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Piquet lets Briatore have it with both barrels
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Piquet lets Briatore have it with both barrels
Posted By: James Allen  |  03 Aug 2009   |  5:57 pm GMT  |  48 comments

Nelson Piquet’s demise as a Renault driver has been coming for some time. Today he got the bullet and in reaction issued a strongly worded statement about how unfair his treatment has been at the hands of Flavio Briatore, the team’s principal as well as Piquet’s manager.

On the face of it his F1 career appears to be over, in the sense that it is hard to see another team taking him on. However there are strong rumours here in Italy that he and his family are looking at taking a stake in an existing team, possibly Sauber, if Peter Sauber goes ahead and saves the former BMW Sauber team.

Piquet’s success in motorsport has come in the family environment of his own team, both in F3 and GP2. It’s not a bad time to buy a stake in an F1 team as the costs are set to come down radically, making it quite possible for a team to make a profit if it is able to sell sponsorship.

If the Sauber deal is going to happen it will have to happen by Wednesday as that is the deadline for the team to sign the Concorde Agreement, signed on Friday night by the other teams. Failing that the family may look at taking a stake in another team, possibly one of the new ones.

Piquet has not impressed during his season and a half in F1. He claims it is because he was not given the same conditions as team mate Fernando Alonso. Looking at it from the outside, with information sources from within the team, I think the team gave him plenty of opportunities to prove himself. Many teams would have dropped him after his poor showing last season. He has some good days, even beat Alonso on the odd occasion, but the engineers know the truth and both the Renault guys and the engineers from other teams reckoned that he just isn’t good enough.

That is not how Piquet sees it and here is a flavour of his thoughts on the subject.,

“I believe without doubt in my talent and my performance. I didn’t get this far by getting bad results. Anyone who knows my history knows that the results I am having in F1 do not match my CV and my ability.

“The conditions I have had to deal with during the last two years have been very strange to say the least – there are incidents that I can hardly believe occurred myself. If I now need to give explanations, 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.

“On numerous occasions, fifteen minutes before qualifying and races, my manager and team boss (Briatore) would threaten me, telling me if I didn’t get a good result, he had another driver ready to put in my place.

Piquet joins a list of disgruntled drivers who have found that being the number two driver in a Briatore team is not easy. That list includes Johnny Herbert, JJ Lehto, Alex Wurz and Jarno Trulli, all of whom had unhappy experiences.

Piquet says that he was not given equal treatment or equipment to Alonso in 2008 and that this continued in 2009 despite promises of equality,

“For the 2009 season Briatore … promised me everything would be different, that I would get the attention I deserved but had never received, and that I would get ‘at least equal treatment’ inside the team,” he added.

“He made me sign a performance-based contract, requiring me to score 40% of Fernando Alonso’s points by mid-way through the season. Despite driving with Fernando, two-time world champion and a really excellent driver, I was confident that, if I had the same conditions, I would easily attain the 40% of points required by the contract.

“Unfortunately, the promises didn’t turn into reality again.”

I can see why a team would give a development part to Alonso if only one was available, but they want to score maximum points in the constructors’ championship and you don’t do that by holding one driver back. Alonso is so vastly superior to Piquet as a driver he doesn’t need any technical advantages.

However I can see how the lack of an arm around the shoulder in Piquet’s case is a problem. My own view on Piquet is that he can be very fast but that he needs too much preparation time and testing to hit the performance peaks, particularly in qualifying, whereas a top F1 driver can just get in and nail it straight away. Compare Piquet with a driver of similar F1 experience, like Sebastian Vettel, and you will see what I mean.

Romain Grosjean is expected to replace Piquet at Valencia, if the team is allowed to race there, or at Spa if they are not.

For 2010 the feeling is that Renault’s number one target is Robert Kubica.

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48 Comments
  1. Alan says:

    Like father, like son. Nelson Sr whilst undoubtedly good (his championships prove that, even if it was a different world back then) wasn’t half a whinger and I seem to remember him moaning about Nige getting preferential treatment when he was at Williams.

  2. Nick says:

    Interesting comparison with Vettel james, i hadnt thought of how comparable they were, and how different their F1 experiences have been.

