Q1 ten times. Why hasn’t he been sacked then? I’ll let Nelson Piquet say.
“I am certain it is because of the unfair situation I have been in the past two years. I always believed that having a manager was being a part of a team and having a partner. A manager is supposed to encourage you, support you, and provide you with opportunities. In my case it was the opposite. Flavio Briatore was my executioner.”
A big ouch Mr Briatore. And if I were Romain Grosjean right now, I would not be looking forward to working under him at Renault. There is nothing there for him, it is a one driver team. And it will stay that way until Alonso leaves, or Renault leave. It’s a quick sand trap place, get stuck in and it is very difficult to get out. I feel sorry for Grosjean right now.
It is amazing to begin to feel sorry for Nelson Piquet after the Formula 1 fans absolutely massacred him over the past one and a half years.
The poor guy did have a horrible habit of making mistakes. A fine example is the Australian Grand Prix of this year, where he crashed on the lap after the safety car returned to the pits, because he had cold tyres. Nelson Piquet is a mistake prone driver, interestingly, the exact same can be said for his likely replacement, Romain Grosjean.
In this seasons GP2 series, the Frenchman driving for Barwa Addax was involved in a massive accident in the Monaco race and then in qualifying for the Hungarian race, took himself and Franck Perera out of qualifying.
But this isn’t about the suitability of Romain Grosjean, that’s for another time, if I get to that. Nelson Piquet should still be in Formula 1, had he been given a fair chance by Flavio Briatore, he could have really impressed in the championship had he been given the right tools for the job. He showed that when given the same upgrades as Alonso, he was just as quick, if not quicker. Heck, when that Renault was mighty fine quick at the end of 2008, he wasn’t struggling at all. He scored a 4th place finish, a result we are crediting Nico Rosberg for getting recently. Piquet hardly got a congratulations for that result in Japan 2008. Overshadowed by Alonso’s win, probably, but still worth recognition after the season he had. Certainly more credible than the podium he got in Germany.
I never much shared much symphony with Nelson Piquet, often had the feeling of him that he was rather arrogant. But in light of what he had to deal with at Renault, I do feel sorry for him. He is without doubt a talented driver, if not error prone. But, isn’t that what Takuma Sato is? And he didn’t do half bad in F1. It is a shame to think the only way back in F1 for him is for his dad, Nelson Piquet sr, to buy a team and hire him.
But Renault will carry on, just regard Nelson Piquet as a worthless piece in their long history in motorsport. Someone who was easily replaced, just there to be a teammate of Fernando Alonso. That was his job, number two. But even as number two, Renault treated him more like a test driver. He might as well have been Romain Grosjean this season, more chance of racing fairly down in GP2.