Nelson Piquet

FB

Not my cup of cake
Valued Member
Nelson Piquet - The Forgotten Champion

Whenever lists of the "greatest" drivers are put together one man who never seems to figure is 3 times World Champion Nelson Piquet. I thought it worth giving a little biog of the man and then maybe discussing why someone as successful as Piquet rarely gets the credit he probably deserves as a multiple World Champion.

Early Years

Piquet was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1952 Nelson Souto Maior. Piquet was his Mother's maiden name and he used this at the start of his racing career to hide his racing life from his family. Like many F1 drivers Piquet started in karts and then progressed onto Formula Super Vee in Brazil. Moving to Europe, in 1978 he was BP Super Visco British Formula 3 Champion, taking 8 wins and breaking Jackie Stewart's record for most wins in a season. At the time the British F3 championship was a major stepping stone to an F1 drive. Amongst Piquet's peer group that season was F1's nearly man Derek Warwick as well as other future F1 drivers such as Chico Serra, Tiff Needell and Elio de Angelis. Also in 1978, Piquet got his first experience of F1 driving for Ensign, a BS Fabrications entered McLaren M23 and eventually finding himself at the team that would make his reputation, Brabham, alongside Niki Lauda & John Watson. At the Canadian Grand Prix Piquet finished 11th with Lauda and Watson both retiring.

Grand Prix Career

Brabham

In 1979 Watson left to join McLaren and Piquet became Brabham's 2nd driver. Piquet's first season wasn't exactly spectacular but the move to the Alfa Romeo V12 engine was very problematic for Brabham. He ended the season with only 3 points, from a 4th at the Dutch Grand Prix but what probably defined his career was his elevation to team leader when Niki Lauda walked away from F1 at the Canadian Grand prix half way through practice.

1980, provided with Gordon Murray's simple but effective BT49 design and with super reliable Cosworth power, Piquet showed his true colours. He opened the season with a 2nd in Argentina, behind Champion to be Alan Jones, and won his first race at Long Beach. Two more wins that season, at the Dutch & Italian races, saw Piquet push Jones for the title until his car broke in Canada whilst leading the race and his title challenge was over.

With sliding skirts banned in 1981 the ever inventive Gordon Murray circumnavigated the rules by introducing a pneumatic ride height system which lowered the car down onto the track during the race recovering most of the lost down force the sliding skirts had generated. Piquet won the 3rd race of the season in Argentina and the following race at Imola. The technical advantage Murray's suspension system offered is exemplified by Hector Rebaque's 4th place at this race in the sister car. Piquet won one more race that season, in Germany. With the Williams team drivers fighting each other, and the appalling reliability of the turbo charged Renaults and Ferraris Piquet was able to take the title with only 50 points, beating Carlos Reutemann by a single point.



1982 was a season of transition for Brabham as they moved to BMW turbo power. Put under pressure to use the BMW engine, Piquet suffered the ignominy of failing to qualify the turbo car in Detroit but bounced back in Canada to take his only win of the season.

1983 was Piquet second Championship winning season. The turbo cars were now very much in the ascendency in F1 and Brabham's main rivals were the Ferrari and Renault machines. Rivals such as Williams and Lotus had to wait until the middle & end of the season to get their hands on turbo engines so had to feed on the crumbs left as the unreliable turbo cars expired. Piquet only managed 3 wins to Prost's 4 but took the title by 2 points as the Renault team hit reliability problems (and internal divisions between Prost and team manager Gerard Larousse) toward the end of the season.

The end at Brabham the start at Williams

The next 2 seasons saw Piquet take only 3 wins as, although the Brabham was very fast, it struggled with huge reliability problems and for 1986 Piquet moved across to Williams to partner Nigel Mansell. Piquet's career at Williams started on a high, winning his home race in Brazil. 3 more wins that season saw Piquet placed 3rd in the drivers Championship behind Prost and Mansell.



1987 was Piquet 3rd Championship success taking 3 wins. The season is probably best remembered for the collapse in the relationship between Piquet and Mansell, & Mansell's epic win at Silverstone after an unplanned tyre stop. Mansell's season, and title challenge, came to an abrupt end with a crash in practice for the Japanese Grand Prix but 12 points behind Piquet at that stage it is unlikely he would have taken the title.

