A Piquet scorned is a dangerous enemy

A while ago I suggested somewhere, I cannot remember where now, that things would get very messy if Renault F1 boss Flavio Briatore decided to drop Nelson Piquet Jr. There may not be much that can be done about the Renault drive, but the Piquet Family want to make sure that the F1 world gets an understanding about the way in which Nelsinho was treated, and how the Renault F1 team is run. Nelson Piquet Sr was always a good political player in F1 (he was trained at the feet of the master, his Brabham team boss Bernie Ecclestone) so he knows just where to punch to hurt.

And hurting Briatore seems to be the goal at the moment. Nelson Jr described Briatore as his “executioner” the other day – something which future generations of drivers will look carefully at before signing on the dotted line of a Briatore contract. It also highlighted the fact that there is a conflict of interest when an F1 team boss is also managing the careers of his drivers. Now Piquet has launched into an offensive to expose Briatore as someone who knows little or nothing about the sport. In an interview with my alma mater Autosport Piquet says that Briatore is “ignorant about Formula 1” and that he does not understand what is going on around him.

“If you listen to the pit-wall radio, it’s like a joke,” he said. “He hasn’t got a clue what is happening in the race. Sometimes he asks if a driver has slick or wet tyres when it is obvious. Everyone knows that his ego is bigger than anything else. He likes to show off. You can be a very good businessman and whatever, but the F1 team itself can do very well without him. When I first started he would attend all of the meetings and briefings, but taking away the business side, he makes comments that don’t make any sense. The only good thing the team takes out of him is his good relationship with Bernie and the FIA. Other than that, he doesn’t know what is going on.”

Piquet added that he does not understand why other drivers do not get up and say what they think of the Italian.

“It was important for everyone to know what has been going on and not to hide like a lot of other drivers tend to do because they are scared that it could put their career in danger.”

Briatore will probably be wise to ignore the remarks. Reacting would simply draw attention to them, but no doubt someone in Paris will be sneaking a copy of Piquet’s declarations into Renault chief Carlos Ghosn’s office, to make sure that the Renault-Nissan uber-chef gets to see it. Ghosn has said he is happy for Renault to be in F1 so long as it is cost-effective and is good for Renault. At the moment the team is looking for money, trying to find a top driver to replace the departing Fernando Alonso, trying to figure out how to improve its performance and trying to explain to Ghosn how it is that it has been banned from the next race.

Briatore will no doubt tell Ghosn that it is all sour grapes and that Piquet was not good enough. The big question is whether Ghosn believes him or whether he pops out for a nice cup and tea and a biscuit and thinks: “Piquet says that the team can do well without Briatore… Hmmmm…”

19 thoughts on “A Piquet scorned is a dangerous enemy

  1. Hasn’t Flav always said that he’s a businessman rather than being interested in motorsport, and that his managerial style is to put people who know what they’re doing in senior roles and then let them get on with it?

    Given that Flavio isn’t backward about saying what he thinks on any given subject, it’s nice to see a few comments being aimed at him for once. I doubt he’ll lose any sleep over them, though.

  2. All of this sounds like sour grapes and is really tiring to hear from a driver who failed to make the most of what he got. He got 1.5 seasons to prove what he had in him, which is more than most rookies get in F1. No point in whining about Briatore. If anything, i think Flav went out of his way to keep him in the team and help him. The word is everyone’s mouth from the beginning of the season was “How long before Nelsinho got fired?”

    The fact that it took half a season in itself is testimony to how much Flav and the team tried to help Nelsinho. I dont think Ghosn will be influenced in the slightest by these silly comments. After all, he has worked with Flav longer than Nelsinho did. So Ghosn must know better about Flav than Nelsinho.

    Nelsinho….quit whining and ply your trade somewhere else….A1 Team brazil beckons, i think….

  3. briatore gets the deals made i guess but if you see him on a GP weekend, most of the time he wanders about looking rather confused…

  4. On this one I’m finding it hard to care… I doubt Piquet would have got a drive without the name and the money behind him, and surely everyone already knew what Flav is like. So where’s the story here?

  5. Ranting and raving is a dangerous two-edged sword.

    If you were a team owner, why would you hire Nelson Piquet Jr for a drive now? If they treat someone like Flavio in this manner, it is a giant red flag to whoever wants to hire him next. The goal of all this might be to put blame of Nelson Jr.’s poor performances squarely on Flav’ shoulders, but it is having an opposite effect. It makes Piquet Jr and Sr look like raving fools.

    Whether Flavio deserves such treatment really doesn’t matter. In my opinion, both Piquet’s are just digging their own substantial hole that much deeper. Nelson Jr. had a year and a half to prove himself. He received a better shot at Formula One than the likes of Montagny, Davidson, and countless of other drivers. He might throw around excuses and accusations; however that only masked the fact that he was simple average in a sport that demands excellences. Blaming everone else for your failing will only make you that much more repulsive to future employers.

  6. Didn’t Briatore treat Jenson Button in a similar way to Piquet Jnr? It would be interesting to hear Button’s views about Briatore’s treatment of both himself and Piquet. Piquet is right, it is a shame that more drivers do not air their true opinions on F1 matters.

  7. Well you have to wonder why Briatore let both Schumacher and Alonso leave Benneton/Renault however Piquet should just shut up, his son’s record is hardly earth shattering was it?

