Fernando Alonso has leapt to the defence of his former team-mate Nelsinho Piquet, arguing that the young Brazilian is more talented than he was made to look and deserves a future in Formula 1 – but by the same token the Oviedo native is adamant that the two were never treated anything less than equally at Renault.
Piquet was sacked by his employers earlier this month – the catalyst for a very public and acrimonious war of words as Renault F1 managing director Flavio Briatore suggested the 24-year-old was constantly making excuses for his lacklustre form and ultimately not of a good enough standard to compete in the top flight, countered by claims from his driver that he had never been given a fair crack of the whip at the team and labelling the famously fickle Italian as his 'executioner'.
Upon pre-empting his departure from the Enstone-based outfit, Piquet revealed that his 2009 contract had a clause in it stipulating that he needed to register 40 per cent of the points total tallied by Alonso during the first half of the season – but whilst the Spaniard had 13 points on the board at the midway stage, his team-mate had none.
Worse still, Piquet succeeded in out-qualifying the double F1 World Champion only once in ten attempts – at the Nürburgring last month – and even then he was given a helping hand as the weather conspired to turn the session into chaos. The son of triple world champion Nelson Piquet, however, maintains that he was rarely afforded the same advantages or updates as Alonso enjoyed – an accusation the latter sternly refutes, pinpointing the blame rather upon Piquet's poor relationship with the team's senior management.
“I always had a good relationship with Nelson,” he underlined. “I consider him a very good driver and a very nice person, and I'm sure he will have more opportunities in Formula 1 because I believe he has the talent.
“Technically-speaking, I think we always had the same car – this has to be clear, because there was a lot of information [to the contrary] this summer – but on the human side he was maybe never very happy with the team. Obviously something went wrong with him, with the team or whatever.
“It was difficult. I remember my time with the team in 2003 and 2004, and it's not so easy when you arrive in Formula 1 to be 100 per cent confident and happy with the team. I think this was one of the problems with Nelsinho unfortunately.”
For his second home race in Valencia this weekend, Alonso will have a different driver alongside him in the other half of the Renault garage in the shape of erstwhile GP2 Series front-runner and title-challenger Romain Grosjean – and the 21-time grand prix-winner wished the Swiss-born Frenchman well in his new challenge.
“I think it's a good opportunity for him,” he acknowledged. “He's arriving in Formula 1 without too much pressure. All the races that he does this year can be a good opportunity to consolidate his Formula 1 career. I hope for the best for Nelsinho, and I also hope the best for Romain to do well in these races and help us to score more points in the constructors' championship, because now we are a little bit behind.”