The Lotus Years

For 1988 Piquet moved to Lotus and took Honda's turbo engines with him leaving Williams to struggle with Judd power. However, the Lotus car was pretty poor compared to the similarly powered McLaren machine whose drivers, Prost and Senna, won all but one of that years races between them. Piquet managed a lowly 22 points and finished 6 in the WDC never finishing higher than 3rd. In 1989 Lotus lost their Honda turbo engines, ironically, having to use Judd engines as Williams had done. Piquet's career looked to be on the slide, he was 8th in the WDC with two 4th place finishes his best result.

Benetton Bound

Piquet's move to Benetton in 1990 created some surprise in the F1 fraternity and there were rumours he was on a bonus system based on how many points he scored. Whatever the motivation, Piquet surprised everyone with regular top 6 finishes and he won the last two races in Japan and Australia to secure 3rd in the Championship table. Piquet managed 1 more win in 1991 at the Canadian Grand prix before finally calling it a day.

He had entered 207 Grand Prix and won 23 of them. He managed 24 pole positions, 23 fastest laps and, during a period of giants in F1 terms (Prost, Senna, Mansell, Rosberg etc.) won 3 World Drivers Championships, one of only 8 drivers to do this, a list which includes Fangio, Brabham, Stewart, Lauda, Prost, Senna and Schumacher – pretty esteemed company.



Thank you for sticking with this, I appreciate it is a rather lengthy "summary".

Conclusion - well, mine anyway

So why isn't Piquet remembered as one of the true "greats". In some respects maybe because wasn't a spectacular driver but he had moments of brilliance. He would play the percentages, take points when they were available and win his titles more by attrition and stealth than with flamboyance. He had a significant car advantage in 1981 which may have made his Championship look easy, but was this advantage any greater than Mansell's in 1992, a Championship win many think well deserved, almost certainly not. Also, he wasn't the most personable character which probably didn't endear him to F1 fans and two incidents at Williams didn't help his cause. Firstly, his move to Lotus with Honda engines left Williams very much "in the lurch" in 1988 and, secondly, in an interview with Playboy magazine he was very outspoken about Nigel Mansell, British F1's golden boy, going so far as to insult his wife.

I would like to see Piquet get more credit for his achievements in F1. He wasn't a Senna or a Prost but he beat them both. He wasn't a Schumacher, but then who else is?
 

Muddytalker

Points Scorer
It should also be noted that before Senna in 94, and Berger in 89, Piquet had his big accident at Tamburello in '87. It wasn't mentioned a lot at the time, but it's believed that this crash physically affected him more than he let on.
 

Wombcat

Podium Finisher
I've always been a fan.

Probably he doesn't get the credit becuase he never won the WDC with a clear margin. However two of them (81 and 83) were in a very competetive era, where there never was a clear dominance. Both years he probably didn't have the best car in the field, in 1981 the Williams and 1983 the Ferrari were better. So actually these titles were hard fought.
In 1987 obviously the Williams was the best, but he was outperfomed by Mansell. Due to him finishing more he took the WDC.
 

teabagyokel

#dejavu
Valued Member
Piquet is a weird one in the record books, he's a somewhat surprising three-time champion if you consider the coverage he gets.

He is the only driver to twice win the Drivers' Championship when his team did not win the Constructors' Championship; however if the title was decided by most wins then he would not have taken a single title. (Post 8)

Interesting how some get the praise but some don't, isn't it?
 

ATL11

Podium Finisher
Muddytalker said:
It should also be noted that before Senna in 94, and Berger in 89, Piquet had his big accident at Tamburello in '87. It wasn't mentioned a lot at the time, but it's believed that this crash physically affected him more than he let on.
Didn't realise, have searched and found a clip on UT:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSeZx20wUGw

I am allowed to add UT clips, yes?
 
Hi all,

My first post on CTA.

I started watching F1 as a kid back in 1980/81...so I saw the vast bulk of Piquet's career.

There are reasons why he isn't listed amongst the greats - inspite of his 3 titles - and you basically touched on them yourself!

