Nelson Piquet Jnr: the driver debates

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Nelson Piquet Jnr struggled early in the season at Renault
Nelson Piquet Jnr struggled early in the season at Renault

We had a lot to discuss about Nelson Piquet Jnr last week when a lucky safety car call gave him the opportunity to transform what had been a dismal season in a single race.

So how has that second place changed our view of a driver who had been struggling in the first part of the season? Has it changed our view at all?

Nelson Piquet Jnr has perhaps the worst team mate a rookie driver could face in 2008: two times world champion Fernando Alonso is the most successful driver in F1 at present.

And yet despite that Alonso was given a very tough time by a rookie team mate last year ?ǣ so as well as being measured against one of the toughest benchmarks in the sport, there is also something of an expectation that Piquet should do fairly well against Alonso.

So far, he hasn?t. Piquet has often struggled, particularly in qualifying, and has failed to progress beyond Q3 on five occasions so far this year.

That has had an inevitable effect on his race performances where he?s found himself stuck in slower traffic and unable to progress.

In the early part of the season this often culminated in mistakes, such as at Catalunya, where he spun out early on. That now seems to be happening less often.

Lucky though he was at Hockenheim it certainly took a measure of skill to capitalise on the opportunity offered to him. He looked after his soft compound tyres for a long second stint and his lap times were consistently quick enough to stay ahead of Felipe Massa?s Ferrari. I was genuinely impressed by that, and had Alonso been in the same position I think praise would have been heaped on him more readily.

But it?s not enough to shake off the impression that Piquet is not quite F1 material ?ǣ certainly not yet any way. His father?s help at every stage of his junior career and the financial backing of Carlos Slim Helu behind him at Renault does nothing to dispel that appearance.

Has Piquet Jnr done enough this year to justify a second season in Formula 1? And if not, what does he need to do over the remaining races? Getting at least as far as Q2 in every round would be the minimum, I suggest.

Read more about Nelson Piquet Jnr: Nelson Piquet Jnr biography

Nelson Piquet Jnr in his Renault R28 during the Turkish Grand Prix at Istanbul
Nelson Piquet Jnr in his Renault R28 during the Turkish Grand Prix at Istanbul