Exclusive interview - Renaults Nelson Piquet 07 Jun 2008
Nobody said being a rookie Formula One driver was easy. But the stellar performances of drivers like Lewis Hamilton and Robert Kubica in recent seasons have reset the standards for the sports new recruits. For Nelson Piquet, the son of a three-time world champion, the task of making his name is even tougher. And with four retirements from six races, things have not yet gone quite to plan for Renaults Brazilian youngster. We asked him why
Q: Nelson, after a trying start to your debut season, are you still having fun racing?
Nelson Piquet: Of course! All I like to do is sit in the car and drive. And its not about it being fun there or not - its part of my job, its my work. Its probably not always good - sometimes dreadful things happen. For me its the beginning of a new series. In GP2 everything turned around in the second year, so I think the situation I am in is quite normal.
Q: Theres been a lot of talk lately about how you need to regain your confidence. Do you also need to find confidence in the car?
NP: Well, its everything. Its experience, learning the tracks and the car getting better. Everything is combined together.
Q: In the past you have always driven for a Piquet-owned team. Now the situation is different. How do you cope with that?
NP: There is simply nothing similar to Formula One. GP2 teams or Formula Three teams employ in the range of five to ten people - a Formula One team is a far cry from that - and it has nothing to do with whether it is my team or not.
Q: But in your previous teams everything was built around you. Now you are with a team that has other priorities
NP: I dont think so. The priority is to build the car around the drivers - and it will always be that way, so I dont think there is a fundamental difference.
Q: During the winter tests you enjoyed excellent results so, as an outsider, it is difficult to understand whats going wrong in the races for you. Do you have an explanation for that?
NP: Well, that has much to do with the fact that many of the tracks I dont know. If you take for example Barcelona, I was as quick as Fernando (Alonso) all the time, and in Bahrain I was as quick as him all the time. The first track I struggled with was Turkey. This track here (in Canada) I dont know at all and in Monaco I had not driven for a year. Monaco is the type of track where experience really pays off - its not just a case of going there and driving - its a bit more complicated than that. Fact is that in Monaco I was only three tenths behind Fernando - if you want to break it down to numbers. Basically its track knowledge that makes me struggle. A race weekend is very short and if there is a little problem it has a tendency to snowball. Add to this the fact that a number of tracks are new to me, and that our car is not the easiest to drive, then you probably have the answer for the discrepancy in my test and race performance.
Q: Do you think you can do what Heikki Kovalainen did last year - start slow and improve?
NP: That is what I am trying to do!
Q: But does the team have a bit of a problem dealing with rookies?
NP: They probably had problems last year but they have learned, as I dont have any problems with the team.
Q: You came from GP2 and then you spent a year as test driver. Has the lack of racing last year been a factor in your problems this season? Would you have preferred to go straight from one race seat to another?
NP: I definitely would have preferred to go racing straight away. When Heikki was the test driver there were still the old test rules in place so he was able to get a fair share of rides. Unfortunately this was not the case for me last year.
Q: If you say that track knowledge is half the problem, what do you think about the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Is it difficult?
NP: Its not easy. There are a lot braking-chicane, braking-chicane situations where you really need to learn to read the kerbs. Ive done only 40 laps so far - in fact yesterday was not a very good day for us. The track overall is a bit risky but definitely less than Monaco.
Q: So what do expect for this weekend?
NP: Its going to be tough for us. But its not going to change a great deal as we head to other races. We are still aiming to score points. Well see on Sunday.