Here:

"With sliding skirts banned in 1981 the ever inventive Gordon Murray circumnavigated the rules by introducing a pneumatic ride height system which lowered the car down onto the track during the race recovering most of the lost down force the sliding skirts had generated. Piquet won the 3rd race of the season in Argentina and the following race at Imola. The technical advantage Murray's suspension system offered is exemplified by Hector Rebaque's 4th place at this race in the sister car...";

"1983 ... Piquet only managed 3 wins to Prost's 4 but took the title by 2 points as the Renault team hit reliability problems (and internal divisions between Prost and team manager Gerard Larousse) toward the end of the season..."

I remember the finale' in South Africa at the great old Kaylami circuit where Piquet won the title.

You forgot to mention that the Brabham-BMWs were using illegal fuel which was brought to light in the winter, after the WDC results were made official;

"1987 ...Mansell's season, and title challenge, came to an abrupt end with a crash in practice for the Japanese Grand Prix but 12 points behind Piquet at that stage it is unlikely he would have taken the title..."

Mansell, basically, "outed" Piquet at Williams where the Brazilian - by contract - had the use of the spare. Inspite of Piquet joining Williams as a contractual Number 1, Mansell had the measure of him during their two years...and Mansell wasn't as good as either Senna or Prost.

So, basically, I can see why Piquet isn't considered amongst the greats.

Gilles Villeneuve - with no titles to his name - trumps him, in my opinion.

Hunt, Andretti, Scheckter, Jones, Rosberg, Lauda, Prost...they all held Villeneuve in very high regard during that time.

Goes to show you the value of a WDC in terms of history.
 

FB

Not my cup of cake
Valued Member
Certainly not going to argue with you on GV Ray. I think the point I raised in my conclusion was the most important, Piquet won by just sticking at it rather than by exciting or flamboyent driving - although on his day he was peerless. I started watching F1 about the same time as you and the BT49 was every bit as good as the FW07 and when Piquet was on song he was brilliant.

On Mansell vs Piquet, Nelson was slowing down by that stage and Mansell was, without doubt, the faster driver (also not going to argue with your comment about Senna & Prost). But where Piquet won it was beating Mansell in his mind. Nigel was so desperate to win, so desperate to prove he was better he blew it emotionally and this contributed to his crash in Japan which handed Nelson his 3rd title.

Also, to prove how clever a character Piquet was, he's one of the few to beat Bernie Ecclestone in a contract game. Nelson told BE he was going to leave Brabham unless the little feller coughed up lots more money, claiming he had an offer from McLaren. BE went to Ron Dennis, who had been talking to Piquet, and got RD to agree not to offer Piquet any more than he was going to get at Brabham. Ha, ha, thought Bernie, got him. Meanwhile, knowing the sort of games Bernie plays, Nelson had negotiated an enormous contract with Williams and promptly left. There are not many who get one over on Bernie but Nelson did.
 

Slyboogy

World Champion
Contributor
Certainly not going to argue with you on GV Ray. I think the point I raised in my conclusion was the most important, Piquet won by just sticking at it rather than by exciting or flamboyent driving - although on his day he was peerless. I started watching F1 about the same time as you and the BT49 was every bit as good as the FW07 and when Piquet was on song he was brilliant.

On Mansell vs Piquet, Nelson was slowing down by that stage and Mansell was, without doubt, the faster driver (also not going to argue with your comment about Senna & Prost). But where Piquet won it was beating Mansell in his mind. Nigel was so desperate to win, so desperate to prove he was better he blew it emotionally and this contributed to his crash in Japan which handed Nelson his 3rd title.

Also, to prove how clever a character Piquet was, he's one of the few to beat Bernie Ecclestone in a contract game. Nelson told BE he was going to leave Brabham unless the little feller coughed up lots more money, claiming he had an offer from McLaren. BE went to Ron Dennis, who had been talking to Piquet, and got RD to agree not to offer Piquet any more than he was going to get at Brabham. Ha, ha, thought Bernie, got him. Meanwhile, knowing the sort of games Bernie plays, Nelson had negotiated an enormous contract with Williams and promptly left. There are not many who get one over on Bernie but Nelson did.
Hats off to Piquet for beating Bernie in a contract, that's a one in a million situation:goodday:
 
On Mansell vs Piquet, Nelson was slowing down by that stage and Mansell was, without doubt, the faster driver (also not going to argue with your comment about Senna & Prost). But where Piquet won it was beating Mansell in his mind...
With due respect, I don't think Piquet was "slowing down" at that point. He was in his 7th season (less than Alonso right now; way less than Schumacher 1st time around)...and he didn't really start slowing down until got to Lotus and then Benetton. In my opinion. [Although at Benetton he was motivated by his money for points bonuses.]

