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Briatore gives Piquet one last chance
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Briatore gives Piquet one last chance
Posted By:   |  24 Apr 2009   |  4:01 pm GMT  |  35 comments

Flavio Briatore has spoken in support of his driver Nelson Piquet, who has endured another disappointing start to the season in the Renault. At the last race in Shanghai, Piquet was half a second slower in qualifying than his team mate, Fernando Alonso. But Alonso had the only example of Renault’s new double diffuser. Here this weekend the team has new parts on both cars, including modifications to the front wing and front suspension.

The pressure is really on Piquet in qualifying tomorrow. Judging from today’s running the Renault is capable of getting both drivers into the top ten, with Alonso targetting fifth or sixth place. Any repeat of the last two qualifyings where Piquet was eliminated in the first run will increase the pressure on the driver.

Briatore has in the past not spared his drivers’ blushes, but he seems to be going out of his way to give Piquet every possible chance to make a go of his opportunity, Piquet’s father raced with Briatore in the Benetton in the early 1990s and the two have been close ever since.

Last year Piquet started badly but improved his form as the year went on, boosted by a second place finish in Germany and finished the season well with a very strong drive in Japan.

Briatore has gone out on a limb to protect Piquet Junior, but time is running out and Piquet probably has at best a handful of races to save his seat. Briatore elegantly and obliquely admitted as much this afternoon,

“You see the performance as well. Everyone is watching TV, including me and it’s what you see, ” he said. “It’s a difficult moment for him. In a moment like this you don’t need to kill anybody you need to support and to hope, hope he’ll do better. This is his first race with a normal situation [he has a double diffuser, like Alonso] and let’s see. Sunday or Monday hopefully we will have a different idea. ”

Piquet seems to be susceptible to pressure and to need a long time to get up to speed and a lot of practice to be able to perform. He’s not terribly adaptable and F1 demands that quality from its top drivers. With little testing before the season started and none between races, Piquet is struggling to have confidence in his car.

If he is moved out, it is likely that GP2 driver Romain Grosjean will be promoted.

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35 Comments
  1. David Reimer says:

    It seems it’s “either-you-have-it-or-you-don’t” time — and it isn’t enough simply to be very good.

    Meanwhile, I can’t help but comment on the site banner for this weekend. When I saw it, I immediately thought I was looking at one of the old McLaren CanAm cars. Glory days! I was smitten by those machines…

  2. Jason C says:

    We’ll see how he goes, but he seems to inconsistent to stay, and there’s no opportunity to become more consistent with the in-season testing ban.

    Get Sato back in, I say!

  3. john g says:

    gone out on a limb to protect piquet? not according to this article following the shanghai race… http://f1.gpupdate.net/en/news/2009/04/20/briatore-ponders-what-might-have-been/

    i’ve quoted the relevant bit below…

    The Italian, who has recently hit out at the Brawn team with regards to their share of TV rights money, also appeared to be critical towards the team’s second driver, Nelson Piquet. “Jesus Christ! It was a very, very bad race,” Briatore continued. “I understand it if you spin once, but this was kind of a contest for ‘the more you spin, the more points’. He needs a normal race, but this is just the beginning of the season – at least we have a really good car now.”

  4. Danilo says:

    Just give Nelsinho the boot – he’s so out of his depth. That man wouldn’t find the way home with a map and a torch. His father was a half decent driver, but he’s certainly no F1 material. Briatore keeping him in the car is a bloody travesty. There’s so many talented drivers out there and he’s sticking to a bloody clot – Piquet jr. has no place in F1, he’s untalented !

  5. Nick Robertson says:

    Formula One is in danger of becoming rather incestuous. With Rosberg, Nakajima and Piquet, There are 3 sons of 80s F1 drivers on the grid at the moment, with Senna waiting in the wings. As great as the publicity of a son of a world champion can be, Team owners must start promoting the best drivers into formula one, not the most economically viable. Hopefully the budget cap will make this a possibility!

  6. Nick says:

    I’m amazed he got the drive at all this season! He just seem so hapless and out of his depth it’s untrue. Poor little rich kid I presume.

    Why not give Anthony Davidson the drive? He did well with what he had while it lasted!

  7. Dave H says:

    I think Flavio’s being overly generous. Nelson’s had his shot, it hasn’t worked out and now it’s time to move him aside and let someone else have a go.

  8. Peter says:

    Piquet is only in f1 because Flavio likes to keep his chums close together. Just goes to show what a sad old man Briatore is now.

  9. Nick Gilmartin says:

    I think Piquet needs to start showing some form fast. There are plenty of other good drivers out there willing.

