Nelson Piquet Jr Confirms Immediate Renault Exit

Nelson Piquet Jr Confirms Immediate Renault Exit

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.

Phew.

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.

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12 comments

  • Part of me applauds Piquet’s boldness at telling it as it is. And another wonders if he’s just shot himself in the foot with regards to securing any future F1 race seat.

    His only hope is if Daddy Piquet comes along and invests in either BMW Sauber or one of the new upstarts. Funny how his career pre-F1 was successful, but as soon as he left the bosom of a family run team it went downhill.

  • Wow, talk about peeling the onion, He needs a few hours on the couch!. Your added paragraghs are spot on and need no addition, apart from a man playing a very tiny violin to the tune of “Life`s a bitch, then you marry one”

  • Part of me applauds Piquet’s boldness at telling it as it is. And another wonders if he’s just shot himself in the foot with regards to securing any future F1 race seat.

    But is he really telling it the way it is, or is he just mad because he lost his job? The statement doesn’t come across to me very well, so therefore I’m leaning towards Piquet being a bit of a cry-baby. By all means rant, but at least save the journalist’s and blogger’s fingers by keeping the rant short, Bourdais-style. 🙂

    apart from a man playing a very tiny violin to the tune of “Life`s a bitch, then you marry one”

    😀 (Says Ollie, happily unmarried!)

    Clearing the way for Kubicy, don’t you think?

    I thought so, as I mentioned in a recent post. But others stated in the comments that they felt he was worth much more than a Renault. I don’t think Kubica is going to have many other options though that are going to be better than Renault. Some think a move to Brawn might be on the cards, but I think that is a huge risk. The regulations are staying pretty much the same (allowing others to catch up, maybe, like Red Bull have done), so I’m not sure Brawn will be as good in 2010 as they have been in 2009. I think Brawn is just as much of a risk as Renault is.

  • Taking into consideration that Ferrari spot isn’t in any way realistic at this time, the best way for Robert would be McLaren. And for McLaren, the best way to challenge for the constructors title would be Kubica. You need two top-class drivers for the title, and Kovalianen isn’t one of them. What is more, Rosberg, who is constantly linked with the Silver Arrows, is also not really there. If a team needs champion-skilled driver, Kubica is the only available now.

    And Renault… I think Heidfeld would be in their range. Very solid, maybe without a genius spark, yet he guarantees steady performances. The anti-piquet.

    Also as far as Kubica himself is concerned, I don’t think he would settle for a mediocre team. He wants to win, so he will consider only top offers.

  • Dear oliver,

    I thing you are absolutely rigth with your observations concerning this piquet’s statement. In fact piquet jr is a big kid dad had not teached him to be humble.For example, he’s not accepted been beaten by Hamilton in GP2 years. He is a big nerdy children hope that daddy will buy F1 team for him because he is now already fired from F1 teams with this dirty statement.What a freak man!!!???

  • I think Nelson should have contacted Heinz-Harald Frentzen before releasing this statement. Had he done so, I think he might have come out better. The raw material for a lot of sympathy was there, but it does get rather lost in the verbiage.

    Heinz-Harald, when he decided to announce his own mid-season sacking from Jordan, his total statement was, I believe, four sentences long. Four sentences that rocked the F1 world and instantly made even Jordan supporters believe something was seriously amiss.

    Brevity may be the soul of wit, but it is also a source of power.

  • Also as far as Kubica himself is concerned, I don’t think he would settle for a mediocre team. He wants to win, so he will consider only top offers.

    Unfortunately for Kubica, a lot of drivers fall into that category of thinking. Although I do agree, he is one of only a few that deserve to think like that. As in, he has the talent to back it up.

    Four sentences that rocked the F1 world and instantly made even Jordan supporters believe something was seriously amiss.

    Forgive me, I’m getting old in my, erm, old age. Hang on a minute, I need to put my teeth in and re-phrase that…

    …I’m getting forgetful in my old age. 😛

    What did Heinz-Harald say? I vaguely remember something about him wanting to invest in the Jordan team to help them progress, and then he was sacked (?). What happened exactly, oh supporter of the Jordan lineage and knowledge-bearer of the F1-blogosphere… 🙂

  • What did Heinz-Harald say? I vaguely remember something about him wanting to invest in the Jordan team to help them progress, and then he was sacked (?). {Oliver White – previous comment}

    Don’t worry about it – it happened eight years ago, to be fair – you’re not really getting old, it’s just that eight years is ancient history in F1 terms.

