Nelson Piquet Jr has confirmed one of the sport’s worse kept secrets of late; he won’t be driving the Renault R29 anymore, as with immediate effect the young Brazilian is no longer employed by the Enstone-based team. The rumours of Piquet’s exit had been circling the driver since about mid-2008, halfway through his debut season. The speculation heightened more recently, and now Renault will have to make a driver change mid-season.
Piquet Jr released a statement earlier that describes his relief at being able to put a bad part of his career behind him and move on, but the Brazilian driver is still furious with the team, continuing his allegations that team mate Fernando Alonso received better and further developed equipment. Furthermore, Piquet has made further allegations, saying that his boss and manager, Flavio Briatore, threatened Piquet fifteen minutes prior to the start of qualifying sessions and races. Piquet’s statement, which for the record is one of the longest I have read from a driver parting from a team, is (and it is unfortunate to say this) whiney and somewhat childish.
This is the statement in full, with my own additions after each paragraph. A link to the original can be found at the very bottom.
I have received notice from the Renault F1 team of its intention to stop me from driving for them in the current F1 season. I want to say thanks to the small group who supported me and that I worked together at Renault F1, although it is obviously with great disappointment that I receive such news. But, at the same time, I feel a sense of relief for the end of the worst period of my career, and the possibility that I can now move on and put my career back on the right track and try to recover my reputation of a fast, winning driver. I am a team player and there are dozens of people I have worked with in my career who would vouch for my character and talent, except unfortunately the person that has had the most influence on my career in Formula 1.
And to be perfectly honest, Piquet’s statement should have ended there. Polite, respectful with a little twist towards the end. Unfortunately, Piquet goes on…
I started racing at the age of eight and have broken record after record. I won every championship I raced in go-karts. I was South American F3 champion, winning 14 races and getting 17 pole positions. In 2003 I went to England, with my own team, to compete in the British F3 championship. I was champion there as well, winning 12 races and getting 13 pole positions. In fact I was the youngest ever champion. I raced GP2 in 2005 and 2006, winning five races and scoring six pole positions. I had a great season in my second year, only missing out on the championship to Lewis Hamilton due to technical mistakes of our team, which I take as my own as well, including running out of fuel during a race. I set the record in GP2 for the first driver to have a perfect weekend, scoring the maximum points available, in Hungary 2006. No-one matched that until July 2009 when Nico Hulkenberg did in at Nurburgring.
If I wanted to read your biography, Nelson, I would have headed over to your official website, or checked out your Wikipedia entry. I mean honestly, in a statement that is confirming your exit from a team, do I really need to read about your career thus far?
The path to F1 was always going to be tricky, and my father and I therefore signed a management contract with Flavio Briatore, who we believed was an excellent option with all the necessary contacts and management skills. Unfortunately, that was when the black period of my career started. I spent one year as a test driver, where I only did a handful of tests, and the next year started as a race driver with Renault. After the opening part of the season, some strange situations began to happen. As a beginner in F1, I could only expect from my team a lot of support and preparation to help me in getting up to the task. Instead, I was relegated as “someone who drives the other car” with no attention at all. In addition, 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. I have never needed threats before to get results. In 2008 I scored 19 points, finished once on the podium in second place, having the best debut year of a Brazilian driver in F1.
And now Nelson is becoming a little whiney. It is all fine and dandy to be upset, but in a sport that demands professional behaviour at all times, Piquet has done himself a disservice here. Would any team boss employ Piquet Jr now, knowing that should the relationship not work out, Piquet will blast the team with accusations and tales of threats and lack of support. I know I wouldn’t.
For the 2009 season Briatore, again acting both as my manager and team boss of Renault F1, 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 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.
A contract Nelson signed. He presumably didn’t have to, but at the end of the day, the 40%-of-Alonso’s-score contract was signed. At the midway point of the season (which was actually the German Grand Prix), Piquet Jr hadn’t achieved the necessary points to be within 40% of his team mate. Therefore, the team acted accordingly. That, my Brazilian friend, is called life.
Unfortunately, the promises didn’t turn into reality again. With the new car I completed 2002km of testing compared to Fernando’s 3839km. Only three days of my testing was in dry weather – only one of Fernando’s was wet. I was only testing with a heavy car, hard tyres, mostly on the first day (when the track is slow and reliability is poor), or when the weather was bad. Fernando was driving a light car with soft tyres in the dry, fine conditions. I never had a chance to be prepared for the qualifying system we use. In Formula 1 today, the difference between 1st and 15th position is sometimes less than a second. It means that 0.2 or 0.3s can make you gain eight positions.
I love the complete lack of actual comparison between “three days of my testing was in dry weather – only one of Fernando’s was wet”. And how many dry weather days did Alonso get? One? Twenty million?
Oh and also, the line about not being prepared for the qualifying system. Erm, what was Piquet doing last year then, when the system was the same as this year’s?
In addition to that, car development is now happening on a race-to-race basis due to the in season testing ban. Of the first nine races that I ran this year, in four of them Fernando had a significant car upgrade that I did not have. I was informed by the engineers at Renault that in those races I had a car that was between 0.5 and 0.8s a lap slower than my teammate. If I look at Germany (where I out-qualified my teammate despite that), if I had that advantage in qualifying I would be fifth and not tenth. If we had that difference in the race, I would have finished ahead of my teammate, which I did in Silverstone, despite him having upgrades that I did not have.
And now Piquet is nit-picking. The upgraded car scenario isn’t nit-picking, but to go through individual results and try to add in a ‘what-if’ is, and this is where, in my opinion, Nelson comes off poorly.
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.
I do like the last sentence used here though – a strong yet simply crafted piece of language. And I now presume Briatore isn’t Piquet’s manager anymore. I don’t think it has been explicitly said so, but calling your boss and manager an executioner would indicate the relationship is without doubt well and truly over. Unfortunately though, Nelson is still continuing with his statement…
Being under pressure is not new to me. I have had criticism throughout my career, and have also had a lot of expectations put on me due to my name. Up until now I always met those expectations – surpassed them even. I have never before felt the need to defend myself or fight back from rumours and criticism because I knew the truth and I just wanted to concentrate on racing – I didn’t ever let it affect me. Fortunately, I can now say to those people who supported me through my career that I’m back on the good tracks and considering the options for a new start in my F1 career in a fair and positive way. Nelson Piquet Jr.
That was without doubt one of the longest statements I have read from a driver departing from a team. I think Sebastien Bourdais just wrote a paragraph or two, slagging off the team, threatening legal action and leaving it at that. The popular French driver certainly didn’t recount past races, his career statistics and suggest strange happenings within the team.
What it does show though is that Nelson Piquet is angry at the team and feels he has not been given a fair chance. My own opinion on the Piquet matter is that Flavio Briatore should have cut his losses after the Brazilian Grand Prix last year. Piquet had one decent result in the whole of 2008, and although he put in a handful of decent performances, he was largely nowhere near his team mate. Although Alonso is a very strong and fast racing driver, he still needs to be pushed, and I feel Briatore has made a great error in judgment by allowing himself to employ a driver who was not capable of getting even remotely close to Alonso.
So suggestions now move to the potential replacements for Piquet. I think Romain Grosjean must be at the top of the rookie list, but again, Briatore doesn’t necessarily have to employ a rookie as there are plenty of experienced drivers out there who could fill the spot for the remainder of the season. Having said that though, the R29 is not a great car, and therefore it might be wise to put a rookie in the seat so they can get some experience in without necessarily feeling the pressure of having to turn out good results. This will help the driver and the team come 2010.