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Random Driver Highlight #15 -- Nelson Piquet Jr.

Yep, this took a while. Partially because I'm looking for a new job following my spell in the army, but also because rFactor 2 is so damn good.
(Note: I am not sponsored by rFactor 2, Studio 397 or ISI in any shape or form. rFactor 2 is seriously amazing. Buy it now)
Anyway, I was so caught up in rFactor 2 that I actually forgot the first driver I randomly generated. Whoops. Nevermind, my second roll of the dice, #603, probably provides for a more interesting story...

Nelson Piquet Jr.

STATISTICS
Years in F1: 2008-9
Teams Raced For: Renault
Entries: 28
Starts: 28
Podium Finishes: 1
Points: 19 (10 under 9-6-4-3-2-1 system for fair comparison with history)
Highest Finish: 2nd (2008 German Grand Prix)
Different series he has raced in: Eighteen. I'm not bullshitting you here. Eighteen.

Part 1: Which girl were you from?

Okay, that headline was a bit mean and unwarranted to poor Nelson Piquet Sr., but when you've had seven children to four different women, it's pretty much apt for the playboy attitude that the elder Piquet has lived with.
Anyway, to answer that above question, it was the second girl, Sylvia Tamsma, former girlfriend of Elio de Angelis, that gave birth to Nelson Angelo Piquet Jr. on July 25th, 1985, just a few miles away from the Hockenheimring. Who knows what was going on at Hockenheim around that time, especially because the German Grand Prix that year was held at the Nurburgring a week later, not Hockenheim. Just something I found odd.
Anyway, it didn't take long after Piquet Jr.'s birth for the family to split up, leaving Piquet Jr. to live with his mother in Monaco. Then Piquet Sr. had another child with another girl. Then he got back together with Tamsma. And had two children, Julia and Daniil Kvyat's girlfriend. And then split with Tamsma again.
You got all that? Good.
Following that second split, Piquet Jr. went to live with his father this time, particularly as his mother thought of Brazil as a better place to grow up than Monaco and that the younger Piquet can grow up to be a racing driver, just like his dad.
And so, not long after his massive Indy 500 crash, Piquet Sr. held off racing full-time to support his son's karting career from 1993 onwards. Piquet Jr. spent quite a while in karting, but when the time came for him to move up in 2001, his father founded a brand new team, Piquet Sports, for his son to compete in the upcoming Formula 3 Sudamericana season.
Despite missing the first four races of 2001, Piquet performed exceptionally, taking one win that year. But come 2002, Piquet Jr. was the star of the show. 13 wins out of 18. Whew, lad. It was hardly impressive given the standards of Formula 3 Sudamericana, but 13 wins in 18 is nothing to be sniffed at.
What has to be admired, though, was the way Nelson Piquet Jr. arrived onto the Formula Three scene in Great Britian. In his first season there, he notched up six wins on tracks he didn't even know, not to mention a credible second place at the Formula Three Masters event at Zandvoort. Following this up by winning the British Formula Three championship the following season, everyone was starting to believe that this guy truly is the new Nelson Piquet.
Well, duh. It's his son.

