Pressure piles on Piquet

Nelson Piquet Jnr, Renault, Istanbul, 2008, 470150, 3

Nelson Piquet Jnr is only in the fifth Grand Prix weekend of his career but his performance must be starting to ring alarm bells at Renault. His 20th on the grid at Melbourne and subsequent crash was not taken as cause for alarm within the team.

But add his spin and crash at the Circuit de Catalunya, and today’s woeful qualifying performance of 17th, and the cause for concern is more palpable. As John Beamer exclaimed during today’s live blog:

Briatore needs to get rid of Piquet — he is dragging his dad’s good name through the mud

Are these mere rookie errors, or alarming signs that Piquet is out of his depth?

Renault were in much the same situation last year with Heikki Kovalainen. His ragged performance in the first race moved team boss Flavio Briatore to question out loud whether the person in the car had in fact been Kovalainen, or his brother.

The threat concealed within the joke wasn’t lost on Kovalainen, and he quickly turned his form around. He was in the points at the next race and by the sixth round – when he raced from 22nd on the grid to fourth at the flag in a hectic race – his potential was beginning to shine through.

In the R28 this year Piquet has no more competitive a proposition than Kovalainen had – and a much tougher team mate to be compared to. But even taking that into account he has still failed to get the car beyond the first part of qualifying twice in five races, and crashed out of two from four.

Piquet supporters might point to the lack of criticism from Renault as a sign they are happy with Piquet’s progress. But the Brazilian driver has a wealthy backer and when I say ‘wealthy’ that’s exactly what I mean. Mexican Carlos Slim Helu ranks third in Forbes’ list of the world’s richest billionaires. His net worth of $49 million puts him one zero ahead of Bernie Ecclestone.

Renault, then, are not likely to drop Piquet before giving him ample chance to prove himself. If it seems a slightly preposterous state of affairs that the man he replace dis on the front row of the grid for tomorrow’s race, and many suspect he is no longer at Renault because he was considered too good to be Alonso’s team mate, then that’s just the slightly odd world of Formula 1 for you…

Nelson Piquet Jnr, Renault, Istanbul, 2008, 470313, 2

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18 comments on Pressure piles on Piquet

  1. Daniel said on 10th May 2008, 23:55

    For sure Piquet’s performance is disappointing, but his survival will be longer than usual, not only because he is well backed, but because, as long as Alonso stays in Renault, Nelsinho won’t threat his Number 1 status…

    I still hope he will prove his value, and show the pace he had in 2006, when gave Hamilton a run for his money in GP2, but right now he’s just too bad..

  2. The perils of messing your drivers about to favour one of them over the others are amply demonstrated in the story of Piquet Jr. After the amount of practise he’s had, he should be getting good grid slots. But Flavio’s been so concerned about manuvering Alonso into Renault at all costs that he hasn’t concentrated enough on improving the car – and experience counts for a lot when dealing with dodgy cars. So the upshot is that Piquet Jr. probably looks worse than he is…

  3. Rabi said on 11th May 2008, 0:32

    Renault refused to pick up Alonso’s salary and told Flavio to get additional money if he wanted him. Enter Carlos Slim Helu and his money but only on the condition that a young South American driver is the second driver.

    I don’t know if he specifically meant Piquet Jr or if he meant any South American driver. If it’s the latter Flavio may as well try Senna Jr and see if anything has rubbed off on him.

  4. Journeyer said on 11th May 2008, 2:35

    Ah, yes… There is that OTHER Brazilian. The market appeal of a Senna would be much more massive than a Piquet. I don’t know what Nelson Sr. would have to say about that, though – as one A Senna and Nelson Sr were never really chums back in the day.

  5. Brar Soler said on 11th May 2008, 2:47

    In 2007 at this point no one would expect that Kova would be 2 and Hamilton 3 in the 2008 grid.

    Miracles also Hapens. Let´s pray for another one.

    When Nelson Piquet started in Argentina he crashed before the first curve. He Thinked he was over

  6. the limit said on 11th May 2008, 4:48

    To Journeyman.

    I don’t think anybody was ‘chums’ with Piquet Snr back in the day. On your point about Bruno Senna, that is valid, the Senna name in F1 is about as relevant as Earnhardt is to NASCAR and Rahal to the IRL. The question being, how good is Bruno Senna really?
    We all find it very romantic to see these young guys with legendary surnames arrive in F1, but it is extremely unfair to these drivers to compare them to their more illustrious relatives.
    Piquet Snr and Aryton Senna were both triple world champions, Keke Rosberg a one time champion. Very, very, very big boots to fill!!
    Also going against Piquet Jnr are the events of last year. With the arrival of Lewis Hamilton, and the spat with Alonso, we were again expecting to see Fernando put under pressure by a driver who himself gave Hamilton a hard time back in GP2.
    I would not doubt that Alonso learned alot from last year, if it is true about his imput in developing the McLaren which in turn gave an advantage to Hamilton.
    Fernando would probably be holding his cards closer to his chest this time around, also in the knowledge that Renault were giving him the number one status he requires.
    Name me one world champion who didn’t insist on number one status?
    I think Piquet Jnr is in a hole, whether he will dig away out of it is going to be interesting to see. Those criticisms may get louder if Alonso starts getting better results.