    Vettel has been nurtured and told he will be great by his team, whilst nelson has had to put up with the constant put downs and second class treatment at Renault.

    Whilst Vettel is undoubtedly the faster of the two, he really struggles to pass people, race after race he has failed to overtake anyone meaningful this season, and has lost points as a result of it.

    I hope Nelson gets another chance somewhere, he comes over as a really nice guy and it was great seeing a race weekend from his perspective on twitter.
    I would love

  3. Andrew Watson says:

    I think the return of Peter Sauber and Nelson Piquet would be brilliant for the sport. We need more dedicated “family” teams rather than the faceless Toyotas, BMWs, Hondas.
    Mclaren, Ferrari Renault Williams are al “family” teams with a character at the helm.

  4. Gaspar says:

    Well i think Piquet jr. got all the opportunity that he needed , but he has proven nothing . Even the two “big” achievements , last year’s podium , and this year first qualifying win over Alonso was purely circumstancial . And Kubica to Renault ? I think not . If Alonso stays , – and with the special situation at the Ferrari i’m not sure he go there in 2010 , maybe 2011 – then nobody wants an Alonso-Kubica partnership , mainly the two of them . They are good friends , and that situation can destroy a friendship . One of them will be a winner , one of them a looser . Not the best premises to maintain a friendship .

  5. shinronin says:

    i look forward to an upswing at renault once piquet is gone. a top f1 driver would wring the occasional good result out of the car like kimi when he started at sauber. kimi couldn’t win a race, but he could finish at the bottom of the points. good riddance piquet. your mouth wrote checks your skill couldn’t cash.

  6. monktonnik says:

    As you say James, quite a few drivers have fallen foul of Flavio’s management style. Probably as many have said the same about Ron Dennis, so I don’t think that he is alone on this.

    I agree that Piquet hasn’t shown the talent he claims to have and I think that his sojourn in F1 has been a bit of a waste of time, but if you look at his career stats I think it tells a different story.

    In car racing from 2001-2006 he scored 34 wins and 1034 points, including finishing a close second to Lewis Hamilton in GP2 in 2006

    Compare with Lewis’ 40 wins and 1151 points and you see that Piquet has been operating at a comparable, although admittedly slightly lower, level. Still, no disgrace.

    I think that you can compare Piquet to Massa in his early years in F1. He needs the right environment to thrive, and maybe that is a “family run” outfit. I don’t think he is champion material, maybe not even race winner and I think that Renault should have dropped him after 2008. At least he makes Fisichella’s battle against Alonso look more respectable.

  7. Great to read something that is balanced and nuanced like this rather than trying to express every issue in black and white. You’re one of the few writers attempting this kind of analysis in F1 – Joe Saward is another. Thanks, and keep up the good work.

  8. I don’t think that Renault is the best place to be for Kubica. Every driver there will play backing vocals for Alonso and Kubica needs a team in which he can at least be at equal level with second driver.

    As for Piquet, I like him as a person – but it’s too much of smacktalking and less driving. He always talks about how talented he is and what he could have done IF not Flavio and IF not Alonso. On the other hand, if Briatore wouldn’t pick him, he wouldn’t have a chance to drive the F1 car. I think that overall he is talented, but his ego is in front of skill and thats his problem.

  9. Nick says:

    This guy was one of the worst F1 drivers I’ve ever watched! I really am surprised he lasted as long as he did. I thought he’d be dropped at the end of the last season.

  10. This whole story reminds me of when Fisi & Wurz drove at Benetton which was then managed by a young’ish Flavio Briatore. Wurz had impressed Flavio and Benetton with his speed when he stepped in for a rather ill Gerhard Berger.
    But when Wurz came to drive for Benetton and Flav it soon became obvious that Fisi was getting the better deal, and it wasn’t until Wurz had his final drive with Flav that Flavio admited on the grid that both of his drivers had the same equipment.

  11. Werewolf says:

    Didn’t Nelson Piquet Sr once say something about prefering an unfair car advantage to having to drive the difference? I must say I prefer drivers who can out perform unsatisfactory machinery. Even the oft-maligned Giancarlo Fisichella (at his peak) often achieved better-than-expected results in poorer cars (Jordan, Sauber).

