Alonso and the Piquet-Renault fall-out

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Piquet gets his annual quota of attention from Briatore in a single glance
Piquet gets his annual quota of attention from Briatore in a single glance

Nelson Piquet Jnr looks increasingly unlikely to finish the season with Renault. Rumours have intensified since the Hungarian Grand Prix that he will be replaced at the team by Romain Grosjean.

And details have emerged of a row between Renault boss Flavio Briatore, the driver, and his three-times champion father:

Flavio is a business man, but he doesn’t understand s*** about F1. He’s my manager, but in his role of team boss he doesn’t respect me. He only thinks about money, at how much money he can pocket in everything he’s involved, he’s a man with no friends.
Nelson Piquet Jnr

When a driver lacks results, he opens the book of excuses and begins: the fault is the weather’s, a spectator’s sunglasses, a spin on the straight, this and that. It’s not true that there’s a technical difference of seven tenths between Alonso’s and Piquet’s car. If that was true, we’d have a car capable of winning the title, and that unfortunately isn’t the case. The technical difference has always been minimal and never longer than one race.
Flavio Briatore

The argument centres on whether Renault gave Piquet a serious chance to impress in F1. The Piquet camp claim Renault never gave him sufficiently up-to-date equipment to compete with Fernando Alonso.

We all know that as long as there has been F1 there have been arguments like this. The pace of development is so hot that teams are often unable to construct enough of their newest gizmos to adequately furnish both drivers.

For example, reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton got first dibs on McLaren’s new floor assembly at the Nurburgring which provided a massive step forward in performance. Heikki Kovalainen had to make do without, but both had the new parts at the Hungaroring.

In some ways, Renault’s problem this season is the flip side of what McLaren experienced in 2007, when it tried to pair Alonso and Hamilton together, with explosive results.

McLaren found themselves dealing with a fuming Alonso who did not expect Hamilton to be quite as good as he was. Renault chose a different path – picking a driver who posed little threat to Alonso. How far each team allowed those drivers to give Alonso a run for his money is open to debate.

Renault has kept Alonso happy but Piquet clearly isn’t. And you have to wonder how many points the team has missed in the past year and a half by not having a more capable (and perhaps better equipped) driver in the second car.

Piquet may feel vexed that his career has been sacrificed to massage Alonso’s ego, but did anybody honestly expect anything different?

It seems increasingly the case that if you have Fernando Alonso in your team, either he will be content or his team mate will, but not both.

Alonso’s future move to Ferrari may be F1’s worst-kept secret. But how will they solve the problem of who to put in the other car?

They may well decide mollycoddling Alonso with a weak team mate is no better solution than pairing him with someone more challenging.

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Alonso may have a tougher team mate next year - or next race
Alonso may have a tougher team mate next year - or next race