Flavio Briatore has dropped the biggest hint yet that Nelsinho Piquet will no longer form a part of Renault's race-driving line-up in Formula 1 in 2009 – as he also revealed that his own role within the team is set to change.
Piquet has suffered a torrid debut campaign in the top flight this year, missing the Q1 cut in qualifying six times in 15 races and – a somewhat fortuitous Hockenheim podium aside – rarely even coming close to threatening the pace of double F1 World Champion team-mate Fernando Alonso.
Whilst the Spaniard has notched up 38 points for the Régie
, the young Brazilian has managed just 13, and the 23-year-old – son of three-time 1980s title-winner Nelson Piquet – did little to help his cause by crashing out of the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix night race last weekend.
With Renault test drivers and GP2 Series front-runners Lucas di Grassi and Romain Grosjean both believed to be under serious consideration for promotion next season [see separate story – click here
] and hopes that Alonso will remain on-board, Briatore admits that Piquet's future at Enstone is very much hanging in the balance.
“He has not had a good season so far,” the Italian acknowledged in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport
. “He does a tidy job until qualifying, but suddenly things do not go as well. We will see.
“Fernando is with us; he presented himself to nobody.”
As to his own commitments at the French concern, there has been considerable speculation over both Briatore's health and long-term future in F1 in recent years, and the 58-year-old – who has been in charge on-and-off of Renault and its former incarnation Benetton for almost two decades – confirmed that a new team director will take care of the squad's day-to-day operation as of 2009, allowing him to scale down his own duties a little.
“Next year I will no longer be responsible for everything,” he explained, before adding: “I will concentrate on the most important elements.”