Grapevine: Interview: Piquet Dreams of Following Father

Nelson Piquet junior has his future mapped out in his mind already, accelerating from British Formula Three to a Formula One test and full race drive by 2005.

Grapevine: Interview: Piquet Dreams of Following Father

Nelson Piquet junior has his future mapped out in his mind already, accelerating from British Formula Three to a Formula One test and full race drive by 2005.

In the meantime, there is the small matter of passing a driving test.

The 17-year-old Brazilian, son of the three times Formula One champion and namesake, will have no problems when the time comes next month to show off his car control to an Oxford examiner.

His planned career path will be a lot tougher, even if he is already a race winner in Formula Three whose pedigree and promise have been noted.

"Nelson Piquet looks very, very talented," says Frank Williams, whose Formula One team won the World Championship with Piquet senior in 1987. "But he's 17 and it's a long while before he'll be winning Grands Prix, only on the age basis. His results say he is very impressive."

Others fear he may have had it all too easy so far, bankrolled by his wealthy father who has created Team Piquet Sports around him and whose name alone ensures plenty of attention.

There is no denying the results though. 'Nelsinho' is making waves already in the same tough F3 arena that propelled his compatriot Ayrton Senna to Formula One greatness.

Better Bet

Piquet is not short on self-confidence, without appearing arrogant.

"I really want to be a World Champion," he said. But asked the obvious question - are you as good as your father was? - he paused for a moment. "I don't know. (Now he has) lost his form, he doesn't care if he is fast or not...he says that I am better than him.

"I think in his day a driver needed to be more smart in the head than fast."

He added: "You needed to be very clever, you needed to take care of the car. That's the difference with today's drivers. They just push, push, push."

Piquet senior won the British Formula Three title in 1978 and fought some memorable battles with Britain's Nigel Mansell when they were F1 teammates at Williams. That is the Formula One that Nelsinho loves and dreams of reviving.

As he stood watching testing at Silverstone last week, the youngster was awestruck.

"It's something beautiful...so bloody quick, its incredible," he told Reuters in the Williams motorhome.

Unusually for a generation brought up in the era of Michael Schumacher, he does not have much time for Ferrari's World Champion.

"The way I see it, Schumacher has made Formula One so boring. I wouldn't want that to happen with me. Of course in your heart you feel that you want to be like Schumacher, to win all the races. But then on the other side, it is going to be boring.

"When I see a Ferrari, I look at it trying to break the engine of it," he added. "Now I cheer a lot for (Renault's Fernando) Alonso. He's doing a great job and I like him, he's a nice person."

Old Memories

The biggest influence of all is his namesake.

"My mom would tell me some stories about how my father would win races and they would bring all the mechanics to have dinner and they would have fights and throw the food around and the police would arrive," he said.

"They had big parties on the planes...I think those times in Formula One were the best...maybe I would like to bring them back if it is possible."

Piquet has time on his side but he feels he could have got further already.

Born in Germany, he lived in Monaco until he was eight. Then, his parents separated, he went to Brazil and raced go-karts before F3.

Yet Finland's Nico Rosberg, former champion Keke's son who was at school with Nelsinho in Monaco and is a similar age, has already had a test with Williams after winning a Formula BMW title in Germany.

"If my parents had lived here and I had started in Formula Three here, I think I would have tested (F1) already and I would have been (F3) champion here already," said Piquet.

Piquet has shown that he can learn fast, starting on the front row and taking a podium in his first race watched by proud father, who regularly flies in from Brazil.

"When he comes, it' something different. He brings us more confidence," said Nelsinho. "When he's there it's 'we're going to do it and it's going to work'. And we do it and it works."

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