The Hungarian Grand Prix was Nelson Piquet Jnr’s last start for Renault, according to sources at the team.
His replacement has not been officially confirmed but is expected to be Renault Development driver Romain Grosjean. Piquet’s replacement will either race at Valencia or Spa-Francorchamps, depending on whether the team’s appeal against its ban is successful.
Grosjean, currently second in GP2, drove for the team in one of their allocated straight-line tests this week (Pics on BritsonPole).
As discussed here earlier today, Piquet’s future at the team has been in doubt for some time. Indeed many were surprised when he was given a second season with the team.
He is the second of the rookies of 2008 to be dropped by his team within the space of a month. Fellow 2008 debutante Sebastien Bourdais had his Toro Rosso contract terminated after the German Grand Prix.
Promoting Grosjean would continue Renault’s practice of elevating young drivers to their squad via GP2.
Heikki Kovalainen was the first, being placed in the squad in 2007. After a shaky start he soon began out-performing Giancarlo Fisichella and brilliantly held off Kimi Raikkonen for second in the pouring rain at Fuji. But nonetheless he was dropped to make way for Piquet along with Fernando Alonso.
Piquet who, like Kovalainen, was a GP2 championship runner-up, scored one podium finish last year in somewhat fortuitous circumstances at the Hockenheimring. He insists the gap between himself and Alonso is at least partly explained by his team mate getting better equipment.
Grosjean’s GP2 form has been a little patchy. He won the inaugural GP2 Asia championship with ease but could only manage fourth in the main series last year.
He began this year’s campaign brightly with two wins from the first three races – but he hasn’t been back to the top of the podium since. His heavy crash at Monaco was one of a series of unnecessary incidents which have cost him valuable points.
As Piquet knows well, any such failings are brutally exposed in the cut-throat world of Formula 1.
Read more: Alonso and the Piquet-Renault fall-out