    By the way have you heard about Aston Martin and Lola thinking of coming back?

  10. Shane says:

    Is it not possible that Bruno Senna will get the seat at Renault if Piquet is ousted? If as you say James the Alonso Ferrari move is a done deal, having someone like him when Renault come to evaluate their committment to F1, could swing the board in Flavio’s favour. Especially now he’s rejected the DTM drive

  11. Eric says:

    I second the notion that Anthony Davidson should get a drive.

  12. Richard says:

    Is it likely that Grosjean will be promoted ahead of di Grassi – and if so on what basis? di Grassi seemed to be the more consistently quick performer in GP2.

  13. Steven says:

    Replace him with one of the Mansell sons! OK, they haven’t got experience but it’d make Nelson snr eat his words when he said they were both ‘useless’.

  14. Steve says:

    Renault could cut their costs by getting rid of Nelson Jnr:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/8017621.stm

    Rather than reducing the wages of their hard working staff.

  15. Pepe says:

    Against what others think, I believe Alonso would benefit from having a better teammate. This year with the Test Ban, it is important to work as a team in free practice. However, with Nelsinho’s speed, you can not trust the results of his testing, as he is systematically 6 or 7 tenths slower than Fernando… You can’t draw many conclusions from the parts or setups that Nelson tests and this does no good to the Team…

  16. josh says:

    give him this weekend to prove his skill. provided his car remains reliable and his practise form is relative, qualifying should stick him between 9th and 14th, whilst the race should place him 6th-8th at the final result. flavio, keep him if he fits to these bounds, otherwise dump him.

  17. JB-F1 says:

    He may be driving poorly but NPJ is not untalented. You don’t win the British F3 title if you’re untalented. You don’t battle for the GP2 title with Hamilton with an inferior team if you’re untalented. You don’t finish 2nd in an F1 race if you’re untalented, whether or not he was lucky to get in that position in the first place. He is actually very good when he wants to be.

    He put in a few good drives last year other than Hock, notably at Magny-Cours where he beat Alonso and Fuji where he picked up a well-deserved 4th. I just think there’s a mental problem there, like with Pizzonia, another fundamentally talented guy (Brazilian too, and a BF3 champ) that put in a few good performances but ultimately flopped in F1. He’s running out of chances fast as far as Renault goes – I think it’s getting very close to the point where the damage is irreversible, if not past it already given his reputation with the fans. He’ll probably deserve another shot, though – it’s not exactly an ideal atmosphere there in the shadow of Briatore and Alonso. I think he’d probably do better at Williams than Nakajima, for instance.

    I don’t think putting another rookie in there would suffice. That’s just going to be a band-aid solution – it’s just as likely that Grosjean ends up with the same problems that Nelson has had, because he’s a rookie being thrusted into being #2 to Alonso and has had even less testing mileage than Nelson had (Nelson had the whole of 2007 and the end of 2006 to prepare, whilst Grosjean has had only a handful of runs). I can’t see Romain doing that much better.

    As for other candidates, I believe Lucas di Grassi is no longer part of the Renault setup as he left to try and grab the Honda/Brawn drive, so he’s out of the equation. The other Renault “tester” is Adam Khan, who’s merely the demo driver and has even less F1 experience. Davidson isn’t good enough (harsh but true) and hasn’t driven an F1 car in nearly a year.

    The only guy I can see being any good and is a free agent right now is Takuma Sato. The guy has improved immensely over the last couple of years and I think STR made a big mistake in going for Bourdais instead of him. Anyone else and you might as well not bother changing things because they’ll do no better than Nelson, unless you can persuade a tester from another team like Pedro or Klien. But then this is Briatore we’re talking about so expect anything…

    Apologies for the essay!

  18. Ben James says:

    Um Piquet junior is an awesome driver, in GP2 and A1 GP, I couldn’t wait to see him come to F1 just like Nico did before him. But I am really shocked that he hasn’t shown any of what he was capable of in the other series! F1 really is another level! Given his previous series performances I thought he would make a huge impact. Such a shame.

  19. Phil says:

    I’d love to see Davidson get the seat too

  20. Carl says:

    Vettel, Hamilton, Buemi, Kovi, Kubica etc.. have all come in and performed above and beyond in their rookie years. Aside from a lucky second place last year and crashing at the right time in Singapore, to aid Alonso :-) , he has not been convincing. Having such a competitive team mate hasn’t helped his cause and is perhaps contributing for the calls for Flav to ditch him, but with so much talent out there could anyone really do any worse?

  21. Nick says:

    Why draw the line at just Nelson anyway?

