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Saturday, December 11, 2010

The quotable F1: Nelson Piquet, Jr.

'Look, both cars are at the back of the grid,' he told me. 'We are in a situation where we are not going to get anywhere in this race unless something extraordinary happens.'Briatore agreed, saying it would be 'a disaster for the team' unless something extraordinary happened. I just sat there listening because I couldn't figure out where this was going. They were both very fidgety and the situation was incredibly tense. I don't think I had said a word by this point. It was only after five minutes that Flavio made his pitch. 'Look, the only way we can benefit in any way out here is by getting a safety car on the course at the right moment,' he said. I just sat there, looking at them. They both reminded me of what had happened in Germany when someone had crashed just after I had pitted and I came second in the race. 'Do you want to help the team?' Flavio said. 'If you crash at the right moment, it could change everything.'

MONZA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 11: Former F1 team boss Flavio Briatore is seen in the Ferrari garage following qualifying for the Italian Formula One Grand Prix at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza on September 11, 2010 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images)

They wanted the safety car on lap 14. It actually felt good to agree to do something for the team after all the criticism I had taken. I did not even consider the morality of it. As the laps ticked by, I knew what was coming, but it was difficult to believe what I was going to do. I was almost more nervous of messing it up for the team than for my own safety. I was so scared, I could hardly breathe. I was straining my eyes to see the board each time I completed the circuit so I would know which lap I was on, but it was dark out there and I could hardly see a thing. I screamed into the radio again and again, 'What lap are we in? What lap are we in?' They confirmed the lap and I began to brace myself because I knew what I was about to do - even if I could not believe I was going to do it. I came around the chicane on lap 14 and I could feel my stomach tighten. I was incredibly scared, it was like a dream. I touched the rear wheel on the wall and then stepped on the throttle to crash into the other wall. I felt no pain on impact, but the adrenalin was pumping. I felt in control of the car throughout the crash."

23.07.2009 Budapest, Hungary, Nelson Piquet Jr (BRA), Renault F1 Team - Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Thursday - PHOTO: FOTOSPORTS INTERNATIONAL/xpb.cc

If I am being honest, I think I was motivated more by anger against Flavio than by a desire for a clean conscience. Looking back, it seems like a lifetime ago, but I know I will never fully escape from its shadow. I apologise unreservedly for what I did. I just hope people will understand the pressures I was under. It is no excuse, but I was a deeply unhappy person. I am a stronger man today. If the question was asked again, I am sure I would have the strength to say no."
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