Exclusive Q&A - Nelson Piquet Jr 06 Dec 2006
Like Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve and Nico Rosberg before him, Nelson Piquet Jr has followed in his father's footsteps by taking up motor racing. Having completed his first official sessions as Renaults new test and reserve driver, Nelson Piquet Jr has already shown his mettle
Q: Your name is legendary in Formula One racing, so naturally expectations will be very high. How do you cope with this fact?
Nelson Piquet Jr: I dont think a famous name brings more expectations. Once you are in Formula One, people are judging you on your talent and the ability you have to do the job, nothing else. From my point of view, I dont have any expectations apart from just learning my job, learning about the team and beginning to understand Formula One. Lots of people seem impatient to talk about racing, but that is still a long way off for me.
Q: You have been accustomed to the glamour and hard work of Formula One racing since your infancy. At what age did you decide to follow your father into racing?
NP: I was eight when I started go-karting in Brazil, and obviously at that age you dont really know what you want as a career so it started out just as fun. But I loved being at the circuit so much, I would stay with the team until it got dark, and it was just very natural for me to race. I was crazy about cars from the start. It was the only thing I wanted to do. I never realised I was better than everyone else, its something that you always want but you only realise when you win a race. I started winning when I was ten or 11, and then it got more serious, and I was always beating everyone else. I think it was when I was in South American F3 that I realised that I could make a career from doing what I loved.
Q: How much influence has your father had on your decision to become a driver?
NP: Of course he has been a big help and influence on me but the last few years he has not really been that involved, he could see I was working well with the team so didnt need to be so involved. He helped us build the team and he helps us with big decisions. He doesnt come to many races though and he doesnt get involved on the technical side. He gave all of my brothers the opportunity to race, and its only me that has continued and is doing it seriously. My older brother and younger brother tried it and didnt like it, so he didnt pressure us to do it.
Q: Your father is undoubtedly one of the best advisors to help you further your Formula One career. Is he also your manager?
NP: No he is not my manager, he doesnt get involved with the business side of things. As I said, he has not been that involved in the past years, and my management is handled separately.
Q: You showed your potential in several lower racing series - especially in GP2 - now you have to show that Formula One racing is your natural destination. Are you ready?
NP: I am ready to start learning, yes. There is still everything to prove, but I have a fantastic opportunity to be a test driver with a top team, and a good car. For a young driver, it is very positive to be able to see how a world champion team operates and goes racing. I think that is the best training I could have. So I am looking forward to doing the miles, working with the team and trying to improve as much as possible.
Q: Youre about to join the ranks of some legendary Brazilian drivers including Emerson Fittipaldi, Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna. How confident are you about your own ability to add Piquet Jr. to the list?
NP: I think only journalists think in these terms. I am very proud to belong to a tradition that includes so many great champions, and Brazil has a great history in Formula One. But what matters to me are the things that are coming in the future, not those that are in the past. I am only at the start of my career, and I am not putting the pressure on myself of having to match the achievements of people who cam before me.
Q: You have just finished three days of testing for Renault. How did it feel to work for the team and sit in a car that won both titles this year?
NP: It was fantastic. The R26 is a great car, and the whole Renault team is very welcoming and very professional. I have done three tests now, and they have given me the time to learn how things work, to adapt my style and to continue improving. I am still doing that at the moment, and understanding more and more about how the car and the tyres work. But it is a great feeling to be out there testing, and to really be part of Formula One now.
Q: Whats been your first impression and how satisfied are you with your performance and ability to adjust?
NP: I think it is going well. I have done good times, and I am improving with each lap that I do. The hardest thing in Formula One is finding the consistency, to be on the limit for every lap without going over the edge. One quick lap is maybe not so tough these days, but it is a big challenge to stay quick on every lap as the car and tyres change, especially with the new Bridgestone tyres and the lower grip levels. It takes thousands of kilometers to develop those skills, and that is my goal at the moment.
Q: Your father was reported in the media to have said that Giancarlo Fisichella should watch out, as there might be a possibility for you to advance from reserve driver to race driver in the course of the 2007 season. How likely is that scenario?
NP: There has been a lot of silly talk about these things, but I dont pay any attention. Obviously, my long-term ambition is to be racing in Formula One. But I still have a big step to make before I am ready for that. The team wants me to work hard, to continue learning and to help them with the technical programme. That is my focus at the moment.