Part 2: Winner of a World Cup event

So, 2005 comes around, and Nelson Piquet Jr. is still being shadowed by hid dad, taking him to greater levels of motorsport, all while making sure he had a drive by promoting his Piquet Sports team alongside his son. Partnering with Hitech Racing, the relationship between the two teams was rocky at best, with Piquet Jr. having his most trying season in motorsport yet, with a win at Spa Francorchamps being his only high point of the season.
So, in the off-season, he tried something new: The World Cup
No, you dummy. Not the FIFA World Cup. Or rugby. Or Cricket.
The World Cup Of Motorsport, A1 Grand Prix.
This absolute gem of a racing series, probably still the best concept for a racing series I have ever seen alongside the Speedcar Series, had drivers representing their home nations throughout the season, scoring points for their respective countries. Holding a similar prestige to Formula E nowadays, the series featured a few relatively unknown drivers like Basil Shabaan, many a future prospect like Piquet Jr. himself but also showcased some old Formula One talent as well like Jos Verstappen, father of Max, and Alex Yoong.
With the first race at Brands Hatch being shown to a worldwide audience, Piquet Jr. went ahead and showed himself to the world as the rightful heir to the Piquet name by taking pole, setting fastest lap, leading every lap in the sprint race and winning both races in that first event at Brand Hatch. Though it would be Team France that would dominate that first season and take home the World Cup of Motorsport, Piquet held his own until he was called back to GP2 duties for 2006...
HERE COMES A NEW CHALLENGER!. A British prospect everybody is drooling over. Handpicked by McLaren from young. Everybody is saying he is the future. He is Lewis Hamilton.
2006 was going to be a tough title fight for Piquet Jr. He'd taken the championship in the second season of every series he ran in, but now was a different challenge. Piquet Jr., like Hamilton, was Brazil's prospect, their next Senna, if not the next Barrichello.
Early in the season, Piquet got the jump by winning the first feature race of the season at Valencia, and jumped out to a early season lead after Imola. But then Hamilton won both races at the next weekend at the Nurburgring, followed by another double win at Silverstone, and the championship swung well into Hamilton's favour. The title seemed well out of Piquet's reach, but then he did the impossible.
At the Hungaroring, he sat on pole for the feature race, then took the win and the fastest lap in both the feature and sprint races, a performance reminiscent of his name-making moment at Brands in A1 Grand Prix. He took the maximum points possible from that event, a feat only replicated a few years later by a certain Nico Hulkenberg. This helped him close the gap right up to Hamilton heading to the final event at Monza, where Hamilton still eventually won out.
Piquet Jr. ended 2006 on a high note, winning the Mil Milhas (*1000 miles) Brasil alongside his dad and two other fellows in the car whose names escape me at this moment of time. This wasn't his first achievement in endurance racing, coming in fourth in his GT1 class during the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
So, present day, Lewis Hamilton is a four-time champion in Formula One. Nelson Piquet Jr. only has one podium to his name.
So, what happened?
Flavio Briatore happened.