In addition, I think it's easier to get to someone's head/"mind" if you have use of the spare so you can experiment with it...like Piquet did with the differential at Hungary in 1986, for instance, where he lapped Mansell.

For Mansell to still trump him overall (inspite of that contractual disadvantage) tells me all I need to know about Piquet in terms of 'history'.

Mansell, when benchmarked to de Angelis (RIP) wasn't as good as Senna.

Piquet, when benchmarked to Nakajima, wasn't as good as Senna.

But Mansell, certainly, had the measure of Piquet, in my opinion.

Cheers.
 

HammydiRestarules

Di Resta fan :).
Contributor
Well considering he has no thread of his own yet I thought it was about time he did!





Thats a tribute video i found.

But for me Nelson Piquet is sometimes the over looked champion of the 1980's. He was one of the four best drivers in the world back then. He may not of been on the same page with regards to talent as Ayrton Senna and Allan Prost. But Piquet was crowd a F1 world drivers champion 3 times back in the 1980's.

Piquets talent was there to see his brilliant pass on the late Gilles Villeneuve is a classic overtake in F1 history. He was one of those drivers who could easily have won more championship's had he not come around at the same time as Senna, Prost and Mansell. All four of them had fantastic battles together and produce some fine racing against each other.

But for the more older members of the forum, what was your favourite Piquet moment?
 

FB

Not my cup of cake
Valued Member
Rather selfishly, Piquet's engine blowing up in Canada, 1980 allowing Alan Jones to win the title that year :snigger:

More seriously though, I wrote a thread on here some time ago called Nelson Piquet: The Forgotten Champion and agree that he is often overlooked when it comes to the best driver polls. Piquet could be blindingly quick but often used the Softly, Softly, Catchy Monkey principal to nab three World Titles.

My favourite years watching Nelson were when he was with Benetton as the rumour was he got pounds for points. His performances justified what ever Benetton paid him.
 

ZakspeedYakspeed

NeverUnderestimateThePredictabilityOfStupidity
Premium Contributor
I missed his early career... up to late 1985... but I remember Adelaide 1986... Mansell lost the Goodyear on Rundle Straight... and with Piquet clear of Prost in the lead and the WDC his for the taking in 18 laps... less than 25mins away, they called him in to change tyres... he charged at Prost and got the gap down from 20 seconds to 4 seconds... but ran out of time... perhaps he could have told them to jam it and taken his luck (maybe if he didn't have a pair of WDC's to his name he might have)... but in 1986 when the title was up for grabs he was there at the end when it counted... in fact he scored one more point than Prost in those last four races... and only just fell short...

Both and he and Prost were masters of winning in the slowest possible fashion, though both could turn up the wick whenever needed...
 

Incubus

Champion Elect
ZakspeedYakspeed Far from being clear of Prost at Adelaide in 1986, Piquet was only 1 second in front of Alain. Prost had been forced into an earlier pit-stop after a puncture on lap 32, after which he found himself 30 seconds behind the Williams pair. Having nothing to lose he threw all caution to the wind and eventually caught the Williamses, paassing Mansell a couple of laps before Nigel's tyre explosion. He got right back on Nelson's tail, having been half-a-minute behind after his disastrous (18sec) pit-stop.
With fresher tyres and at that point lapping considerably quicker it was highly unlikely Nelson would have have remained in front had he not stopped.
If you look at a replay of this fabulous race you will see Piquet after his stop, even with fresh rubber by then wasn't actually gaining any ground on Prost. Only in the last two lape did Prost slow right down to the tune of six seconds each lap to make sure he'd have enough fuel to the end. The 4.2 second gap at the end was highly misleading for anyone who watched the race that day, and there was certainly nothing slow about Prost's race that day, as he was from lap 20 onwards the fastest driver in the race - and by a significant margin too.
 

Olivier

Race Winner
Piquet contributed to F1 by inventing the tire warming covers, the regulation of brakes and bars inside the cockpit ... and wining 3 WDC. He learned a lot from Lauda and probably one of those things was negotiation skills. I agree with @ZakspeedYaksped that he was master of winning driving at the slowest speed possible. He was quick though and most of the times his driving was error free.
 
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