Nelson Piquet Jr Interview
Nelson Piquet Jr has motor racing in the blood and is comfortable racing in just about anything with tyres and a steering wheel!
Shortly after Piquet joined the iON team he flew to London and became the Formula E World Champion (more here). He then jumped on a flight to Washington, DC and won the Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship proving that his driving skill is consistent through the racing disciplines. Nelson took some time to speak to us while in the UK at Donington Race Circuit.
So Nelson, you grew up racing Karts – did you learn anything during those days that still help you today?
Absolutely. Karting is where we start to learn race craft, about the machines themselves and how to be a part of a team. They’re all key lessons that grow in importance as you go up through the ranks and you have to have the basic understanding to have a grounding in the sport. I still love to kart now – if I have a spare weekend I will go karting if I can and I’ve competed a couple of times in the past few years when I’ve had a gap in my schedule in top level karting in the USA – the SuperNats in Vegas.
Obviously your family has been a great supporter of your racing, how is it racing for your families team?
I’m proud to have raced with Piquet Sports. We won the F3 championship in South America and then my team, which was just a couple of Brazilian mechanics and an engineer, moved with me to England where we competed in British F3 in 2003 and 2004. All of us were far from home, in a different culture and we took on teams that had been winning in F3 for years and we beat them. We won a lot of races and then the overall championship in 2004. We then decided to enter GP2 with that team. It was a huge jump, we had to employ more team members and the stakes were even higher. But again we proved we could compete with the established teams, winning races and coming close to winning the championship in the second year. I have great memories of racing with Piquet Sports.
Who was the best driver you raced against growing up?
I’ve raced against some great drivers over the years. I had a great time battling against Adam Carroll back in F3 and GP2 days, and in British F3 the championship title went down to the last race weekend with him. In GP2 I had a season long battle with Lewis Hamilton. Unfortunately we lost out on the last weekend and ended up the championship second, but we didn’t give up the fight until the end. Obviously in Formula E more recently Sebastien Buemi was consistently good all season and I felt that he would be a threat as the season drew to a close, which proved to be correct, although we managed to fight to the end to take that championship win. But for the best driver I’ve raced against I think it has to be Fernando Alonso when I was in F1. In my opinion he’s one of the best drivers out there. He’s quick, he’s smart; he’s a complete driver.
You do a lot of travelling, how do you manage to stay in the best shape to be able to compete?
It’s definitely tricky as I don’t have a routine and I’m constantly crossing timezones and travelling. But we have to have a good level of fitness to do what we do so I make sure I am able to work out. I also like to eat, so that means I have to work out! I like to cycle, so I do that whenever I can and, if I’m near a beach, that’s great to run on. We have to adapt to where we are and fit in what we can.
Nelson works with regularly with UK based premier sport, exercise and performance therapy company Body Clinic UK
On track testing is always a big part of racing, how does it help you in Formula E and RallyX?
Testing is important for sure. It gives us a chance to look at new developments on the cars and work on improvements. If it’s at a track that we’re competing on and we haven’t raced there before, it also allows us to learn the track before the real competition.
Do you have a pre-race warm up?
Not really a set warm up. Race days are always very busy with a lot of things to do. So before the race I like to find a quiet place for a little while where I can tune out of everything else and start to focus on the race. I’ll listen to music and just be calm. Then I do some stretching just before I get in the car.
What would you say has been your greatest sporting achievement to date and why?
Becoming World Champion of FIA Formula E is one of my best successes, I think even my best success. And this has opened my career again as I was able to show my potential on the world stage. At NEXTEV TCR we showed that if you put a good group of guys together you are able to fight against manufacturers, you just need to be smart.
With the World Championship under your belt, do you feel like all the other competitors are gunning for you? If so, why or why not?
Every driver is aiming for championships and I’m the current championship winner so for season 2 of Formula E everyone will want to beat me to the championship. But they’re fighting for themselves, so they want to beat every other competitor, not anyone in particular, and I’ll be doing the same.
