Nelson Piquet Jr should be given a chance to resume his personal battle with former GP2 Series rival Lewis Hamilton, according to double world champion Emerson Fittipaldi.

The Brazilian veteran has told Reuters that he feels his younger countryman could surprise as much as Hamilton has done if given the chance to race this season, despite the fact that Piquet would be lining up with Renault. Hamilton won his second grand prix in as many weekends when he beat team-mate Fernando Alonso to the line at Indianapolis on Sunday, but most accept that his success has been accelerated by running with Mclaren, which has established itself as the form team in 2007.

Fittipaldi, however, has called on Renault boss Flavio Briatore to replace one of his current line-up with Piquet Jr, a decision that may have been easier until the end of last month as rookie Heikki Kovalainen struggled for form. However, the Finn has since recorded back-to-back points finishes in Canada and the USA, coming from last on the grid to take fourth in Montr?al and out-qualifying veteran team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella at Indianapolis.

Piquet has been tipped to replace either driver since being signed as Renault's reserve this season, but is more likely to step up at the end of the year should Fisichella decide to hang up his helmet.

"Nelson and Lewis were the two hardest competitors in GP2 last year," Fittipaldi reasoned, "He's extremely talented and, if you ask me what is the next hope for Brazil, I think it's Nelson Piquet Jr. Talking about natural talent, I think Nelsinho could surprise as much as Hamilton has surprised."

The Brazilian A1GP team boss, who has first hand experience of working with Piquet in the World Cup of Motorsport, went to claim that his 'protege' had more potential for success than current Ferrari points leader Felipe Massa - in much the same way as Hamilton has raised British hopes over and above those previously carried by Jenson Button.

"Felipe has been in Formula One for a long time, I have a lot of respect for him and he has a lot of talent," Fittipaldi admitted, "but I think Nelsinho will bring it to the next level, similar to Hamilton."

 

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