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Champion Snapshot - Nelson Piquet 02 Aug 2004

Nelson Piquet (BRA) with his 1983 Brabham BT52. Goodwood Festival Of Speed , 11-13 July 2003, Goodwood, England. World © Moy/Sutton

Brazilian, 17/8/1952, World Champion 1981/83/87

Nelson Souto Maior was born into a world of privilege and comfort as the son of a senior Brazilian diplomat. Although he was well connected his success on the track was thanks to outstanding natural talent, not patronage. His family however did not approve of his racing ambitions, which is why he chose to adopt his mother's maiden name - Piquet - to avoid their attention.

The strategy did not work: Piquet's talents were too great to be ignored. He won the Brazilian national Karting Championship at just his second attempt. And, in the mid 'seventies, he chose to move to Europe against his family's wishes to pursue his dream, competing in Formula Three in both Britain and Europe.

Piquet's Formula One debut came in a privately entered Ensign at the 1978 German Grand Prix. He qualified in 20th place and suffered a failed engine. He then had three races with McLaren (then running Ford engines), before being signed by Bernie Ecclestone's Brabham outfit as team-mate for Niki Lauda.

In 1980 Piquet ran Alan Jones close and finished the season in second place. But in 1981 his luck held and, with a series of very strong drives, he managed to take the Championship by a single point from Carlos Reutemann after a spectacular battle between the pair at the Las Vegas race. In 1983 the Brazilian took another convincing Championship victory, the highlights of which were victories in Italy and at Brands Hatch.

Two years in the wilderness followed as Brabham were overtaken by the efforts of the growing 'superteams'. In 1986 Piquet joined Williams and a season of intense rivalry with team mate Nigel Mansell followed, both men losing out narrowly to McLaren's Alain Prost.

1986 was another very good season for Piquet as he drove to a third drivers' championship title with Williams. The following year he followed the Honda engines to Lotus, but the team proved uncompetitive and the Brazilian's champagne intake dropped off dramatically with just three third placed visits to the podium in '88 and '89.

In 1990 he moved to Benetton, taking two victories for the Italian team on his way to a third place in the championship. But with the arrival of Michael Schumacher in 1991, Piquet found himself unable to match the pace or aggression of his young German team-mate. He left Formula One racing at the end of the season.

After that he had a brief spell in open-seaters in the US, retiring after his legs were badly injured in a crash. Now he diverts much of his attention to running his successful businesses and looking after his son, Nelson Angelo, who is also enjoying a successful race career.