    It also seems to me that Flavio Briatore needs great drivers (Schumacher, Alonso) more than most. I have often wondered whether the likes of Berger, Alesi, Trulli and even Fisi might have achieved more elsewhere. Similarly, I wonder whether the likes of Fabi, Pirro and Moreno might have had longer F1 careers at other teams. Who knows but conjecture is always fun!

  12. Penfold says:

    Hi James,

    I can’t help but feel that the Hamilton factor has done for Piquet. The likes of Hamilton and Vettel have jumped straight into F1 and immediately out driven some of the most experienced and talented drivers in the world. I get the impression that Flav was expecting young Nelson to produce on the same sort of level. It also strikes me that Piquet just doesn’t share the same sort of winning mentality as these guys. If he had then he would have given it to Flavio both barrels earlier than now. I remember Hamilton putting paid to driver hierarchy very early on with a combination of class driving and defiant public comments made at the beginning of 07. I also remember a young Fernando Alonso turning down Ferrari in 02 because he had no intention of being Schumacher’s number two. Result; the two youngest world champions of all time.

    1. James Allen says:

      Yep, it’s a tough world, F1

  13. Boston F1 Fan says:

    - I know that these statements are all processed by a PR person, but it’s still nice to see a Formula 1 driver with a personality and a soul. It was so genuine that I’m inclined to believe him.

  14. elwehbi says:

    James, I agree with what you said about Piquet. He has been given enough chances to prove himself, however, he just could not match the pace of some of the other drivers. I found him to be inconsistent which is not a quality found in championship contenders. He is a great kid and I am sure blindingly fast, but he may want to rethink his involvement in F1.

  15. rpaco says:

    Wow having Flav as your team principle is bad enough, but having him as your manager as well is a serious mistake. Then having him threaten you whilst taking his cut from your salary is really taking the piss.

    I would be re-reading my manager contract with Flav,in some detail, because it seems he has very seriously breached the duty of a manager, if this does not end in court I will be surprised.

    Mind you having your dad hanging over your shoulder all season can’t be heplful.

  16. Sven says:

    It was clear from the beginning that Renault was not a happy environment for Piquet. The question is how much that influenced his performance and how much the bad car especially the 2008 one never gave him a chance to get confidence. One can argue that if he was good enough he should overcome these difficulties but then again look at the problems Hamilton had earlier this year with a bad car.
    Does Piquet decerve another chance? Yes I belive so.

  17. StaffsSteve says:

    Kubica to Renault? Certainly plausable. I have never understood Flavio Briatorie’s way of running an F1 team. It seems that as long as the face fits and you are quick then you are part of the family. Otherwise the writing is on the wall very early. Look at how Berger and Alesi faired when Schumacher had gone. Both quick proven drivers, but they never fitted the Briatorie mold. Jarno Trulli decided early on that his face didn’t fit the bill and steered himself into a seat a Toyota. Whereas Fisichella never found a top alternative seat to go to and so I feel his career has suffered by bearing with an unideal situation for too long.

    I am not sure how well Grosjean will perform compared to Alonso or Kubica, but I feel that whilst Briatorie is at the helm, Renault will be unable to launch a two pronged attack on the championship.

  18. Hammad says:

    I doubt Grosjean will be any better. If they can nail Kubica, then it might just propel them back to the front. This is, of course, assuming the rumours that Alonso’s going to be in a Ferrari next year are true. All in all though, I’m surprised Renault even extended his contract, let alone tolerate him up to this point in the season. He should have bitten the bullet much earlier.

  19. Euklides says:

    Trulli, Fisico, Piquet…
    Everyone except Hamilton looks bad when compared with Alonso. All of them have been considered very good drivers when paired with other mates, but Fernando’s skills seem in a different level.

  20. Samantha says:

    I don’t blame Piquet for being angry. He is a talented driver. His career is far from over. He has been champion in different series, and I feel like he was just screwed over. I have no doubt another team will sign him.. they would be stupid not to. He needs to get away from Flavio.. the man is like poison.

    I can’t wait to see him at another team, doing very well. It will be a slap in the face to all of the haters out there.