Part 3: Fever from the Flavio

Right. Flavio Briatore. Him. I don't know about this subreddit's general consensus on the guy, whether he should be lauded for guiding the careers of several drivers like Michael Schumacher, Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso among other or disgraced for his constant arrests on cases of fraud, cheating throughout his Formula One career or that image of him in a thong. (You find that image for yourself, I'm too kind to burn your eyes like that)
Personally, researching into what he did for Piquet Jr., I think he is a piece of shit.
Seeing how Flavio managed drivers to relative levels of success in Formula One in the past, Nelson Piquet Sr. signed his son on with Flavio Briatore for a management contract from 2007 onwards. Big mistake. For the entirety of 2007, Nelson Piquet Jr. was stuck being Renault's test driver for the full year. Unlike other dedicated test drivers in the likes of Gary Paffett, Briatore didn't allow Piquet Jr. to race in any other racing series, forcing him to churn the whole year putting in endless miles for Renault.
In 2008, Piquet Jr. finally got the nod to enter Renault's Formula One squad, but even then the promotion felt like a backhanded compliment. Fernando Alonso, following his one-season stand with McLaren and his infamous rivalry with Lewis Hamilton, made the jump back home to Renault to avoid the toxic situation at McLaren. Following this, Flavio Briatore opted to let go of Heikki Kovalainen from Renault, fearful that the Finn might provide competition to Alonso throughout the course of the season.
So Piquet Jr. was brought in. Simply because he was slower than the other person in contention for Renault's no.2 seat.
That's a new way of being promoted to F1, based on your lack of pace.
And early in the season, Piquet Jr. did indeed have that absence of pace, racecraft, or anything to keep his car on the road. Three crashes after the first six races. Only popping into Q3 just once in those first few races, something Alonso did for every race bar one. After the first few races, Piquet Jr. lost all attention from Flavio and co. as a new rookie driver that needs development, simply treating him as just 'the other driver in the other car', as Nelsinho puts it himself.
The 'other driver' that would overtake Alonso in the final few laps of Renault's home race to score his first points.
The 'other driver' that went on to take Renault's first podium of the year in Germany.
Granted, that podium came down due to Renault getting real lucky with their one-stop pit strategy, pitting just before Tim O'Glock brought out the safety car, but still. Piquet Jr. acutally led the race until three laps to go, when Hamilton dove past on the inside, but Piquet still guided the car home to a wonderful second place, just miles away from his birthplace, 5 days before his 23rd birthday. This was the result that would surely put Piquet Jr. into Flavio's good books...
No, no, nope. Flavio still placed most of the team's back behind Fernando, releagting Piquet Jr. to a true no.2 driver role. Piquet's second half of the season after Germany was marginally better than the first half, with a good run to fourth in Fuji on a day where the Renaults were strong. His season was still littered with accidents though, especially one in Singapore where his accident brought out a perfectly timed safety car for his teammate, Fernando Alonso, gambling on a risky strategy, on Alonso's way to victory, Renault's first in 2008.
And then came 2009. Incredibly, despite talk that a certain Jean-Pierre Jabouille lookalike would replace Nelsinho, Renault retained him for the next year. And that's where Flavio's assholish tendencies came through.
He promised Piquet Jr. that his testing environment will be exactly the same as Alonso's, with the caveat that if Piquet didn't score 40% of Alonso's points, he would fire him at mid-season. Clearly, the pressure was on Nelsinho's shoulders, but it seemed like he could achieve 40% of Alonso's points by mid season. Right?
Yeah, nope. Piquet was limited to three days of dry weather testing, clocking 2000 kilometres. Alonso, who requested more time with the car to get used to the 2009 regulations, amassed nearly twice as much distance during pre-season testing. Likewise, Piquet often claimed all his tests were on hard tyres, heavy fuel loads and a barely rubbered in track, something that would have hampered his qualifying pace in a real track situation, as Alonso got optimal conditions for simulated qualifying runs.
Whether if it was down to the lack of testing or just disappointing driving, Piquet Jr. barely left a mark on the 2009 season, apart from being the first Formula One driver to join Twitter. Briatore was starting to come down hard on Piquet, with all the upgrades going Alonso's way through the course of the season. Still, performances like in China, spinning off several times and requiring several replacement nosecones, gave Briatore some excuse to ignore the Brazilian.
Come the Hungarian Grand Prix, the same race where his teammate worked a minor miracle and placed his Renault on pole, Nelson Piquet Jr. could only qualify 14th. After an anonymous race, Briatore fired him from the team, having scored zero points in 2009, replacing him with said Jean-Pierre Jabouille lookalike, Romain Grosjean.
Piquet Jr. definitely wasn't fast. He was quite a lot slower compared to his teammate. Yet he felt he wasn't given a fair share of the deal.
And he was gonna let the world know.

Part 4: Biting Back on Briatore

The way Formula One drivers are nowadays, they always seem to talk good about the team (save Fernando Alonso and his Honda engines...), praising the mechanics, showing face to the team boss.
Piquet Jr. was never like that.
Even before he left Renault, you could tell he hated the team, or at least Flavio Briatore. In April 2009, he caught up with F1Racing Magazine to answer questions directed at him from subscribers of the magazine. Apart from saying he liked the Valencia Street Circuit (the madman), spoon fights with mechanics, and denying a modelling career vehemently, Piquet Jr. saved his harshest criticisms to a certain Italian boss...
Did you ever think your contract might not be renewed for 2009? Gregory Haines, Spain
Piquet: "...I think I managed to do the best job I could. Still, having Flavio as a boss isn't easy."
Flavio Briatore: Always fair? Always supportive? Andy Beaux Bottomley, UK (GREAT NAME)
Piquet: "Not always. He can be really tough and you need to be able to ignore the right things, absorb the right things and be able to judge everything"
Eddie Irvine said being in Ferrari with Michael Schumacher was like being hit over the head with a cricket bat for four days. How would you describe it with Alonso? Richard Ralf, UK
Piquet: "Well, maybe a bit similar! It's very tough, yeah. I would say it was nearly that".
Yep, Piquet also didn't hold back anything when mentioning his teammate. Mind you, he was still with Renault at the time of this interview. So when he got fired, my goodness me did Piquet Jr. explode. He released quite a lengthy statement, blasting Flavio Briatore as his 'executioner'. Here's the link to the full statement that, well, is quite damning.
There was one question from that interview, though, that stuck out...
People say you crashed deliberately in Singapore. Was it team strategy? Mathieu Villeton, France
Piquet: "[Laughs] Yeah, I wanted to try and kill myself to help Fernando get a podium. I pushed hard and I spun. The team called Fernando in at the right moment. Shit happens to me and he gets lucky. Like in pre-season testing this year!"
He answered Mathieu's question while in Renault.
Now though, Nelson Piquet Jr. was fired. And he hated Briatore.
Time to prove that one guy, Mathieu Villeton, correct.
You all have probably heard of Crashgate by now. For those that haven't, you are living under a massive rock. Go ahead and read the full wiki page that covers this entire controversy, but if you want a quick TL;DR...
Singapore, 2008. Renault gives Alonso weird pit strategy. It needs a safety car to work. They ask Piquet Jr. to crash to bring out said safety car. He even PRACTISED the crash during the warm-up lap. Alonso pits, then Piquet crashes, and Alonso wins. Now Piquet Jr. is fired. He goes ahead and reveals all. Briatore tries to accuse him and his father for attempting to blackmail Renault into hiring him back into the squad for the season's end. Piquet Jr. hits them with a truth bomb: "Because I am telling the truth, I have nothing to fear..."
End result: Briatore and engineering director Pat Symonds leave Renault before getting banned from all motorsport involvement until 2011, with a further ban from F1 events until 2013. Could've been worse for Briatore, with his initial punishment being a ban for life on all motorsport activity. ING and Mutua Madrilena remove their sponsorship deals with Renault effectively. Piquet Jr. will never step into a Formula One car again, but at least he got the pleasure of seeing his 'executioner' punished for his involvement in the scenario.

