Nelson Piquet Jnr, Renault., Singapore, 2008

Piquet Jnr: I just wanted to get out of F1 after Crashgate

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Nelson Piquet Jnr has described how he felt ’emotionally consumed’ by the Crashgate episode which led to his departure from Formula 1 in 2008.

Speaking to the Inside Electric Podcast Piquet said he “just wanted to get out” of F1 after details of the scandal emerged the following year.

Renault team principal Flavio Briatore and technical director Pat Symonds conspired with Piquet for him to crash his car deliberately during the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix after team mate Fernando Alonso had made an early pit stop for fuel. That allowed Alonso to take the lead of the race, which he did, going on to win.

The following year Renault dropped Piquet at mid-season. He then went public about his involvement in the conspiracy, which prompted Renault to sack Briatore and Symonds.

“I had one person against me, or two, which were the two individuals that were involved in this mess,” said Piquet. “Apart from the rest of the people, obviously, everybody was on my side defending me.

“That’s why they got they got a huge ban and nothing really happened to me. They had to pay a fine to myself and they lost a sponsor.

“In my case I was really frustrated. Obviously being very young, emotionally it consumed me a lot and I just wanted to get out of there.”

Although he enjoyed a career highlight of finishing on the podium at the German Grand Prix – “it was a podium with a bit of luck, but I led the race for a lot of laps” he said – Piquet admitted he had a tough time as Alonso’s team mate.

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“He was in the peak of his career. He had just won two championships. He was dying to win more championships, more races. He had the knife in his teeth, like we say in Brazil. He was going for it.”

Fernando Alonso, Renault, Singapore, 2008
Crashgate: The 2008 Singapore Grand Prix conspiracy
“Mentally it was really tough for me because I never had a team mate my whole career which was constantly faster than me,” said Piquet. “And all of a sudden I had a guy that obviously had won two championships recently. And it was really tough. Fernando, apart from Lewis [Hamilton], he destroyed all his team mates, basically.”

Piquet said he would have been better prepared for his debut if he hadn’t spent 2007 in a testing role after finishing runner-up to Hamilton in GP2.

“We were in talks, should I do a third year of GP2 just to keep doing some mileage and [because] it’s better than not racing. And Renault [said] look, let’s not do this, let’s keep you more prepared on the F1 side if something happens to the drivers, there’s going to be a lot of testing.

“So it was a decision which was wrong because at the end of the day in 2007 which was my test drive role, I ended up doing four or five days of testing. It was a lot of road show days and stuff like that, marketing days which didn’t help me at all to get prepared for the following season.”

“One of my biggest regrets was not racing that year,” said Piquet, “because if I had raced a third year I think I would have arrived much more well-prepared, I would have [had] one whole season of starts, one more whole season of battles, overtaking, I could have won the championship.

“So that was to be honest probably the biggest regret in my career was obviously not racing in 2007.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 25 comments on “Piquet Jnr: I just wanted to get out of F1 after Crashgate”

    1. I still don’t believe Alonso had nothing to do with and knew nothing about crashgate.

    2. Peter Ramos
      12th May 2020, 15:59

      I don’t buy it. The main questions is: would Piquet senior and/or Piquet Jr have revealed the conspiracy to the press if Renault had Jr’s contract renovated in 2009?
      Piquet Jr was all in, he was part of the conspiracy, and his father only revealed the truth *after* Piquer Jr was sacked.
      Not a pretty picture. Not at all.

      1. It’s no more unbelievable than Alonso not being party to the plan. That was the real ridiculous part that Alonso got away scot free with cheating imo. Say what you like but there is no way his strategy made any sense to anyone without that happening.

        1. @slowmo I agree his strategy made no sense, and he should’ve pressured the team into why he’d do such a stupid thing, but…

          in hindsight you’d think he should’ve raised his suspicions… but how could anyone have envisioned something like that would happen? Piquet points his finger at Briatore and Symmonds, he could well point it to Alonso too. Maybe it was a totally crazy strategy that might work in the right situation, if someone crashed (not on purpose) and they went along with it… but i’m sure no one in the team expected that crash to happen voluntarily.

          1. @fer-no65 the only reason I can come up with is it looks like even more sour grapes if he points to the other driver who soundly thrashed him. Keeping Alonso out of it means he can frame the narrative that senior members of the team didn’t give him a fair crack. Briartore also had a lot of past history of being on the wrong side of the rules so was an easy target to aim at. We will never know unfortunately but I’d be amazed if Alonso hadn’t asked the question of Briartore after the race in private as his manager.

            1. I think you guys are looking at this far too complicated there @slowmo, @fer-no.65. Piquet doesn’t implicate Alonso, because he doesn’t KNOW if Alonso was really into the desicion. He knows the guys who were there when he was asked to do it were though.

              The thing is, I am sure Alonso must have had his suspicions that something was going on, almost certainly not exactly what though, as you mention, who could have imagined that up front. Others in the team must also have felt that something not right was being prepared.

              I don’t think Alons would be stupid enough to ask anyone. And let’s be honest, Alonso knew Briatore well enough, we all do now. One glance at him would have been enough to be certain. A look on his face, a slight nod, wink, the way of their handshake after the win etc. But he would also have known it is better for him not to know, not to be certain about this.

              As humans, we are pretty good at ignoring those things, because it is easier, better for ourselves to not know. Even if deep down we probably knew something must have defenitely been going on.

