Can Piquet shine in ’09?

Nelson-Piquet-Jr Not many F1 drivers would admit to being daunted by the transition to the pinnacle of motorsport. Which begs the question, is Nelson Piquet Formula One material? asks whether the Brazilian can step out of Fernando Alonso’s shadow in 2009, and perhaps more importantly, that of his father’s too…

By Daniel Lawrence

Nelson Piquet s 2008 season was a disappointing one to say the least. He failed to pick up any points in his first seven races, and even more worryingly he only finished two of them. Amongst growing speculation that he may be replaced, not to mention public discontent from Renault, Piquet was resilient in the latter half of the season, enjoying good if not spectacular results in the final few races.

Using an interesting metaphor, Piquet recently admitted to being intimidated by the graduation from GP2 to F1: “coming from GP2 to F1 (it felt like) I had three Playstation controls stuck together, and now it’s like I have five.” The Brazilian may well feel overwhelmed, he certainly has a lot of pressure on him. Son of three times F1 world champion Nelson Piquet Souto Maior, “Piquet Junior” has a family history of success to live up to. Pressure does not just come from the past though; his team-mate is no less than two time world champion Fernando Alonso. Alonso vastly outclassed Piquet last season, finishing seven places higher than him in the final championship standings.

Piquet recently acknowledged the challenges of having Alonso as a team-mate and feels this pressure will only increase now they are teaming up again for a second season; “In the first year it was only good for me. Obviously I had a team-mate that was very strong and I had to push myself very much, but I could really see where I had to push myself and when I was quicker that I was in a good position. I think in the second year it will be tougher because now is the point where the team will have to give the same chance to both drivers and with all this testing system right now, where we are only allowed one car and limited days, that’s going to be a bit tricky.”

It is clear that Piquet realises that he cannot spend a second season as an understudy to Alonso, Renault will be hoping he can step out of Alonso s shadow this year. He will certainly have to prove himself worthy of a team that will want to provide healthy competition to McLaren and Ferrari.

However amongst all of this pressure and doubt Piquet displays calmness and quiet ambition. He concedes that his first season was a disappointment but sees last year as valuable experience; “The first to the second season makes a huge difference, both by knowing the tracks, and also being more relaxed, having done 18 starts already, knowing the procedures. It’s going to be a much easier season.”

Surrounded by triumph, from his father s to his team-mate s, Piquet will hope that this season will be the one where he emulates the victories of his father and team-mate. He certainly displayed ambition for the 2009 season he was recently quoted as saying; “Obviously if the car is able to win the championship then I am going to want to be there as well.” Renault will desire that 2009 will be the year that Piquet lives up to his heritage and finds the success that has eluded him so far.

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