INSPIRATIONS IN SPORT
What advice would you give to youngsters coming up in the sport?
I often get asked if it’s something you’re born with or if it’s something you can learn. I believe you can learn. But you need to love it to really dedicate yourself to it. It’s like any professional job I think. You also need to be prepared for some tough times, because it is not an easy ride. To keep winning and keep happy is one thing but you have to be able to keep motivated and working hard when you have tough times.
While getting started in the sport, who was your hero, and what qualities have you tried to emulate?
When I started until now it’s my father. He won the Formula 1 championship three times but, more than that, he did an incredible amount for the sport in terms of technical development. If you know my father’s story in detail, that is why he is my role model.
GENERAL / RACING
Macau in Formula 3 and Martinsville in NASCAR. In Europe I love Silverstone and Spa.
First road car?
You drive lots of different cars, how easy is it to adapt to each one?
When I first starting driving NASCAR it was a big learning curve for me as it was a very different way of driving than I was used to. I had to learn an entirely new discipline. But over the past six years my career has become so diverse with me racing in open wheel, NASCAR, rallycross and sportscars that I don’t have any problem jumping from one car to another. Back in August there was a crazy week where I tested the Formula E car on the Monday and Tuesday, tested an IndyCar on Thursday and raced in my Global Rallycross car on Friday and Saturday! And I won the race!
You have had experience in Formula 1, NASCAR, Formula E, Global Rally Cross and various other championships. What has been your favourite?
I have had some career highlights that I am very proud of. In Formula 1, highlights were my first podium in Hockenheim 2008, my fourth place finish in Japan 2008 and my sixth in Hungary the same year. Before I reached F1 I had some amazing career moments that I will always remember. I won every championship I raced in go-karts. I was South American F3 champion in 2002, British F3 champion in 2004. I set the record in GP2 for the first driver to have a perfect weekend, scoring the maximum points available, in Hungary 2006. In NASCAR, the highlight has to be the win at Road America in the Nationwide Series last year in only my third NNS start. That was an amazing moment. And then of course the championship win in Formula E was so special. I can’t pick a favourite championship!
Do you think that cameras like iON action and SnapCam’s are changing the sport in anyway? Such as the ability to mount them in confined places or take them behind the scenes?
Definitely! When social media like Twitter first came along it allowed us as athletes in the public eye to be closer to the public and fans of us and the sport. At the time I was the first driver in F1 to be on Twitter and I was posting pictures from places like the drivers briefing and parade that had never been done before. With the development of small action cameras like iON it means we can now bring high quality video coverage to the fans faster and more directly than ever before. Now we can share video instantly or very quickly after events to give fans more of an insight into the sport that we all love. I am always fascinated with new developments in media and new technology and action cameras are something I really love.
What do you like about the iON Cameras?
The quality is fantastic and they are so compact that they are really portable. I can attach them to my race car and even directly onto my racesuit or clothing with the new SnapCam model, which is a wearable camera thanks to a magnet system. The different range of price points also means that iON is a more accessibly camera to buy than a lot of the more expensive action camera systems.
Find out more about iON Cameras by clicking HERE
What is your guilty pleasure?
I like a lot of different stuff. Music has to be right for the occasion so what I listen to depends on whether I’m chilling out, preparing for a race, driving along or having a party!
Is there a sport you’re not very good at?
Football. I know as a Brazilian that’s a terrible thing to admit to, but it’s true I’m afraid!
Tell us three things about yourself that not many people know about…
1) I love animals and some day I’d like to own a centre with wildlife that people could visit.
2) I love the documentary The Cove so to go on a kind of mission to explore nature like that would be very interesting and is a kind of ambition of mind.
3) I’m currently renovating a 1987 Chevrolet G20 van. It should be ready for Christmas and it’s going to be awesome!
Thanks to Nelson for your time and welcome to the iON family!