Nelson A. Piquet, test driver for the Renault F1 team, talks about the upcoming season
Q: Nelsinho, 2007 will be your first season as a fully-fledged member of a leading Formula 1 team. Is that an exciting prospect?
Nelson A. Piquet: Without a doubt! I am very excited to be joining the Renault F1 Team as test driver, and to have the opportunity to learn in such a professional environment. For a young driver, this is the best possible education, to grow up in a team where you know everybody is performing to the very top level. For me, this is a great chance to learn about Formula 1, and to do it in the best conditions.
Q: From a professional point of view, what will be your objectives?
NP: First and foremost, to find out how the car and the team work. I drove the R26 a number of times before Christmas, and that allowed me to get a good first feeling for how the Renault team operates. I was quite pleased with the results, not because the single lap times looked OK, but because I was making progress every time I got in the car. To be competitive in Formula 1, the only secret is hard work: learning about the car, how to find the set-up to get the best out of the tyres through a long race stint, building relationships with engineers. All of these things take time, and they are what I will be working on in 2007.
Q: You were also the first driver to get behind the wheel of the R27...
NP: Yes, that was a nice moment, to give the car its debut on track -- even though it was only a straight-line test at Silverstone!
Q: How different will the role of test driver be in 2007 compared to previous seasons?
NP: I think the nature of the job will be quite different. There is much less tyre development, and very little engine work either, and of course the testing restrictions might mean less running than in previous seasons -- we can only do 30,000 km, and use a maximum of one car on track. Maybe that means I will do fewer miles than a test driver in previous years, but it will still be a fantastic learning experience.
Q: Arriving in Formula 1 with a famous name always brings expectations. How will you cope?
NP: To be honest, by the time you get to Formula 1, I don't think it is reputation that counts. If you have made it this far, then it is because you have talent and the potential to do the job. I think that is what people within the team judge you on, not a name or a reputation. They know the times, they can see the work you do, and that is what decides whether you fail or succeed. A famous name may create attention in the outside world, but I am my own person, and determined to succeed on my own merits -- not thanks to my father's achievements.
Q: What has been your experience of the Renault F1 Team so far?
NP: It has been very impressive working with the test team -- and also having the chance to see behind the scenes last year in Brazil, at how the team works during the race weekend. They have been very open, very welcoming, and they have helped me to find my feet, and find my rhythm, without putting any extra pressure on me. I am starting to build a good relationship with the engineers, and to understand what they need from we when it comes to testing and evaluating new parts. That is one of the areas to work on at the moment, building up my technical understanding and feedback to make a good contribution to the programme.
Q: Are you already thinking about having the opportunity to race?
NP: No, I don't want to get ahead of myself. When you arrive in Formula 1, everything you say is picked up, and it is easy to arrive and create the wrong impression. Obviously, it is my ambition to get into to Formula 1 -- I am a racing driver, so that is perfectly normal. When that opportunity might come, and where, I don't know at the moment, but I am excited to be starting out at Renault -- the world champion team. But I have a job to do, and a lot of things to learn. We have seen in recent years that Renault doesn't just take a gamble on drivers, they make them work very hard and learn the job. That is my priority to 2007: to show I can make a good contribution to the team and its success. Then we will see what happens.