Part 5: Ride Hopper

So what did Nelson Piquet Jr. get up to following his time in Formula One?
He made the simple, logical step to race in the Camping World Truck Series in NASCAR, obviously. And for a guy that raced single seaters for the majority of his life, he adapted quite well to pickup trucks. He was a constant frequenter of the top-10, and his 2012 season was doubly impressive, managing two wins and finishing in the top-10 on thirteen ocassions. That year, he also started a switch to the Nationwide series, winning one of his only outings that year at Road America in preparation for his full-time assault at the Nationwide series next year.
Unfortunately, his one full year at NASCAR's second tier wasn't remembered for his stellar drives or lack thereof. Instead, it's mostly remembered for Piquet Jr. imitating his father in the form of below-the-belt martial arts.
From there, his career went all sorts of directions. He made a few attempts at the Global Rallycross Championship, pulling a complete Scott Speed and actually being competitive off-road. He also had a very, very brief spell in both Indy Lights and Brazilian Stock Cars, managing one pole position in each series. He also attempted, earlier this year, to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Rebellion Racing, actually managing to come in third overall, second in LMP2 class. However, it seemed that fate wanted to bite Piquet Jr. in the ass one more time, as officials disqualified the car, making illegal modifications to the floor of the car in previous attempts to repair it.
Finally, Nelson Piquet Jr. was signed by NextEV Team China to drive for them in the new, all-electric motorsport series, Formula E. In his first season, he finally achieved something in the motorsport world. After representing his country in the World Cup, his battle with Hamilton all the chaos in Renault, Crashgate, his words for Flavio Briatore, fisticuffs, below-the-belt kicks and his rallycrossing phase, Nelson Piquet Jr. finally won his first international championship, beating Sebastien Buemi by a solitary point to be crowned Formula E's inaugural champion.
His two years afterwards in Formula E may not have been as spectacular, but that one Formula E title, I bet, was all worth it.
Yep, another one down. I actually had to dig right through my F1Racing Magazine archive for this, the one time those magazines had been useful in my life. I don't know if I've portrayed Piquet in too much of a positive light, given how I think he's very, very crash happy, but I think he deserves Piquet Jr. deserves a bit of sympathy at the very least.
Oh, and buy rFactor 2. Have I mentioned it's amazing yet? (Once again, I'm not sponsored, blah blah blah)
My Other Random Driver Highlights:
#1, Edgar Barth
#2, Ken Richardson
#3, Gerhard Mitter
#4, Chris Amon
#5, Leo Kinnunen
#6, Rikky von Opel
#7, Roberto Bussinello
#8, Charles de Tornaco
#9, Moisés Solana
#10, Boy Hayje
#11, Roy Salvadori
#12, Alberto Colombo
#13, Ken Downing
#14, Sebastian Vettel
submitted by TheStateOfIt to formula1

Tiquest

Yep, this took a while. Partially because I'm looking for a new job following my spell in the army, but also because rFactor 2 is so damn good.
(Note: I am not sponsored by rFactor 2, Studio 397 or ISI in any shape or form. rFactor 2 is seriously amazing. Buy it now)
Anyway, I was so caught up in rFactor 2 that I actually forgot the first driver I randomly generated. Whoops. Nevermind, my second roll of the dice, #603, probably provides for a more interesting story...