    Heinz-Harald got into a fairly complicated dispute with Jordan – Heinz-Harald felt the team wasn’t developing the car appropriately (hence the investment offer of £1m of wind-tunnel time) while Jordan claimed the car was fine and Heinz-Harald simply wasn’t getting as much out of it as Jarno Trulli (his team-mate of the time).

    After several twists and turns which need not detain us here, Heinz-Harald and Eddie Jordan had a fairly large argument after the British Grand Prix. At some point in the following few days, Jordan sacked Heinz-Harald… …but didn’t announce it. This is because Eddie Jordan was waiting for Jean Alesi, who believed Prost had broken its contract with him because he hadn’t been paid. However, he was stuck awaiting the Contract Recognition Board’s decision (which found in his favour two weeks later).

    The Wednesday before the German Grand Prix, Heinz-Harald decided the situation was completely daft and announced his own sacking on his website. I can’t find the original version, annoyingly enough, but I did find the final three sentences of the four-sentence statement on the BBC’s report of the news:

    “The reasons I have been given for this termination I contest in their entirety. My position in this matter is now under legal advice. Due to the current situation, I am unable to make any further comment whatsoever at this time.”

    I remember the first sentence simply said something to the effect of his contract with Jordan having been terminated by Jordan. In others, it resembled Bourdais’ parting shot a lot more than Piquet Jr’s.

    The rest of the F1 community hadn’t had the foggiest idea that anything like this was likely to happen. Heinz-Harald’s quiet few sentences were enough to show that something was seriously amiss but not enough to invite accusations of whingeing or incompetence.

    In the end, Heinz-Harald got his Prost and Arrows stints effectively paid for by Jordan as well as an out-of-court settlement. He also kept the respect of the paddock at a time when he could easily have lost it (either by writing the note badly a la Piquet Jr or by letting the team take the initiative the way most drivers do).

  • You do make many fair points about Nelson’s statement being too long, whiney, ranting and harmful to himself, but communicative incompetence and PR considerations aside, his complaints do not seem unjustified. Remembering recent Renault drivers, one is forced to conclude that unless your name was Alonso, your Renault years would more than likely be the worst period of your career.

    As for the contract, isn’t such a clause in itself strange in a technical sport? What if Renault had fallen to the level of Force India this year, and Alonso had had, say, a lucky sixth place and nothing else? Or even if the car were better, what if Piquet’s engine had stopped when he was second? What if they had blotched his pit stop when he was leading the race? Improbable, I grant you, but not more improbable than Piquet’s podium or even Fernando’s first win last year.

    Also, this clause could naturally have been acceptable only if the two drivers had had exactly the same technical background each and every race and the same conditions of pre-season testing. What he says about being unprepared for qualifying makes sense to me, it’s not the system he should have been able to prepare for but the handling of the new car in qualifying circumstances. If we are to believe him, he couldn’t do so with a heavily fuelled car and on hard tyres all the time. (Though I too found the dry/wet weather comparison hilarious…) When Alonso had more days of testing than him (the only team with such bias), the poor guy issued a statement about how he wasn’t suppressed at all, it was all fair because Fernando was so much more experienced et cetera. He had to swallow so many complaints that it is almost natural he kind of burst when the relationship completely broke down.

    For sure, Piquet wasn’t the most talented driver on the grid and possibly a good riddance, but that’s no excuse for the treatment he received at the hands of his team boss and manager if only half of what he said about him was true, and probably it was.

    That said, I agree this was a silly and unprofessional statement by a very disappointed and insecure person, and he kind of dug his own grave with it.

    By the way, I’m not interested in all this just because of Piquet, I’m more worried about Romain Grosjean who has been my GP2 favourite since the beginning of the 2008 season, and he is set to become the next driver broken by Briatore.

    (Sorry if my comment came across as a bit whiney and ranting, not to mention too long :D)

  • Ha, talk about laying into Flavio!

    I cant help but feel he should have kept the lid on his frustrations. Looks very unprofessional to air that in public!

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