Following months of denial, Nelsinho Piquet has finally confessed that his seat at Renault for the remainder of the 2009 F1 World Championship is not necessarily secure – as the under-fire young Brazilian faces arguably a make-or-break weekend in Hungary with the Régie's
heavily updated R29.
Piquet hung onto his drive at the French outfit by the skin of his teeth for a sophomore season at the highest level this year, after failing to convince onlookers during the course of his rookie campaign in 2008. However, there has been little progress so far in 2009, with no points on the board over halfway through and just one occasion on which he has out-qualified double world champion team-mate Fernando Alonso, at the Nürburgring last time out. Three times he has lined up inside the bottom five on the starting grid, whilst by comparison Alonso has missed the top ten only once.
The son of triple title-winner Nelson Piquet is fighting to save his faltering career, and some had doubted whether he would even still be on the starting grid for the Hungarian Grand Prix at all, with reserve driver and GP2 Series pace-setter Romain Grosjean waiting ominously in the wings and an increasing presence on the Renault pit wall during grand prix weekends.
It is understood that the 23-year-old – due to turn 24 on Saturday – was granted a stay of execution on the sole basis that it would only be fair to allow him the chance to prove his mettle with upgraded machinery at his disposal. Unlike in Germany, in Hungary he will benefit from exactly the same equipment as Alonso, who suggests it is good enough to aim for the podium – if not perhaps even higher.
Alluding to a 'conflict of egos', it is believed that relations between Piquet's father – also his manager – and famously irascible Renault F1 managing director Flavio Briatore have become ever-more strained, with the former applying pressure on the latter to grant his son a fair crack of the whip. It has been mooted that should he fail to impress again in Budapest, though, enough really will be enough.
“It is not 100 per cent settled for the rest of the season,” the former GP2 Series runner-up is quoted by Reuters
as having admitted this weekend. “That is why I am going to do my job and let my father do the rest. There was a bit of a mess at the last race, [but] I knew there was a big chance for me to be here.
“There was just conflict, and contracts, and a conflict of egos between a few people, but it ended with everything working well. The problem is that these days a contract in F1 doesn't mean much, and we have seen several cases already of drivers and teams breaking contracts.
“The only thing I can do is drive, do my best and leave my father to do his job and see what he can do. I always have to try and do my best. I have a better chance now that I have the same car [as Alonso], and not only that, but it also looks like the car is quite quick. Then [I have] an easier chance to show something.
“This is only part of the stress of motorsport, and I have been facing this kind of situation since last year; it is not something new for me. We are at the top level of motorsport, and drivers need to know how to deal with these pressures and that kind of thing. I would say it was much harder and more stressful for Lewis [Hamilton] at the end of his first season when he was fighting for the championship than this has been for me.”
Last year Piquet took the chequered flag sixth at the Hungaroring, his third-best result of the season.