Nelsinho Piquet has admitted that this weekend like never before in Formula 1 in 2009 he desperately needs to haul himself up into the top ten on the grid in qualifying – as the circus sets up its stall ahead of the most glitzy and glamorous race of them all, the Monaco Grand Prix.
If qualifying is important everywhere with the current aerodynamic regulations making overtaking so difficult in the top flight, then it is especially so around the winding, tortuous streets of the Principality, where all-too often a procession ensues on race day as drivers find it impossible to make progress or find a spot to pass around the narrow track.
Ferrari stars Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen have both found themselves in just such a predicament in Monte Carlo in recent years, and can well vouch for the fact that if you don't qualify well, you are more than likely in for a thankless afternoon. Having lined up no higher than twelfth this year – indeed having missed the Q2 cut on the first three occasions, when Renault team-mate Fernando Alonso has yet to begin lower than tenth – Piquet knows he needs to up his game this weekend if his point-less run in 2009 is not to continue into a sixth race.
His best starting spot of the season to-date in Barcelona was undone when the under-fire young Brazilian found himself delayed by the opening lap mêlée at the Circuit de Catalunya, and he confessed that taking the chequered flag in the same position as that in which he had started the race – twelfth – was frustrating indeed. Under pressure to produce results, he knows Monaco will be critical.
“The accident happened all around me,” the 23-year-old recounted of the start to the Spanish Grand Prix, “and I was lucky to avoid most of the debris. However, it was difficult to find the right balance with the car all weekend, so it was a tough race. I didn't have all the new developments on my car so I was missing some performance, but hopefully I will be able to use them in Monaco.
“It's probably the most famous race in the world, so it does feel special to drive there. There's a great atmosphere for the whole week in the lead-up to the race, and it's one of the races where the fans can really get close to the team. I used to live in Monaco when I was a kid, and racing there as a Formula 1 driver is something I always dreamed about, so it's pretty cool.
“Overtaking is almost impossible in Monaco, so it's important that we can qualify near the front – hopefully in the top ten – and make the strategy work. The streets are narrow and the walls so close that you really cannot afford to lose concentration for a second or make the slightest mistake. It's normally an eventful race, so we need to be ready to take advantage of any situation that comes our way.”