Renault F1 technical director Bob Bell expects Nelson Piquet Jr to bounce back from his disappointing result in the Singapore Grand Prix and help the team maintain its push for fourth place in the constructors' championship. at Fuji.
Although the Brazilian's lap 14 accident ultimately helped team-mate Fernando Alonso pull off an unlikely victory in F1's first night race, he took little comfort from that as he analysed his own performance, which had struggled to match previous races right from the start of the weekend.
"It was a superb result for the team because everybody had worked hard to make it possible, but I have to admit that I was disappointed with my race," Piquet confirmed, "From the start, things were difficult and starting so far down the grid meant the race was always going to be tough. I had a long phase of graining [on the tyres] and the situation only got worse. The team asked me to push, which I was trying to do, but I eventually lost the rear of the car. It's a race to forget on my side...."
Being in his first year in the top flight, any trip to Japan would be a learning curve for Piquet, and he admits that he will first have to get to grips with the Fiji circuit before he can start to push for a place in the upper reaches of the grid
"I can't wait to drive at Fuji, as the circuit seems interesting, and I'm determined to have a good race, which is what I need," he insisted, "It's another circuit that I don't know and that I will have to learn, but I will try to get up to speed as quickly as possible on Friday and make the most of the three hours of practice available to me. The team has some data from last year, so I have been preparing with that and will learn more with my engineers during our circuit walk on Thursday."
Bell, meanwhile, admits that the rookie is perhaps not as good as adapting to unfamiliar circumstances as his more experienced team-mate, but insists that he has faith in Piquet to rebound from his Singapore problems.
"He struggled a little bit in Singapore with learning the circuit and he's probably not as quick as Fernando at learning a new track, but, come Saturday, he had got to grips with it and was in his usual position relative to Fernando," the tech chief claimed, "He struggled in qualifying and couldn't progress past Q1 and then had a difficult race, but he's a fighter and we know he'll do all he can to bounce back for the next race. There's no question he's got the talent, he just needs to deliver a consistent level of performance."
Facing a similar situation, albeit with a few more points on the board after a difficult rookie season, Heikki Kovalainen came through to take second place in last year's race at Fuji. Piquet, however, is mindful that it took atrocious conditions, and the chaos that brought, to help the Finn's cause.
"A wet weather race is always unpredictable and more tricky, but it can hep you get a good result, as Heikki did last year," he reflected, "I will cope with whatever conditions we get and, in any case, the track conditions are the same for all of us. I will just do my best, whether it's wet or dry."