Nelson Piquet Jr.

STATISTICS
Years in F1: 2008-9
Teams Raced For: Renault
Entries: 28
Starts: 28
Podium Finishes: 1
Points: 19 (10 under 9-6-4-3-2-1 system for fair comparison with history)
Highest Finish: 2nd (2008 German Grand Prix)
Different series he has raced in: Eighteen. I'm not bullshitting you here. Eighteen.

Part 1: Which girl were you from?

Okay, that headline was a bit mean and unwarranted to poor Nelson Piquet Sr., but when you've had seven children to four different women, it's pretty much apt for the playboy attitude that the elder Piquet has lived with.
Anyway, to answer that above question, it was the second girl, Sylvia Tamsma, former girlfriend of Elio de Angelis, that gave birth to Nelson Piquet Jr. on July 25th, 1985, just a few miles away from the Hockenheimring. Who knows what was going on at Hockenheim around that time, especially because the German Grand Prix that year was held at the Nurburgring a week later, not Hockenheim. Just something I found odd.
Anyway, it didn't take long after Piquet Jr.'s birth for the family to split up, leaving Piquet Jr. to live with his mother in Monaco. Then Piquet Sr. had another child with another girl. Then he got back together with Tamsma. And had two children, Julia and Daniil Kvyat's girlfriend. And then split with Tamsma again.
You got all that? Good.
Following that second split, Piquet Jr. went to live with his father this time, particularly as his mother thought of Brazil as a better place to grow up than Monaco and that the younger Piquet can grow up to be a racing driver, just like his dad.
And so, not long after his massive Indy 500 crash, Piquet Sr. held off racing full-time to support his son's karting career from 1993 onwards. Piquet Jr. spent quite a while in karting, but when the time came for him to move up in 2001, his father founded a brand new team, Piquet Sports, for his son to compete in the upcoming Formula 3 Sudamericana season.
Despite missing the first four races of 2001, Piquet performed exceptionally, taking one win that year. But come 2002, Piquet Jr. was the star of the show. 13 wins out of 18. Whew, lad. It was hardly impressive given the standards of Formula 3 Sudamericana, but 13 wins in 18 is nothing to be sniffed at.
What has to be admired, though, was the way Nelson Piquet Jr. arrived onto the Formula Three scene in Great Britian. In his first season there, he notched up six wins on tracks he didn't even know, not to mention a credible second place at the Formula Three Masters event at Zandvoort. Following this up by winning the British Formula Three championship the following season, everyone was starting to believe that this guy truly is the new Nelson Piquet.
Well, duh. It's his son.

