Formula 1 Insight

Reputations and Re-shuffles
I was reading all the reports about Fernando Alonso finally signing for Renault and the accompanying driver changes and re-shuffles when an amusing thought struck me. Could Alonso be setting himself up as the greatest reputation-maker of all time?

Nelson Piquet Jr
Nelsinho at work

Think about it for a moment. One of the things they say about Lewis Hamilton is that he equalled or bettered the double world champion; and Fernando does like to mention his championships at every opportunity. That's fine when you are delivering the goods and making everyone else look silly - but, when your team mate is putting in better qualifying times and race finishes than you are, it's natural that our estimation of him should go sky high.

Fernando's team mate in 2008 will be Nelsinho Piquet, a man who ran Hamilton close for the GP2 championship and not one to take kindly to playing second fiddle. Oh, I know that, to get the seat, he will have had to promise to be good and sit behind Alonso all season; but that's all he has to do really - sit behind Nando in every race. If Nelsinho can do that and close up after losing time in traffic, the inference will be clear: Piquet Snr's boy could be quicker than the double world champion!

If Alonso then gets in a huff, goes to another team with a rookie second driver and the pattern is repeated, he will have made himself a name as the great reputation-maker. Whether Piquet Jr will have the patience and speed to adopt such tactics remains to be seen and it has to be admitted that most F1 watchers expect him to seize opportunities to beat Alonso whenever they occur. But his father is wily enough to see that Junior can stick to the terms of his agreement with Renault and still appear quicker than his team mate.

The idea of Alonso gaining such a reputation may appear laughable (and that is the spirit in which it is offered) but it is remotely possible. Consider how Jean Alesi made a name for himself through his tussle with Senna in the Phoenix GP of 1990. It was too late in his career for Takuma Sato's pass on Alonso in the Canadian GP this year to have an effect on his reputation, but it remains one of the memorable events of this season. Reputations made in one race can last a long time if dramatic enough; over a whole season, they can become set in stone.

Setting such idle musing aside, Piquet's promotion does appear to have put Heikki Kovalainen in an awkward position. Everyone seems to think that McLaren will take him on and it is a possibility, I know. But there is no guarantee until Ron Dennis makes the offer and he may decide to take the safe route and put one of his test drivers in the second car. It makes a lot of sense, after the enormous upheavals of 2007, to stick with someone who won't make waves and doesn't cost the earth either.

That would leave Heikki with just Toyota as a possibility, the rumor mill having put the Japanese giant back into the frame. Ironically too, it would preserve Toyota's record of changing both drivers at a time, a policy that I have pointed out before as a weakness in the team. Trulli, if he stays, would be a good measure of Timo Glock's real ability, whereas with a Glock/Kovalainen pairing it would be much more difficult to decide whether the drivers were flattering the car or vice versa - always a problem with Toyota.

Whatever happens, I hope that Heikki gets a drive for next year. His season may have started badly but it ended well and he is certainly one of the more talented newcomers to have emerged this year. It would be a tragedy if circumstances were to leave him out in the cold.


I am guessing, Honda might also be a possibility for Heikki. If you know the fan forum for Honda that i am alluding to, there has always been a claim the Rubens' seat is not assured as he is claiming. It has been stated a few times there by the "guy in the know" that Honda might not go out and actively pursue someone, but if some young hotshot was made available due to Alonso's musical chair, then they might be interested. Now, it all fits in the scheme of things!! Damn....if only i was employed at Bild.........

Whether Heikki would be interested in a move to Honda is a different thing altogether, but if he is left with no options i think Honda is not a bad spot to end up at besides Jenson and Ross....Infact much better place than Toyota...
Date Added: 12/12/2007

Pink Peril
Ross Brawn would indeed be a factor when considering a move to Honda. And there have been a lot of rumours that Rubens may be out on his ear, which is a shame. Poor Rubens finally gets the chance to shine after being the bridesmaid for so long and he gets a car that made my old '79 mazda look fast ! But then it has long been a tradition in F1 to blame the drivers for a dud of a car, hasn't it.

I think Heikki would have to be the front runner for the McLaren seat. After all, Ron does like his Finns ! And I think Heikki would be able to put up with being second to Lewis - for a couple of years at least. And fast, but not fast enough to be a real threat.

On the other hand, Nelsinho I am not so sure about. I just hope that while he was on holidays Fernando sorted himself out & learnt a few lessons from his behaviour last season. I expected better from him (note, I beleive Lewis is not blameless in the shenanigans, but Fernando should not have risen to the bait, nor should he have been so threatened by Lewis. I expected him to thrive on the challenge of a competitive team mate and rise to the occaison, but sadly he acted like a spoilt brat. [Did anyone else notice how on the podium at Melbourne he looked less than thrilled that Lewis was there with him?]

