The ultimate potential of Nelsinho Piquet has been called into question by former grand prix stars Alan Jones and Derek Warwick – despite the young Brazilian having seemingly finally got his debut season in the top flight on-track in recent weeks.
Up until the French Grand Prix last month, Piquet was coming under increasing pressure to up his game or else face the axe, in the wake of a string of disappointing early performances characterised by a litany of errors and unconvincing pace.
Since then, however, the Renault rookie has gone some way to turning things around, by overtaking double Formula 1 World Champion team-mate Fernando Alonso en route
to his maiden points at Magny-Cours, running inside the top five in the rain-lashed British Grand Prix before being caught out by the treacherous conditions and sealing a fortuitous yet no less deserved rostrum finish at Hockenheim just under a fortnight ago, even leading the race in the closing stages.
1980 world champion Alan Jones and British star Derek Warwick, though – contemporaries both of Piquet's three-time title-winning father Nelson Snr – remain nonplussed by the recently-turned 23-year-old's form.
“Compared to the achievements of other drivers such as [Kimi] Raikkonen, [Felipe] Massa, [Robert] Kubica, Alonso or [Lewis] Hamilton, Piquet has delivered too little,” British Racing Drivers' Club board member Warwick told German daily newspaper Die Welt
“In Piquet's (Snr) first season in 1979, he had his own team-mate Niki Lauda, also a twice world champion then, until control,” added Jones, who went on to defeat the former by the margin of 13 points to clinch his one and only drivers' crown the following year.
“[Piquet Jnr] is a good driver, but the strength, the determination, the aggression, not to mention the outstanding talent of his father…seem to me to be missing.”
Despite coming under fire for what some observers deem to be a career spent living off his father's status, support and money, Piquet has received words of support form senior team members at Renault, who insist that the German podium could be just the spur the former GP2 Series Vice-Champion needs to begin to really make his mark in the sport.
“Very often when a driver has had a difficult start to their career, they get a good result and after that nothing seems to stop them,” underlined the Régie's
executive director of engineering Pat Symonds.