Part 2: Winner of a World Cup event

So, 2005 comes around, and Nelson Piquet Jr. is still being shadowed by hid dad, taking him to greater levels of motorsport, all while making sure he had a drive by promoting his Piquet Sports team alongside his son. Partnering with Hitech Racing, the relationship between the two teams was rocky at best, with Piquet Jr. having his most trying season in motorsport yet, with a win at Spa Francorchamps being his only high point of the season.
So, in the off-season, he tried something new: The World Cup
No, you dummy. Not the FIFA World Cup. Or rugby. Or Cricket.
The World Cup Of Motorsport, A1 Grand Prix.
This absolute gem of a racing series, probably still the best concept for a racing series I have ever seen alongside the Speedcar Series, had drivers representing their home nations throughout the season, scoring points for their respective countries. Holding a similar prestige to Formula E nowadays, the series featured a few relatively unknown drivers like Basil Shabaan, many a future prospect like Piquet Jr. himself but also showcased some old Formula One talent as well like Jos Verstappen, father of Max, and Alex Yoong.
With the first race at Brands Hatch being shown to a worldwide audience, Piquet Jr. went ahead and showed himself to the world as the rightful heir to the Piquet name by taking pole, setting fastest lap, leading every lap in the sprint race and winning both races in that first event at Brand Hatch. Though it would be Team France that would dominate that first season and take home the World Cup of Motorsport, Piquet held his own until he was called back to GP2 duties for 2006...
HERE COMES A NEW CHALLENGER!. A British prospect everybody is drooling over. Handpicked by McLaren from young. Everybody is saying he is the future. He is Lewis Hamilton.
2006 was going to be a tough title fight for Piquet Jr. He'd taken the championship in the second season of every series he ran in, but now was a different challenge. Piquet Jr., like Hamilton, was Brazil's prospect, their next Senna, if not the next Barrichello.
Early in the season, Piquet got the jump by winning the first feature race of the season at Valencia, and jumped out to a early season lead after Imola. But then Hamilton won both races at the next weekend at the Nurburgring, followed by another double win at Silverstone, and the championship swung well into Hamilton's favour. The title seemed well out of Piquet's reach, but then he did the impossible.
At the Hungaroring, he sat on pole for the feature race, then took the win and the fastest lap in both the feature and sprint races, a performance reminiscent of his name-making moment at Brands in A1 Grand Prix. He took the maximum points possible from that event, a feat only replicated a few years later by a certain Nico Hulkenberg. This helped him close the gap right up to Hamilton heading to the final event at Monza, where Hamilton still eventually won out.
Piquet Jr. ended 2006 on a high note, winning the Mil Milhas (*1000 miles) Brasil alongside his dad and two other fellows in the car whose names escape me at this moment of time. This wasn't his first achievement in endurance racing, coming in fourth in his GT1 class during the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
So, present day, Lewis Hamilton is a four-time champion in Formula One. Nelson Piquet Jr. only has one podium to his name.
So, what happened?
Flavio Briatore happened.