  21. brian1982 says:

    It’s a shame, I like Piquet on a personal level but he clearly hasn’t been comfortable in the Renault. He does have some valid points about the Brigatore/Alonso situation, as Fisichella would probably confirm. But he himself and his F1 seat is a sort of a nepotism/favouritism by-product produced via his father in a not to dissimilar way to the way he sees the Brigatore and Alonso relationship. It’s not an excuse when he has at least had a seat and a running car to prove himself unlike most drivers and he hasn’t been able to do it unfortunately. There is a seemingly lack of aggression on the track from Piquet for a Brazilian driver that for me has hampered his career.

    That saying I would like to see him back in racing if not F1 soon as I would rather as this minute in time watch the Piquet Jr and Bourdais of this world who have the chance to learn and grow into better drivers rather than the Coulthard, Barrichello and Fisichella’s of this world.

  22. Hi James,
    Does this signal that Grosjean is willing to ditch the GP2 championship battle for the seat?

    It would a great shame if he did – as much as I think Vitaly Petrov is a much improved driver this season, I don’t think he has enough for Nico Hulkenberg.
    In saying that though, Grosjean hasn’t had enough for Hulkenberg for a while too.

    1. James Allen says:

      He seems to go off a lot. Not sure he has the head for it. Hulkenberg is starting to look quite impressive. I can see him in F1 next year.

  23. Frenchie says:

    Piquet should be grateful to have been given so much time at the back of an F1 car.

    Remember all the criticism Heikki was subjected to in 2007? He came good in the end. Ok, Fisi was his teammate but still, I believe that compared to Alonso, he would still have done much better than Piquet ever did.

    Farewell Piquet Jr. I hope you have a great career in the Le Mans cars.

  24. Michael says:

    Very good read James. I would love to know what Alonso thinks if he was able to speak freely. I would expect that he knows exactly the situation and if the kid was held up or not. Cheers

  25. Antoine says:

    Before Piquet Jnr. came to F1 Piquet Snr. promised that his son would give Alonso a hard time more than Hamilton did at McLarren, not that we’ve seen both result is it fair to say that Hamilton is just too much and a little bit more?

    They both raced the 2 times world champion

  26. Phil says:

    Just one thing jumps out at me: Nelson jr had a contract that required him to achieve a standard relative to that of Alonso, yet Piquet says that on four occasions out of nine Renault gave Alonso a significantly better car.

    This rather throws into focus Briatore’s basic conflict of interest in being both Team Principal and Piquet’s manager. As the latter, he should have ensured that Piquet always got the same or better machinery as Alonso so that Piquet would have a better chance of fulfilling his contract. However as Team Principal it was up to him to best manage resources.

    It also shows up a certain lack of nous amongst the Piquets – on a contract like that they should have insisted on a clause stipulating that Nelson would always get the same machinery as his team mate.

    Mistakes on both sides, leading to a lot of shouting. Still, if it helps Peter Sauber out then at least something good will have emerged from it all.

  27. Jason C says:

    The ‘Kubica to Renault’ story is an interesting one, I think. It all but confirms that Alonso will be at Ferrari next year, because as you point out James, Briatore runs a lead driver and a clear number 2.

    There’s no way Kubica is going to run as a number 2, therefore next year looks like being Kubica – Grosjean at Renault.

    James, how about a post giving the current SP of next year’s driver movements? There are a lot in the offing, and there must be a fair few rumours flying round as to who’s going where.

  28. mayhemfunkster says:

    I think you could also add Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger to the list of disgruntled drivers. Their only crime durig their 2 years with the team was to not be Michael Schumacher.

  29. santori says:

    I’m sure he’s much better than his results under Flavio suggest and that a new team could see him become the driver of GP2 and F3 again (as the change from Williams to Jordan saw Heinz-Harald Frentzen flourish). He had moments at Renault, with some lap times and on-track battles reminiscent of his past successes but too often he looked like his confidence was shot full of holes.
    Flavio isn’t the easiest of team bosses at the best of times and these are far from the best of times. Both at Benetton and Renault Flavio has shown himself to be brilliant at taking a team to the front but not so good at dealing with the frustrations after the initial success has passed and if I were Kubica I’d take a long look at Alesi and be very wary of joining Flavio’s team as a replacement number one.