  8. I was really flabbergasted to see blog post of this perspective from Saward, of all people.

    I’ve only been paying attention (again, since the early ’70s) to Formula One for a couple of years… But I’ve noticed that drivers have the disconcerting habit of squealing like housepets when they get fired.

    This might be expected at the highest tier of achievement; they’ve got nowhere to go but down (ie, Nascar, Indy, Rallying in Finland). So if you’re going to be humiliated anyway, why not burn some bridges while you hail a cab to the airport?

    …Because these teams are dynamic, and silly season isn’t always silly, that’s why not! Why would you want your next employer know that you’re the kind of person who likes to sue? If you were US F1 (or whoever the team of tomorrow is), would you want to hire Bourdais or Nelsinho when you know they have pockets full of fresh business cards from lawyers?

    The conflict of interest between Briatore as driver manager and team leader is indeed odious… But it’s also multi-tiered. In Germany, Alonso lead Renault to the flag in seventh place, while Flavio’s client Webber won the race… in a Renault-powered car. How upset is the French manufacturer going to be?

    Furthermore, with Nelsinho out of the way, the French team is poised to have a French driver. What did anyone named Piquet ever do for Ghosn that would make him listen? Wouldn’t Carlos be more impressed with Flavio’s four championships in the last twenty years than with Nelson Sr’s three championships thirty years ago? It had always seemed like Briatore kept Nelsinho in the car as a favor to Bernie and/or Nelson Sr, who’s also a good friend of Ecclestone.

    It’s not that F1 isn’t incestuous and corrupt and kinda dirty, because it is. I’ve always had the feeling that Bernie autocraticly placed young Rosberg at Williams just as he placed yougn Piquet at Renault: Who knows what kinds of dirty contracts these guys have with each other to make it worthwhile for team to carry the marquee name from an earlier generation?

    And I don’t doubt that everything they say about Flavio’s incompetence and disinterest in engineering and operations is true, too. But so what? He’s an aging man who makes babies with supermodels. He, and his team, are entertaining as hell. Ron Dennis used to make fun of Flavio as a hillbilly too… Even when the Italian was beating his brains in.

    I love F1, but we shouldn’t pretend it’s a public trust, or a United Nations-style expression of human aspiration to excellence and courtesy. It’s a very closed and mostly insane corner of showbizness. And it’s entertaining as hell!

  9. Is it confirmed that Alonso is leaving Renault?? I thought that was just the regular rumors of him going to Ferrari. Did i miss something?

  10. Hey Joe,

    Is it widely known that Fernando is leaving Renault after this season? All I have heard are rumors…

  11. Joe,
    Nor do I, but I think he got the Renault seat ahead of better qualified drivers unfairly, so it’s swings and roundabouts!

    One point that Brian made above is that Flav treated Jenson pretty badly. He has a history of treating his less than preferred (non-Schumi, Non-Nando) drivers in a rather cavalier fashion. Don’t the Piquets have some responsibility for signing up with Flav in the first place, given his history and reputation?

  12. Perhaps some of the commnets here are from people who have not read NP’s list of instances where he has been effectively been playing from a less than full deck in terms of practice and car set-up.

    If you are in a position to set a contract where your number 2 driver has to make some contract break points, and then to fudge his chances of making them ……..

    Still it is a dirty business but I cannot get too upset about NP or any race driver. Overpaid for sure.

  13. Hi Joe, good morning to you sir πŸ™‚

    The thing is with these F1 drivers who have famous fathers or uncles – or what ever, is that : to the normal hard working person they come across as spoilt brats that were born with a silver spoon in their mouths. Their famous father uses his contacts money and name to fast track their sons into the sport. So, when you have the likes of Kubica, and Hamilton – who came from humble beginnings, eg, Mr-Lewis-Hamilton’s-Dad had to work a double shift on the railway lines to raise money for his son to race and Kubica had nothing more than his driving talent to get him noticed, a driver like NPJ – when we see interviewed on BBC1 F1 program living in his dads well earned lap of luxury mansion overlooking a oyster shell coloured sea with a private beech – is going to have to deliver the goods in a top team like Renault to get any respect from the poor kids, so to speak. He did not do this. He gave the impression of a spoilt kid who has been brought the best running/football kit money can buy – but then makes a fool of himself in front of the talented poorer kids, so to speak…all this, and…well, i wont even go there when it comes to drivers like Anthony Davidson looking from the commentary box at NPJ making a horlicks of it out on track…
    All that said, maybe the pressure can be too much on a driver if their thrown in at the deep end rather than – how they used to be – by driving the Minardy for a few seasons to get their eye in. Briatore is a hard boss, but those four world titles mean he must know how to run an F1 team…
    Nelson will go back to the life of luxury but other drivers who have to fight every inch to get into F1 would have to go back to a 9 to 5 – or a twelve hour shift on the railways if they did not make the cut.
    In Perry McCarthy’s book : Flat Out, Flat Broke. When his F1 career folded, he was so up to his eyeballs in dept that he had to get a job as, Top Gears, The Stig!…and then lost that πŸ™‚

    Joe, you seem to be getting a hard time from the comments today?
    Don’t worry about it πŸ™‚
    Your site is ace! i love the fact that us armchair enthusiasts can write such long comments. Great site you’ve got here; keep up the good work Joe πŸ™‚


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