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.