  30. santori says:

    Oh, and I liked the statement. Both considered and vehement.

  31. Meeklo says:

    Remember the camera shots of 2007 with Nelson on the pit wall all cool and ready to steal that F1 seat from Fisi & Heiki. He should have known all too well how ruthless Flavio can be. That said I really feel sorry for the poor treatment Renault give their No2 drivers.

  32. Mickha says:

    Thank you James Allen for good balanced article. my view is exactly same as yours.

    I like Nelson Piquet Jr but doubt his skill in F1. After last year finished, I was a big surprised Renault announced to go with Nelson Jr for 2009 again. I am sure there had been lots of people who had high expectation from him like what LH did to FA previous year. However, since the 2008 season started, although Nelson Jr,yesterday, said proudly it was the best Brazilian F1 Rookie debut season, what he achieved is that ‘nine-eighteenth’ retire, only 4 times went Q3, one lucky podium after safety car circumstance and got 18 points. Comparison to FA, it was lame. He was not even close. Especially most of his retired races were from the driver’s mistake in my view. Renault needed to collect datas for the car improvement but in terms of his incident(9/18) i don’t think Nelson Piquet Jr delievered it enough for the team. Those are the reason i was really surprised when Briatore did not sack him after last season.He had been given enough time(1 & 1/2 seasons) to prove himself good F1 driver but failed. After all incidents around Nelson Jr, I can imagine the management from Briatore through past experience so I have sympathy towards him but i think his statement sounds just excuses.

    Im sure he may be back to F1 with his dad again and would be treated No.1 driver in the team as the way it was during his GP2 and F3. In that familiar circumstance, i hope he would show us better performance than what he has shown. Good Luck Son.

    interesting!!

  33. dan says:

    Could Nelson be successful in F1 in the future given another chance? Sure he could. Just look at Webber. He was brilliant in F3000 then a complete waste of space in F1 for years and now with the right environment he can be world champion at the end of the year. All these guys could achieve good results given the right equipment and surrounding. Button too was useless at Renault remember! Good luck to Grosjean if gets the drive but like James I am not impressed by his GP2 results so far.
    In GP2 Piquet was way better than him, that is a fact. As for next year if Fernando leaves Renault for Ferrari Flavio should try to get Robert AND Nick. Nick is the ideal guy to work professionally in a difficult environment as Renault is likely to be for a while longer. He works hard and never complains. A true professional, technically very good and totally underrated. Flavio could not put pressure on him in the way he could on Nelson, Kovy or even Jenson in the past. Nick is old and experienced enough not to be affected by it. He has seen it all. If Robert does not go to Renault and Niko goes to McLaren Kovy should go back to Renault as he worked well there and was appreciated by the team if not by Flavio.

    As an aside I also hope we’ll see Taku and Ant in F1 again next year. Both deserve to be back. Taku at Renault with Flav would be good fun too. We have not yet seen the mix of a hot Japanese driver with a hot Italien team principal in a same team. That could be good fun to watch ;-))))

  34. Gazpacho says:

    It seems Briatore is very poor at nurturing young drivers. Yes, Piquet probably wasn’t the greatest driver, but I don’t think he was as bad as he was made to look. He just seemed so dejected most of the time.

    It makes me wonder why others at Renault haven’t noticed this pattern of underachievement of younger drivers. If I were them I’d let Grosjean have an apprenticeship in a lower team to give him some confidence. It could be damaging if he were to come in mid-season, with no testing, against Alonso, in a midfield team, in the spotlight. Is he mentally tough enough? Maybe the Renault driver scheme is flawed…

    I’m wondering if Kubica could join Renault a little sooner than planned. BMW aren’t going anywhere and realistically his skill as a driver can’t be utilised when the car is so poor – he can’t make up the time with the unpredictability. Would they really miss him? If Renault were to grab him then he’d get an extra 7 races to settle in before Alonso leaves (presuming he does). I’m assuming Kubica’s not talking to Mclaren, who seem to be interested in Rosberg.

    However this all depends on the small print which will probably be written by clever people preventing this kind of thing.

