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Q & A with Nelson Piquet

Nelson Piquet got his build-up to the Australian Grand Prix off to a perfect start on Tuesday when he won a karting challenge put on by race organisers

The Brazilian's final lap pipped the best timed efforts from Australian kart champion Matthew Wall, Formula Ford champion Luke Ellery and V8 Supercar driver Cameron McConville.

But with attention now shifting forwards to the battle taking place at Albert Park in the first Formula 1 race of the season, AUTOSPORT caught up with Piquet to find out his feelings on the fight that lies ahead.

How optimistic are you feeling for this weekend's Australian Grand Prix?

Nelson Piquet: It is difficult to say. It is going to be all a bit of a mystery how quick we are. I really have no idea if we are going to be right up there at the front or fighting in the midfield. Hopefully the car will be good.

What are your feelings on the progress you have made with the R29 in recent tests?

NP: To be honest, it gets better and better. But for every other team it gets better and better too. The secret is to get better than the other teams quicker, and that is not an easy task.

I know a lot of teams are going to come with upgrades here, and at the moment when you upgrade the car you get quite big differences because we are quite new in this phase of the regulations.

It means every change is quite big. So it is still going to be a bit of a mystery. We can think we are good and then we can arrive here and not be quick. Let's see. Hopefully we will be okay.

How frustrating was the winter, as every test you did it seemed to either rain or you suffered mechanical problems?

NP: It was really tough. I got two or three days in the dry - and on only two days did I do more than 100 laps. The rest were averaging about 40 laps, so that's virtually nothing for a F1 car.

It was difficult, and I got about a third of the mileage that Fernando [Alonso] got. So it is a bit frustrating, but let's forget that and try and concentrate on doing the best job here.

How better prepared do you feel personally heading into your second season compared to how you were this time last year?

NP: I think much more relaxed. It is just one more race now, it is not like the 'beginning' you know. After 18 races now, it is just one more weekend where I know how the whole thing works and I know it is going to be much easier.

And less pressure do you think now you've been here for a year?

NP: I don't think so. I still think there is always going to be pressure there, but I have learned how to deal with it a bit better.

How has the team's work on KERS gone?

NP: Yeah, it is okay. Our KERS is working fine. The team did a good job on it, and there is not much to say about it really. I am not really in favour of the whole thing, but ours is working quite well.

Do you think you will have an advantage with it, being as Renault is one of the few teams to run it this weekend?

NP: Maybe. Hopefully it will.

Will that mainly be at the start, or will it be good for the straights here too?

NP: Everywhere. Hopefully we can overtake people at the start and use it all the time.

Do you expect more overtaking this year because of the new rules?

NP: Maybe a little bit because of the KERS. But still, it is not going to be easy. It is not like we are going to have a lot more overtaking - maybe 20 - 30 per cent more. But that is not going to make a huge difference.

What is your feeling on the speed of the Brawn GP car? Do you think their pace is real? Are they favourites?

NP: Yes, obviously. They have been developing the car for a year now, so I think it is natural and normal that they have been going quick. They were the first ones to begin developing the [2009] car, and they have done a good job.

So it is going to be a tough team to beat. Brawn is quick, Ferrari is quick - and apart from that it is hard to say who else is going to be up there.

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