Part 3: Fever from the Flavio

Right. Flavio Briatore. Him. I don't know about this subreddit's general consensus on the guy, whether he should be lauded for guiding the careers of several drivers like Michael Schumacher, Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso among other or disgraced for his constant arrests on cases of fraud, cheating throughout his Formula One career or that image of him in a thong. (You find that image for yourself, I'm too kind to burn your eyes like that)
Personally, researching into what he did for Piquet Jr., I think he is a piece of shit.
Seeing how Flavio managed drivers to relative levels of success in Formula One in the past, Nelson Piquet Sr. signed his son on with Flavio Briatore for a management contract from 2007 onwards. Big mistake. For the entirety of 2007, Nelson Piquet Jr. was stuck being Renault's test driver for the full year. Unlike other dedicated test drivers in the likes of Gary Paffett, Briatore didn't allow Piquet Jr. to race in any other racing series, forcing him to churn the whole year putting in endless miles for Renault.
In 2008, Piquet Jr. finally got the nod to enter Renault's Formula One squad, but even then the promotion felt like a backhanded compliment. Fernando Alonso, following his one-season stand with McLaren and his infamous rivalry with Lewis Hamilton, made the jump back home to Renault to avoid the toxic situation at McLaren. Following this, Flavio Briatore opted to let go of Heikki Kovalainen from Renault, fearful that the Finn might provide competition to Alonso throughout the course of the season.
So Piquet Jr. was brought in. Simply because he was slower than the other person in contention for Renault's no.2 seat.
That's a new way of being promoted to F1, based on your lack of pace.
And early in the season, Piquet Jr. did indeed have that absence of pace, racecraft, or anything to keep his car on the road. Three crashes after the first six races. Only popping into Q3 just once in those first few races, something Alonso did for every race bar one. After the first few races, Piquet Jr. lost all attention from Flavio and co. as a new rookie driver that needs development, simply treating him as just 'the other driver in the other car', as Nelsinho puts it himself.
The 'other driver' that would overtake Alonso in the final few laps of Renault's home race to score his first points.
The 'other driver' that went on to take Renault's first podium of the year in Germany.
Granted, that podium came down due to Renault getting real lucky with their one-stop pit strategy, pitting just before Tim O'Glock brought out the safety car, but still. Piquet Jr. acutally led the race until three laps to go, when Hamilton dove past on the inside, but still, it was the turnaround result for Piquet Jr. in Formula One, the one to carry him through the rest of the season...
No, no, nope. Flavio still placed most of the team's back behind Fernando, releagting Piquet Jr. to a true no.2 driver role. Piquet's second half of the season after Germany was marginally better than the first half, with a good run to fourth in Fuji on a day where the Renaults were strong. His season was still littered with accident though, especially one in Singapore where his accident brought out a perfectly timed safety car for his teammate, Fernando Alonso, gambling on a risky strategy, on Alonso's way to victory, Renault's first in 2008.
And then came 2009. Incredibly, despite talk that a certain Jean-Pierre Jabouille lookalike would replace Nelsinho, Renault retained him for the next year. And that's where Flavio's assholish tendencies came through.
He promised Piquet Jr. that his testing environment will be exactly the same as Alonso's, with the caveat that if Piquet didn't score 40% of Alonso's points, he would fire him at mid-season. Clearly, the pressure was on Nelsinho's shoulders, but it seemed like he could achieve 40% of Alonso's points by mid season. Right?
Yeah, nope. Piquet was limited to three days of dry weather testing, clocking 2000 kilometres. Alonso, who requested more time with the car to get used to the 2009 regulations, amassed nearly twice as much distance during pre-season testing. Likewise, Piquet often claimed all his tests were on hard tyres, heavy fuel loads and a barely rubbered in track, something that would have hampered his qualifying pace in a real track situation, as Alonso got optimal conditions for simulated qualifying runs.
Whether if it was down to the lack of testing or just driver talent, Piquet Jr. barely left a mark on the 2009 season, apart from being the first Formula One driver to join Twitter. Briatore was starting to come down hard on Piquet, with all the upgrades going Alonso's way through the course of the season. Still, performances like in China, spinning off several times and requiring several replacement nosecones, gave Briatore some excuse to ignore the Brazilian.
Come the Hungarian Grand Prix, the same race where his teammate worked a minor miracle and placed his Renault on pole, Nelson Piquet Jr. could only qualify 14th. After an anonymous race, Briatore fired him from the team, having scored zero points in 2009, replacing him with Romain Grosjean.
Piquet Jr. definitely wasn't fast. He was quite a lot slower compared to his teammate. Yet he felt he wasn't given a fair share of the deal.
And he was gonna let the world know.

Part 4: Biting Back on Briatore

The way Formula One drivers are nowadays, they always seem to talk good about the team (save Fernando Alonso and his Honda engines...), praising the mechanics, showing face to the team boss.
Piquet Jr. was never like that.
Even before he left Renault, you could tell he hated the team, or at least Flavio Briatore. In April 2009, he caught up with F1Racing Magazine to answer questions directed at him from subscribers of the magazine. Apart from saying he liked the Valencia Street Circuit (the madman), spoon fights with mechanics, and denying a modelling career vehemently, Piquet Jr. saved his harshest criticisms to a certain Italian boss...
Did you ever think your contract might not be renewed for 2009? Gregory Haines, Spain
Piquet: "...I think I managed to do the best job I could. Still, having Flavio as a boss isn't easy."
Flavio Briatore: Always fair? Always supportive? Andy Beaux Bottomley, UK (GREAT NAME)
Piquet: "Not always. He can be really tough and you need to be able to ignore the right things, absorb the right things and be able to judge everything"
Eddie Irvine said being in Ferrari with Michael Schumacher was like being hit over the head with a cricket bat for four days. How would you describe it with Alonso? Richard Ralf, UK
Piquet: "Well, maybe a bit similar! It's very tough, yeah. I would say it was nearly that".
Yep, Piquet also didn't hold back anything when mentioning his teammate. Mind you, he was still with Renault at the time of this interview. So when he got fired, my goodness me did Piquet Jr. explode. He released quite a lengthy statement, blasting Flavio Briatore as his 'executioner'. Here's the link to the full statement that, well, is quite damning.
There was one question from that interview, though, that stuck out...
People say you crashed deliberately in Singapore. Was it team strategy? Mathieu Villeton, France
Piquet: "[Laughs] Yeah, I wanted to try and kill myself to help Fernando get a podium. I pushed hard and I spun. The team called Fernando in at the right moment. Shit happens to me and he gets lucky. Like in pre-season testing this year!"
He answered Mathieu's question while in Renault.
Now though, Nelson Piquet Jr. was fired. And he hated Briatore.
Time to prove that one guy, Mathieu Villeton, correct.
You all have probably heard of Crashgate by now. For those that haven't, you are living under a massive rock. Go ahead and read the full wiki page that covers this entire controversy, but if you want a quick TL;DR...
Singapore, 2008. Renault gives Alonso weird pit strategy. It needs a safety car to work. They ask Piquet Jr. to crash to bring out said safety car. He even PRACTISED the crash during the warm-up lap. Alonso pits, then Piquet crashes, and Alonso wins. Now Piquet Jr. is fired. He goes ahead and reveals all. Briatore tries to accuse him and his father for attempting to blackmail Renault into hiring him back into the squad for the season's end. Piquet Jr. hits them with a truth bomb: "Because I am telling the truth, I have nothing to fear..."
End result: Briatore and engineering director Pat Symonds leave Renault before getting banned from all motorsport involvement until 2011, with a further ban from F1 events until 2013. Could've been worse for Briatore, with his initial punishment being a ban for life on all motorsport activity. ING and Mutua Madrilena remove their sponsorship deals with Renault effectively. Piquet Jr. will never step into a Formula One car again, but at least he got the pleasure of seeing his 'executioner' punished for his involvement in the scenario.

