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Shunned Nelsinho Piquet offered 2010 drive
5 October 2009
F1 teams may have almost unanimously closed the door on 'Singapore-gate' protagonist Nelsinho Piquet for his role as willing participant and subsequently whistle-blower in the race-fixing scandal that very nearly drove Renault off the grand prix grid and cost the heads of two of the sport's highest-profile figures, but it appears the Brazilian has elicited interest from elsewhere in the motor racing world.
In the wake of the latest controversy to rock the paddock – one that saw both Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds banned from F1, the former indefinitely and the latter for five years, and Renault narrowly escape with a suspended ban –
commentator Martin Brundle opined that Piquet had made himself 'unemployable', as others suggested the FIA's guarantee of immunity to the 24-year-old for disclosing all that he knew was misplaced.
Piquet revealed that he had been instructed by Briatore and Symonds to deliberately crash out of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix in order to enable team-mate Fernando Alonso to triumph in the sport's inaugural night race from a disadvantaged grid position following an engine failure in qualifying. After being unceremoniously sacked by the Enstone-based outfit this summer, he then went on to divulge the details of what had happened to the FIA – leading to the cataclysmic fall-out that followed, and the latest stain on the top flight's increasingly tarnished global image.
It is not only the reputations of F1 and Renault that took a battering in the salacious episode, however, with Virgin – chief sponsor of 2010 newcomer Manor Grand Prix – adamant that it will have nothing to do with 'cheats', and other teams chiming in to dash Piquet's stated desire to return one day to the grid, suggesting that the damage has irreversibly been done and that there is no longer even a sniff of any room at the inn.
“On his performance, to be honest, disregarding the [Singapore] issue, I probably would not give him a drive,” Toyota Motorsport President John Howett is quoted as having said by
The Associated Press
, “and I would probably be further influenced in that decision by what took place.”
“I don't think we would have any interest at Red Bull Racing,” concurred the energy drinks-backed concern's team principal Christian Horner, whilst stand-in Renault counterpart Bob Bell added: “I'm not sure I'll be giving him a seat, and that's really all I can say.”
However, it appears all may not be entirely lost, with mooted interest from the other side of the Pond in NASCAR. Red Horse Racing – who this year replaced defending Camping World Truck Series Champion Johnny Benson with Timothy Peters – is said to have offered the son of former triple F1 World Champion Nelson Piquet the opportunity to compete in the championship.
It has been reported by Brazilian TV station
that the erstwhile GP2 Series vice-champion – whose father similarly went to America following the end of his own F1 career, breaking his legs in a qualifying smash for the iconic Indianapolis 500 in 1992 – has travelled to North Carolina for a seat-fitting in Red Horse Racing's Toyota Tundra ahead of a test for the Mooresville-based operation on 12 October. Piquet is understood to be eyeing a year in the Camping World Truck Series in 2010 followed by a year in the Nationwide Series in 2011, before moving to the headlining Sprint Cup Series in 2012.
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