      2. IIRC, since there is some time I’ve seen reports about it, it was around the Brazilian GP, thereby still in 2008 that Piquet Sr went to Charlie, who told him an investigation couldn’t be started without a formal accusation by piquet jr. Nelson Sr kept pressuring nelsinho until he got sacked, and then everything finally ecloded. It was nelsinho’s choice not to do it before.

      3. Piquet Jr likes to play the victim, but he was the one at the end of the day who agreed crash in order to help Fernando. He had no problem going along with it until Briatore wouldn’t give him a new contract. We can only speculate about Alonso, but Piquet is an admitted cheater.

        1. @niefer, Dane, I see things a tad differently. Off course Nelson jr. was part of the conspiracy. He did it etc.

          But one cannot ignore the situation he found himself in. He was losing to his teammate badly, a situation he probably never even imagined finding himself in. He had huge pressure from his pretty single minded, 3 time world champion father who had invested a lot in his son, he had the pressure from Briatore around him. Remember those remarks from Briatore about Nelson Jr. being gay? Surely that would have hit hard in Brazil elites (see current president Bolsanoro and his rethorics). And he was faced with losing all he had been working for in his relatively short life up till then. A life that had probably shielded him from most tough decisions too.

          The emotional stress on this young man will have been huge. And has to be taken in account in judging his behaviour. I think that no one can get a harder life lesson. And I think that he was punished for the move by it ending his up till then solid career path. Since then he has never shown much appetite to play things dirty (unlike his father), so I guess he learned that hard lesson.

    3. So it was a decision which was wrong because at the end of the day in 2007 which was my test drive role, I ended up doing four or five days of testing. It was a lot of road show days and stuff like that, marketing days which didn’t help me at all to get prepared for the following season.

      Facts check: In 2007 Piquet completed 16 test days across 9 diferrent circuits, with mileage almost reaching 7000 kilometres. That’s more than Hamilton overall before his debut in Australia and I didn’t even include Piquet testing few times in 2006 and his pre-season testing in 2008, which alone would add another 15 days and 6000 kilometres. Poor Nelson, eh?

      1. Can’t argue with the fact he would have learned more in GP2 tho

    4. Would be better if he wanted to leave before disgracing the sport and his father’s name.

      1. I seriously doubt Piquet Jr. would have agreed to the plot without consulting his father. Very implausible, just like Alonso not being aware of the plan, either.

        1. One may say whatever about Piquet but stupid is something he isn’t. There would be absolutely no gain in doing that, not to his son’s career, even less to his legacy on the sport. He also always looked down on unsportive conducts on track. There is no credible reason for him to have had a part on the scam.

          1. No gain for Piquet Jr’s career? He was fighting for a seat in F1, as ALO was wiping the floor with him, weekend in, weekend out. Lots of bad blood between the parties….

            1. Exactly: he had no good prospect within the team already. Crashing to someone’s benefit wouldn’t turn his tenure any better. That’s why he got sacked regardless the chip he had on Briatore. Without the pace there’s no chance of survival.

    5. So it was a decision which was wrong…

      Unfortunately, like it or not, there’s no Backspace Key on the dashboard of a car (or truck or bus). When you make a mistake that mistake is there forever. You can’t go back in time and delete that mistake and drive that bit of road again. When you break the road rules or the rules of the race then you do so at your peril.
      Also, unfortunately, this will hound Nelson’s career as a professional driver for the rest of his life, and like it or not it also hounds Flavio’s life too and that of Pat Symonds.
      While Alonso won the race, I suspect it is one that will have a hollow ring to it. So no one won.

    6. they obviously only told the truth after he was sacked, as their ties with the team were severed.
      if he was to be let go after the season, we probably wouldn’t know it to this day.

      piquet jr wasn’t a bad driver, but he got way too much help from his father to get there and couldn’t cope with having to do without it in F1. every “sorry guys” in the radio after a crash was the voice of a broken man.

      i believe he could have suceeded in different circunstances in a different team. Williams not included, they would’ve crushed him even quicker.

    7. You are faster than Alonso and better driver than Alonso yet still you’re asked to crash for the golden “star”. I can see his frustration.

    8. Well.. I guess Nelson Jr. got his wish of leaving the sport after all…

    9. What makes it even worse is that his actions robbed his countryman Felipe Massa of the 2008 WDC. Massa was walking away from the field, leading easily. Then the crash and subsequent early safety car happened and the infamous fuel line incident. Take the crash away and that terrible pit stop would have never happened. Even if by some chance Massa wouldn’t have won the race, he would have almost certainly finished in the points, and just one point would have been enough for him to have beaten Hamilton to the title that year.

    10. Nice to hear a bit of his side of the story (although probably not all).

    11. Giving Piquet Jr. a racing seat in 2008 and keeping him in there until mid-2009 was a dollar auction from the word go. It’s one of those stories of life where simply nobody involved – Renault, Piquet Jr, nor even Alonso – came out winning. They will be always be mentioned and linked by their respective share of shame instead.

    12. And nothing of value was lost.

    13. William Kent
      13th May 2020, 15:11

      Also, it could be argued that Renault and Piquet cost Felipe Massa the world title. The safety car caused chaos in the pit-lane with all teams pitting at the same time. Would Ferrari have bungled Massa’s stop if they had not been under more pressure because of the chaos??? We will never Know! All in all it was an absolutely disgraceful episode but I still think the right man eventually won the title on that last lap in Brazil and it was one of the all time great F1 seasons.

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