Part 5: Ride Hopper

So what did Nelson Piquet Jr. get up to following his time in Formula One?
He made the simple, logical step to race in the Camping World Truck Series in NASCAR, obviously. And for a guy that raced single seaters for the majority of his life, he adapted quite well to pickup trucks. He was a constant frequenter of the top-10, and his 2012 season was doubly impressive, managing two wins and finishing in the top-10 on thirteen ocassions. That year, he also started a switch to the Nationwide series, winning one of his only outings that year at Road America in preparation for his full-time assault at the Nationwide series next year.
Unfortunately, his one full year at NASCAR's second tier wasn't remembered for his stellar drives or lack thereof. Instead, it's mostly remembered for Piquet Jr. imitating his father in the form of below-the-belt martial arts.
From there, his career went all sorts of directions. He made a few attempts at the Global Rallycross Championship, pulling a complete Scott Speed and actually being competitive off-road. He also had a very, very brief spell in both Indy Lights and Brazilian Stock Cars, managing one pole position in each series. He also attempted, earlier this year, to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Rebellion Racing, actually managing to come in third overall, second in LMP2 class. However, it seemed that fate wanted to bite Piquet Jr. in the ass one more time, as officials disqualified the car, making illegal modifications to the floor of the car in previous attempts to repair it.
Finally, Nelson Piquet Jr. was signed by NextEV Team China to drive for them in the new, all-electric motorsport series, Formula E. In his first season, he finally achieved something in the motorsport world. After representing his country in the World Cup, his battle with Hamilton all the chaos in Renault, Crashgate, his words for Flavio Briatore, fisticuffs, below-the-belt kicks and his rallycrossing phase, Nelson Piquet Jr. finally won his first international championship, beating Sebastien Buemi by a solitary point to be crowned Formula E's inaugural champion.
His two years afterwards in Formula E may not have been as spectacular, but that one Formula E title, I bet, was all worth it.
Yep, another one down. I actually had to dig right through my F1Racing Magazine archive for this, the one time those magazines had been useful in my life. I don't know if I've portrayed Piquet in too much of a positive light, given how I think he's very, very crash happy, but I think he deserves Piquet Jr. deserves a bit of sympathy at the very least.
Oh, and buy rFactor 2. Have I mentioned it's amazing yet? (Once again, I'm not sponsored, blah blah blah)
My Other Random Driver Highlights:
#1, Edgar Barth
#2, Ken Richardson
#3, Gerhard Mitter
#4, Chris Amon
#5, Leo Kinnunen
#6, Rikky von Opel
#7, Roberto Bussinello
#8, Charles de Tornaco
#9, Moisés Solana
#10, Boy Hayje
#11, Roy Salvadori
#12, Alberto Colombo
#13, Ken Downing
#14, Sebastian Vettel
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