It will come as a surprise to no one, perhaps, that Nelson Piquet, Jr is turning his back on the world of Formula 1, and making a journey across the pond to compete in NASCAR.
Piquet was disgraced last year after being implicated in the so-called Crashgate scandal. Piquet admitted to deliberately crashing his car in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, ostensibly to trigger a saftey car deployment, which in turn aided the strategy of Piquet’s Renault team mate, Fernando Alonso. Alonso went on to win the race.
As a result of the scandal, Renault team principal Flavio Briatore was handed a lifetime ban from F1 by the FIA, and Renault’s chief engineer, Pat Symonds, was given a five year ban. Both penalties have since been overturned by French court.
Piquet only confessed his involvement after being fired from the team for poor performance. It was at that point that Piquet, led by his father, three-time world champ Nelson Piquet, Sr, approached the FIA with their allegations. Piquet received immunity from penalty for his cooperation with the FIA.
Immunity not withstanding, Piquet did nothing to enhhance his popularity in the paddock. Unfortunately, whistle-blowers often become pariahs in their profession, and Piquet’s case was no different than most. Perhaps if he’d been a consistent race-winner, or at least a points-earner, F1 team managers would now turn a blind eye, and compete for his services. But such is not the case. In the end, he was one of many young hopefuls who enter the series full of promise, and then fail to deliver. Most of them fade from view, without even earning a footnote in the annals of the sport. Piquet, for better or worse, has earned his footnote – under Crashgate.
If contact with barrier walls is Piquet’s forte, then he has probably found the perfect venue for that skill. Certainly, he’ll have ample opportunity to taste the concrete in the NASCAR truck series, which apparently Piquet’s first stop within the NASCAR network.
On his official website, Piquet said, “I have spent the last few months carefully evaluating my options for this year. I had to choose a path and it was a difficult decision to make. Being successful in Formula 1 was always my goal but I have learnt that happiness is just as important as ambition and after my first 18 months in F1 did not go as planned I have decided to focus on something different and have chosen to take a route in America.”
Naturally, saying that his foray into F1 “did not go as planned” is something of an understatement. Fortunately, he’s showing a bit of humility regarding his latest venture.
He went on to say, “This will be an awesome new challenge for me, and a healthy one. I have always been open to new challenges and I will be putting everything I have into this. I have found a good group of people that are really willing to help me in my career and I am grateful that they are there for me. I think it will be a positive environment and a good life experience. I am sure this year is going to be fantastic and I am very excited at the prospect of my future.I will miss Europe and all the friends I have there but I will always have my successes there to be proud of.
Meanwhile, it’s clear that he’s not turning his back on European racing completely, even if the F1 door has been closed. “I am sure I’ll still do some racing in Europe,” Piquet said, “as I have a lot of ambitions in my life, one of which has always been to win the Le Mans 24 Hours.”