    There are others who just don’t seem up to it..

    Nelson: Well out of his depth. Dump him.
    Fisichella: Past his sell by date, Liuzzi’s better
    Bourdais: I wanted him to do well but..
    Kovalainen:Mr Invisible. Just a number 2 lacky

    Give Davidson and Sato a drive. Davidson always gave his best, especially in qualifying, and Sato really improved of late.

    Or bring some rookies in. Buemi has proved it can still be done if you’re skilled.

  22. Luciano says:

    Bring on Grosjean.

  23. rpaco says:

    Gotta feel a bit sorry for the guy, having Flav as a boss which is like living with Vesuvius and his dad hanging round, an ex champion who has done it all many years ago when men were men etc.

    If he were at McLaren under uncle Ron (as was) and without his dad there, maybe he would be able to give a much better performance.

  24. Patrickl says:

    It’s a bit silly to claim that Piquet improved throughout last season. It’s obvious that the car got better relative to the competition. During the second half of the season, Alonso was winning races with that car and and Piquet still was struggling to get through Q1 and to keep his car on track in the race.

    He’s too slow, too accident prone and he really has NOT shown any progress.

    But then, who knows, maybe after 21 failures he will finally start performing at “a more average level” all of a sudden.

  25. Carl Millington says:

    I would give Nelson Piquet’s drive to either Anthony Davidson or Takuma Sato. I believe both drivers would thrive at Renault and would have at last the car to prove that they are both all round quick drivers.

    Anthony Davidson would fit the bill for Renault, he deserves a drive. Quick driver, experienced, doesn’t crash much unlike Sato.

    Renault sign him up.

  26. Friend from Spain says:

    The F1 teams need better second pilots to make more interesting races. The Constructor´s Championship is as important as Pilot’s Championship, and, with better second pilots the competition would become more interesting not only ahead, fighting for Pole position and first, second or third places, but also behind protecting first pilots and team´s points. Anyway, pilots like Piquet or Kovalainen, should be able to replace the first one in case he crashes. Whatever, we are seeing Vettel, Raikonen or Kubika who seem the first pilots of their teams, because their mates are not doing a good job.

  27. Héctor (Friend from Spain) says:

    rpaco
    I do not have a special reason to comment here. One day, I was looking for not Spanish blogs and websites about the F1, because I already know the opinion of spanish press and spanish websites. My search brought me here. The blogs and websites from other countries offer interesting and different points of view, and, as I am able to read and write in English, more or less, this helps me to open my Net frontiers. I do not want to surf only in Spanish-speaking websites.

    Today we had a great race, except for Ferrari, Mclaren and Toro Rosso. Next: Monaco. Does anyone use the KERS there?

  28. Grabyrdy says:

    Hear hear !!

  29. Nick says:

    Friend from Spain. I thought they were drivers not pilots!
    On your last point, I agree Vettel is doing a better job than Webber, but think Massa is best at the moment at Ferrari and Heidfeld has more points than Kubica!

  30. Phil says:

    I don’t think GP2 is always a predictor of form, Piquet was quick in GP2 for instance.

    I think Grosjean has more experience with the car than di Grassi, plus he’s always there on the pit wall looking at the data coming back.

  31. Nick, I think I understand why Friend from Spain kept writing “pilot”. The Spanish word for “driver” is the same as the one for “pilot”, which is also the case in several other European languages.

    I agree with everything else you wrote – there are some very interesting team-mate wars going on at the moment.

  32. Héctor (Friend from Spain) says:

    Nick, sorry for my “Spanglish”;) I agree, the correct English word is “drivers” and not “pilots” as I wrote. I was wrong! I try not to make mistakes, but I find it really difficult despite my efforts. Argggg! :)

    In any case, I still think that Heifeld is not doing a good job. The Montmeló’s qualifying reflects it, once again. In my opinion, Kubica is more regular than Heilfeld, although Heifeld gets points sometimes. Massa was not bad today (he was better than Rainkonen, of course)

    Anyway, on the one hand, BMW team does not currently have a good F1 car and they are not working very hard to improve it; on the other hand, Massa and Raikonen are not Ferrari’s drivers like Schumacher, Alesi, Prost, Mansel, Andretti or Villeneuve (Senior).

    Enjoy Spanish Grand Prix!

    Héctor

  33. rpaco says:

    Friend from Spain
    It is good of you to make the effort to write in English, everybody knew what you meant by pilots. A great pity more of us cannot make the effort to learn other languages, some of us struggle with English.

    As a matter of interest why do you write her and not in a Spanish blog?

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