  35. santori says:

    In 2001 another young driver had a very difficult time with Flavio. Now he’s leading the world championship…

  36. Rob H says:

    James,

    Piquet as you said has not been the only one to complain about mistreatment from Briatore. You list several others such as Herbert and Trulli who proved themselves to be competent drivers when backed by a team which supported and appreciated them. Even the Renault team have openly admitted that they give Alonso significantly more of the upgrades and sooner than Piquet too, and remember the last two seasons have been very competitive indeed. With that in mind, I am surprised you have concluded that Piquet simply isn’t good enough. This is, after all, the man who pushed Hamilton to the wire in GP2, a formula where all the cars have the same chassis, engine etc.

    I’m not saying he’s definitely good enough for F1 but you would have to give him the benefit of the doubt based on his previous record, when you take into account the Briatore factor.

  37. Amritraj says:

    Piquet complaining about Alonso getting preferential treatment is understandable. Alonso has a very good relationship with Flavio and the Renault team. But Alonso is not the only one getting preferential treatment in terms of getting upgrades on the car. At McLaren, its Hamilton who receives the upgrades before Kovy does. At this has happended on 3 to 4 occasions this season (at McLaren). As this season is so competitive, the designing and manufacturing capacities of the teams are stretched to the limit. In such a scenario, the teams would like to test the parts on cars driven by drivers seemingly capable of extracting the maximum performance. At McLaren, this line dividing the 2 drivers is negligible, still Hamilton gets the preference. However, at Renault, Alonso is the clear favourite because of his talent and feedback skills.
    Apart from this, I think Piquets’ hugely underestimated Fernando. I think they had 2007 as an example. They analogised that if Hamilton, in his first year, could evenly match Alonso, Piquet who had matched Hamilton in the GP 2 series should be able to do the same against Alonso again. I remember reading comments from the Piquets’ at the beginning of 2008 that Alonso should be wary of being beaten of Piquet. I think what they didn’t account for is:
    1) Alonso was in his first year at McLaren and with the new bridgestone tyres as well.
    2) Alonso shared a fractious relationship with Ron Dennis, which abviously affected his driving during the middle part of the season.
    3) That Alonso was the stronger of the 2 drivers post Nurburgring 2007.
    4)That Alonso would analyised 2007 as a season, seen his deficiencies/ insecurities and worked towards removing them during the 2008 pre-season.
    All in all, Piquet’s timing was bad to the extent his was pitted against a highly motivated Fernando Alonso as a team-mate.
    FA is the best driver out there, who went head-to-head with the sport’s greatest exponents and…won.

  38. Ian Joyner says:

    Here’s a thought Robert Doornbos has just left his IRL team… He is personally backed by ING

  39. Wingers says:

    Winning GP2(F3000), WSR, F3… doesn’t mean much in F1. It doesn’t guarantee anything.

    Have a look through the past champs and you will see this on wiki or wherever you choose.

    In level of success…
    WSR has brought one double champ – Alonso
    GP2 and F3 has brought one champ – Hamilton
    98 F3000 champ – 7 F1 Wins – Montoya
    WSR – 1 F1 Win – Kovalainen
    89 F3000 champ – 1 fortunate win – Alesi
    93 F3000 champ – 1 fortunate win – Panis

    There are some incredibly successful junior drivers Frank Montagny and Ricardo Zonta who were average if anything. And unfortunately, Nelson Piquet Jnr may well fit in this class of driver.

    There have been loads, and there will be loads more, sadly.

    Its just the way the cookie crumbles.

  40. Meeklo says:

    Why is it again that the FIA put separate stewards for each Hamilton & Fernando garages in the closing races when they chased the title. Can that be considered a prescient? Does F1 need to do this for all drivers throughout the season?

  41. sandra graham says:

    Did jenson but not also have a nightmare under
    Flavio. Perhaps its not so much about the equipment as about how that driver is managed. I don’t think Flavio knows how too boost confidence and nuture.

    If one was to judge jenson on his time with Flavio your assessment would be very negative. Is career could have easily be called to a hault.

    Yet here he is fighting for the championship with a new belief. Some team pricipals are just better at managing the ego’s. Flavio’s own ego is so big he does not have room to manage anyone else’s.

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