  7. I feel that rookie expectations this year is very high because Lewis set the bar last year. So every rookie this year that doesn’t get on the podium especially those with history, automatically gets the pressure. Renault has put itself in quite a jam. Piquet brought the money but is not performing, all effort were put in for Alonso (who has eyes only for Ferrari). Carlos Ghosn won’t be happy as constructors can’t win with just 1 driver scoring points. Flav, Flav, Flav…

  8. Toncho said on 11th May 2008, 8:26

    True, he hasn’t impressed ayone so far but KOV had a very bad time at the beginning of the year and finished scoring a podium… If the REN get’s better Piq will follow.

  9. frecon said on 11th May 2008, 10:32

    But Piquet was the first one putting pressure. I remember in the preseason, Piquet Jr. (a little bit) and Piquet Sr. (a lot) said that his objective was be better than Alonso. And in some interviews they also said that it was possible, because Nelshino fighted with Lewis at GP2, and Lewis had won some duels to Fernando in F1.

    For me is three mistakes in that argument:

    1) MP4-23 is not R28.
    2) What Lewis did last year is very unsual. Because his performance, and because he had his first season the best car of the grid.
    3) Another overrated brazilian driver. Since Senna i have heard of each brazilian pilot that he was the best, and he was going to win the championship. Brazil are looking for a new champion and they put a lot of pressure in their drivers.

  10. Is Bruno Senna any better than Nelson Piquet or is it his name that makes him “better” ?

    Piquet is very disapointing but I believe that Briatore would not have placed him in the car unless he believed he is worth it. The money that back him for sure make Briatore think twice before dismissing Piquet. Piquet’s backing helps to finance also Alonso’s paycheck. So, Briatore may show a bit more patience with Piquet than he had with Heikki. But 2008 season may be the only chance Piquet is going to get. If he does not begin to raise his game soon, his F1 career may end before it picks up. There isn’t much room for pay drivers any more.

    But whether Renault would be better off with Bruno Senna… I have my doubts …

  11. Rabi said on 11th May 2008, 11:44

    Well the bottom line is that as long as Alonso is there then Piquet is there. I have my doubts that Ferrari will take Alonso with Kimi there. Why well for the following facts:
    Kimi was born in 1979 which makes him less than 30. Kimi is the 7th highest paid sportsman in the world (according to the ever reliable(!) wikipedia). The only person ahead of him from the same sport is Fernando Alonso. Kimi’s contract expires at the end of 2009, if he was to win the WDC this season I don’t think the heads at Maranello would want Kimi who at that time would be a double world champion with Ferrari out.

    So as long as Kimi is there Alonso has to go somewhere else. He won’t return to McLaren, Williams aren’t good enough. I doubt Toyota or Honda would want to pick up his bill and I don’t think he’d want to go there. Red Bull would be unrealistic since they have Webber, Vettel and Coulthard. Only teams left remaining are BMW and Renault and I doubt that Mario Thiessen would be allowed to replace Heidfeld since I would be extremely suprised if he replaced Kubica with Alonso.

    Do bear in mind that Alonso does not come cheap and that is the one thing that will put a lot of teams off. Unless a new team with tons of money and ability enter Alonso is more than likely to stay at Renault and drag them back to where they were before Michelen were axed.

  12. Michael Counsell said on 11th May 2008, 12:01

    All 5 of the rookies are still not the finished article, and still need to prove themselves. Nakajima is probably doing the best so far and he’s probably the least experienced out of all of them and outside of Williams and Toyota wasn’t that highly rated.

  13. Noel said on 11th May 2008, 12:08

    Lewis set a very high benchmark for rookies to aspire to and I think it’ll be a long time before anyone matches it. I’m not confident Piquet will come good but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for now. It’s far too soon to be talking about sacking a driver who showed real skill in GP2. F1 is a different beast entirely and I’m sure we all know of a few drivers who took a while to settle in.

  14. Number 38 said on 11th May 2008, 17:31

    Piquet, Glock, Sutil and Vettel don’t belong on the F1 grid. They should have had more miles in their logbooks testing before being placed as rookies. F1 would be better off with Klien, Luizzi, and maybe it’s time for McLaren to let Paffet have a go, he DOES have the mileage. Everyone has to be a rookie once but this batch is just wasting spave on the grid.

  15. Architrion said on 12th May 2008, 11:15

    I’m with N38, but I’d add rookie Lewis (the one who drove last year, I mean) to the package. He needed some background before racing here, but he founded himself well protected by the setup ability of Mr Alonso. And this is the real difference with Mr Piquet. This child can’t read Alonso’s Setup Manual anymore and what you’ve got is this medium-sized driver (until he gets on his boots and learn his basis…)

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