I went along to Nelson Piquet’s press briefing yesterday afternoon. The poor lad is under some pressure at the moment, with speculation that he has this race and Monaco to save his seat.
So far this season he has not impressed, struggling particularly in qualifying. Twice 15th on the grid, twice 17th he admitted that lack of testing had caused this problem,
“Not getting pre-season (testing), not running low fuel, and then suddenly, when you put everything together, you can’t get the maximum out of it. Or you push too much and you end up overdriving the car. I think I need to get qualifying sorted.. My strong point always in my career was qualifying. Of course it doesn’t mean much in lower categories, but I have been the driver with the most pole positions all the years. This year I’m struggling a little bit more. Last year it was okay because it was my first year. But this year I should have been much better in qualifying.”
Piquet is one of those drivers who needs miles under his belt to perform. He has to play himself in, can’t just turn it on straight away. It is no surprise that they have kept him in the car for this race and Monaco because they are both difficult tracks for a new guy to come in and master on a race weekend. But also because he knows this place really well, so if he’s going to do it anywhere it will be here.
Piquet can get the job done if given the preparation and the time, but what is happening to him is an illustration of the fact that in F1 nowadays you have to be adaptable and nail it first time, as drivers like Sebastian Vettel do. With no testing during the season, drivers like Piquet will become less attractive to teams.
In an amusing exchange, where he was asked whether he just needed an arm around the shoulder, a bit of a cuddle, he said,
“I think that’s also a part of it. There’s a lot of people in the team who don’t like being cuddling. But the important people that we work with day to day, the engineers, they are trying their best.
“I’m very happy to have them because they are trying everything possible to get my back into qualifying rhythm. I think I need to get my rhythm in qualifying back and once that’s sorted in the races I’m more than capable of doing it.”
He has been given a lot of help and support. Now the pressure is really on, he has to deliver on Saturday in qualifying.