Under-pressure Renault rookie Nelsinho Piquet admits that his key area of focus for this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix will be on improving both his performance and consistency in qualifying, as his seat at the Régie
remains under threat for 2009.
The young Brazilian has endured a torrid start to his Formula 1 career, crashing out in five races and failing even to make it beyond the initial Q1 knock-out stage in qualifying on six occasions out of 15.
By stark contrast, former double F1 World Champion team-mate Fernando Alonso has racked up 38 points – including a superb and unexpected triumph in the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix last time out, an event in which Piquet again ended his race in the barriers.
“Obviously I was disappointed not to finish,” the 23-year-old reflected, in an interview with Eurosport
, “but with Fernando's win it was an amazing day for the team and a nice reward for all their hard work this season.
“It was a difficult opening stint because I was suffering with some graining, but I was still pushing hard and lost the rear of the car on exit of turn 17, touched the outside wall and then hit the inside wall.
“It was bumpy, but you expect that on a street course and we get the same thing in Monaco. Obviously you see the sparks more in the dark, but it wasn't too much of a problem and the track was fun to drive. It wasn't easy to overtake, but that's always the case with street racing.”
Whilst summarising his first night-racing experience as 'exotic, unique, exciting, challenging and bittersweet', Piquet has vowed to rebound in Fuji – a race in which last year, encouragingly, his similarly under-fire Renault predecessor Heikki Kovalainen mastered the treacherous conditions to perfection to pass Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen on the very last lap for a brilliant second place.
“I need to work on my performance in qualifying,” the former GP2 Series vice-champion to current F1 World Championship leader Lewis Hamilton admitted, “and I'm trying to improve my consistency.
“Qualifying is always one of the most intense parts of the weekend, as it's about finding the limit of the car quickly. I try to remain calm and run through the lap in my mind before I leave the pits, then it's all about delivering the perfect lap – getting your braking points right and hitting your apexes.
“[Fuji] is another new track for me, but it looks interesting and I'm looking forward to it. Last year's race was wet and we know the weather there can by quite unpredictable, but wet or dry I'm really motivated to do well and give the team a strong result.”