Nelson Piquet Jr. found himself in hot water this week when he was reported as being critical of the driving talents of one of the great sporting heroes of Brazil, former F1 world champion Aryton Senna.

Earlier this week, Brazilian media sources quoted Piquet Jr. as saying that: "Someone like Senna would not have won anything in F1 today," apparently implying that Senna was not up to the standard of modern day F1 drivers because he lacked all-round in-depth skills and knowledge. "He was very fast but he had no talent in terms of the technical and mechanical," Piquet was reported as adding.

Piquet had previously caused a stir with his comments about the current Lotus line-up of Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen, saying Grosjean had been "lucky because he came [back into F1] at a time when he had a slightly weaker teammate and a very good car."

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Piquet drove for the team in 2008/9 when they competed under the Renault marque, but he fell out with team principal Flavio Briatore and was caught up in the "crashgate" row when he alleged that Briatore had ordered him to crash and bring out a safety car during the 2008 Singapore GP in order to help Fernando Alonso win the race.

While he has not retracted his remarks about the current drivers at Lotus, Piquet has moved quickly to refute the reported criticism of one of Brazil's greatest sporting icons of all time.

"I said that if Ayrton had raced ten years earlier he would not have had the success that my father had," explained Piquet in a regular column he provides to Brazil's Yahoo Esportes website. "They were different times and realities. At the turn of the 70s to the 80s, reliability was much lower and drivers had to have much more of a mechanical side.

"Senna came a little later, when it was possible to drive almost all of the time at 100 per cent performance without needing to be a development driver as before," he continued. "Like me, Ayrton arrived in Europe concerned only about driving. He was a super fast driver and the best one in terms of pure speed.

"But he didn't have the same repertoire for the mechanical side as did the previous generation," added Piquet. "Each had its own reflection as the product of his time. Each did what was needed to dominate his era, and each time required different things."

Piquet said that his original comments had been intentionally misconstrued by journalists in order to drum up some much-needed headlines during F1's quiet summer break. "It's as simple as that. And not controversial," he added.

Piquet also said that he also had meant no offence by comments that seemed to compare the post-F1 career of another Brazilian world champion, Emerson Fittipaldi, with that of his own father.

"After the end of his racing career, [my father] chose the entrepreneurial path rather than others who continue to explore their public persona," wrote Piquet. "I gave Emerson Fittipaldi as an example. Nowhere did I say that one is better or worse than the other."

Since leaving F1, Piquet Jr. has moved to the United States and is currently a series regular in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. He won his first race in the series last weekend at Michigan, and has also notched up wins in NASCAR's Nationwide and K&N Pro Series East Series - the first Brazilian driver to do so.

"Obviously because we had Senna, Fittipaldi, my father, going to F1 and winning eight championships, it made that route kind of the only route to go," said Piquet. "I'm starting all over to a whole different career than what my father did in Europe. I'm starting everything new here in America in NASCAR.

"I think it's only the beginning. This is the third race we've won this year if you count the K&N race," he continued. "I think I've been learning quickly. I have great people around me to teach me, to rely on, and to be always there. Even if we have a bad weekend, nobody gives up, and everybody's there the next day, so I think I'm very lucky and very blessed to be surrounded by the right guys. It's just part of learning, and I'm sure we're going to win another race very soon."

He added: "I think it's a great sport, and there's no reason more Brazilians shouldn't be coming into late models, K&N series, and up to NASCAR one day."