And in doing so, spoiled the relationship with the one team that could do him justice as a driver. I fear that, unless his ego has been brought to heel, we'll see a repeat next season. And that may well be the nail in the coffin of his career. Fingers crossed it doesn't ! )

Date Added: 12/12/2007

Steven Roy
Lewis and Anthony Hamilton are smart operators and no doubt figured out that Alonso was susceptible to a wind up or two. Nelson Piquet on the other hand was wreaking havoc in F1 before Lewis was born. He was recognised as the ultimate wind up merchant and destabilised a lot of people. Alonso will be easy for him especially as Nelsinho is known as a one lap specialist and we all know how Fernando reponds to a team mate being faster in any session.
Date Added: 12/12/2007

Could be a lot of fun, hey, Steven? I can hardly wait! :D
Date Added: 12/12/2007

Number 38
From Steven Roy's comment above: " Nelsinho is known as a one lap specialist ". This is the second site that I've read this comment today. One lap doesn't win races, doesn't earn driver or CONSTRUCTOR points. It puzzles me why Renault invested so much in Kova only to throw it all away on a questionable rookie. I'm sure old Flav thinks he's got the next Hamilton but remarks like Steven's and observations like mine don't back him. Good luck Flav.
Date Added: 13/12/2007

Betting on F1
It's an interesting point that, something that hadn't occured to me but yes I see what you are saying. Many pundits, commentators will be looking to see how Piquet jnr does in Alonso's shadow and then comparing his performances to Hamilton's. Personally, I don't think he will be anywhere near Hamilton's level next season.
Date Added: 13/12/2007

There is a Mexican businessman sponsoring Renault who made his contribution dependent upon Piquet getting the second seat, Number 38. So, in a way, Nelsinho is paying for Renault to employ Alonso - which is somewhat ironic, to say the least.

And I, too, doubt that Piquet will be able to live up to the hype, Betting - but it will be interesting watching him try. ;)
Date Added: 13/12/2007

Steven Roy
I am not sure how Nelsinho will perform over a season but his one lap pace is bound to destabilise Alonso and may pull Alonso down a level. The other obvious factor about Nelsinho's career is that he has always performed best in teams which Nelson has run so no doubt Nelson will be doing everything he can to run Renault. Don't be surprised if Renault decid to pull out of F1 and Carlos Slim Helu buys the team and creates Team Piquet.
Date Added: 13/12/2007

Another interesting thought, Steven. Actually, I'd like it if that happened - as a long-time Nelson Piquet supporter, I'd like to see him back in F1!
Date Added: 13/12/2007

Betting on F1
Noe team Piquet has a great ring to it Steven! I'd love that. Piquet senior was always one of my favourite drivers. I'm really looking forward to seeing if his son is anywhere near as good - just hope we don't end up with another Ralf Schumacher situation on our hands? slightly different I know but it could go the same way? thoughts...?
Date Added: 14/12/2007

Roldan Rodriguez said of Nelsinho recently that he was very fast over one lap but not quite so quick over a full race distance. This seems to have taken hold and now everyone is saying it. Does it occur to no-one that Roldan could have his own reasons for attempting to lessen the hype regarding Nelsinho's talents? Methinks he was looking for something to say to excuse his own failure to get anywhere near Piquet's level.

Be that as it may, Nelsinho seems to have impressed a lot of people on his way to F1 and much is expected of him as a result. Personally, I fear that the reality will be somewhat less than the hype - Piquet has not set any records in testing and has looked competent but little else. I don't think we're going to see a talent as great as his father was.

People say of Piquet Sr. that he was a joker and a playboy - which he was. But he was also a very quick driver and, in his years with Brabham at least, a very important help in getting the car right. In the lower formulae, he had always tinkered with his cars to make them faster and he assisted the engineers at Brabham much more than people realize.

That's what I don't see in the younger Nelson - no stories of him getting his hands dirty at all. He seems more concerned with the state of his hairstyle than tweaking the settings to squeeze the utmost from the car. I know, cheap shot, but you did ask. ;)
Date Added: 14/12/2007

Alianora La Canta
The statistics back up Rodruigez's assertion, certainly over 2006 - although Piquet Jr did not win the championships, it was notable that he managed six pole positions. Lewis Hamilton, who won the GP2 title that year, only got one. In that regard, he's another Montoya or Webber, who are/were also faster in qualifying than the race. Though if Piquet Jr's race pace is good enough, that simply means he'll be near-unbeatable on Saturday afternoons...
Date Added: 17/12/2007

Looks to me like a recipe for a year of headaches for Briatore, Alianora. If Piquet maintains that kind of qualifying form, he's going to be really difficult to get past during the race...
Date Added: 18/12/2007

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