Nelson Piquet Jr.
Nelson Piquet Jr is a Brazilian racing driver and son of famous three-time Formula 1 champion Nelson Piquet. His greatest success so far is the championship title in the inaugural season of the FIA Formula E Championship in 2015.
Earlier in a career, he spent one and a half season in the Formula One World Championship with Renault, recording 28 starts and one podium.
Besides open-wheel racing, he experienced many other racing disciplines, from stock cars in the US and Brazil to rallycross or sports car racing in GT cars and prototypes. In 2017, he finished on the podium at Le Mans with Rebellion Racing but the team was subsequently disqualified.
Nelson Angelo Tamsma Piquet Souto Maior, what is his full name, was born in July 1985 in Heidelberg in Germany. As a son of a successful racer, Nelsinho, what is Nelson Piquet Junior’s nickname, was from an early age involved in the world of motorsport. When he was born, his father was already a two-time F1 champion.
His parents separated shortly after Nelsinho was born, so he lived in Monaco with his mother. But, when Nelsinho was eight years old, he moved to Brazil with his father. In the meantime, his father captured one more F1 title.
Start in karting and fast rise through the ranks
In the city of Brasilia, Piquet Jr attended American school until he was 16. He left the school as a teenager to become a full-time racing driver. Nelson made his first steps in racing as a kid in 1993 and competed in karting until 2001 when he stepped into the Formula 3 Sudamericana. As his father was rich enough, Nelsinho had his own team, a practice he continued until he left GP2 Series.
South American F3 champion in 2002, Britishh F3 champion in 2004
In 2002 he became Formula 3 Sudamericana champion, winning 13 of 17 races. The following year, Nelson Piquet Jr. moved to the United Kingdom to compete in British Formula 3 Championship, forming Piquet Sports Team. His debut went well; Piquet Jr scored six wins and finished third overall, securing test drive for Williams Formula 1 team.
In 2004, Nelson Piquet Jr. again claimed six victories in British Formula 3 Championship, what was enough to bring him the championship title.
GP2 Series runner-up
He was ready to continue progressing, so GP2 Series was the next challenge. The first season hasn’t gone well for the young Brazilian. In 2005, he scored only one win finishing 8th in the final standings. After gaining experience, in 2006, Nelson Piquet Jr. became GP2 Series’ runner-up scoring four wins, losing the title in the battle with future Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton. The same year, he debuted at 24 Hours of Le Mans finishing 4th in GT1 class, while he was the winner of famous Mil Milhas race in Brazil.
Formula 1 debut with Renault
Nelson Piquet Jr. entered Formula 1 in 2007, as a test and reserve pilot of Renault team. He was promoted to Renault Formula 1 team racing driver in 2008, to drive alongside double World champion Fernando Alonso. As it was expected, Piquet Jr. had a hard time. Nelsinho was forced to retire in many races, but scored 19 points, finishing the season in 12th position. His best result was second place at German Grand Prix at Hockenheim.
The Brazilian was under huge pressure in 2008, but Renault decided to retain his services in 2009. The start of the season was disappointing. Piquet Jr. failed to make past first qualifying round in first three races, and after 10 races his best results was 10th place at Bahrain Grand Prix. After Hungarian Grand Prix, Renault lost patience and decided to part ways with Piquet Jr. as he failed to score a single point. Later, he accused the team manager Flavio Briatore of being incompetent to work in Formula and said that Alonso always had a better status in the team.
In the center of a scandal
The same year, Nelson Piquet Jr. was in the center of a scandal that shook Formula 1. He was accused by FIA for the deliberate crash of his car at 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, in order to benefit his teammate. Piquet stated that he did it deliberately after he had been asked by Renault’s team principal Flavio Briatore and chief engineer Pat Symonds.
Renault F1 was charged with conspiracy and race fixing, but both team and Briatore stated they would initiate a criminal case against Piquet for making false allegations and blackmail. Surprisingly, just a couple of days after that statement, Renault announced they would not contest the charges, and that both Briatore and Symonds had left the team.
Piquet’s Formula 1 career was finished after this, despite him having contacts with several teams, including Force India.
Four years in NASCAR series
In 2010, Nelson Piquet Jr. announced that he will drive in NASCAR. In his first season, he changed many teams competing in Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide Series, but the results were far below expectations. Things improved in 2011. Driving for Kevin Harvick Incorporated in Camping World Truck Series, Nelsinho Piquet finished the season in 10th place and was a runner-up for Rookie of the Year award.
In 2012, Piquet stayed in NASCAR Trucks Series but switched for Turner Motorsports team. Piquet again improved, finishing 7th overall and claiming two race wins in 22 starts, becoming the first Brazilian who managed to win a NASCAR national touring series event.
A year later, Nelsinho moved to Nationwide Series for a full season. He failed to win a race from 33 starts and finished 12th overall. Later that year, he was fined $ 10.000 and put on probation until the end of the season after comments on the social media which were described as homophobic. In 2014, his final year in NASCAR, he finally debuted in Sprint Cup Series driving for Randy Humphrey Racing, finishing 53rd at Watkins Glen.
Good episode in Global Rallycross Challenge
Realizing that NASCAR is not well-suited for him, in 2014, Nelson Piquet Jr. spent some time in Blancpain Sprint Cup and with SH racing in the Global Rallycross Challenge in which he did surprisingly well, finishing 4th at the end of the season.
Video: Onboard with Piquet Jr in Battersea, London ePrix 2015
The first champion of Formula E
In the meantime, Piquet Jr. was hired by the Chinese NEXTEV Racing Team in the new racing series FIA Formula E. In the first edition of the championship, the Brazilian managed to win the title in 2015, claiming two ePrix victories, in Long Beach and in Moscow.
At the end of the season, he was only one point ahead of Sebastien Buemi and this title is definitely the highlight of Piquet’s career so far.
Disappointing second season in Formula E
The following season in Formula E wasn't as good. The Brazilian failed to score a win and dropped to the 15th place in the Championship what was a huge disappointment.
During 2016, Piquet Jr also raced part-time in other series, including the World Endurance Championship with Rebellion Racing, Global Rallycross Championship, and NASCAR Xfinity Series.
Disqualification from a podium at Le Mans 24h
Formula E remained Nelson's priority and he stayed with NextEV NIO team in the season 2016-2017. He slightly improved his performance to finish 11th in the final standings.
Parallel to Formula E commitments, Piquet Jr continued to race part-time in the FIA WEC with Rebellion. The highlight of the season was the third place overall at Le Mans 24 Hours but the team was disqualified after the race. Later in the season, he scored three podiums in LMP2 class.
Joining Jaguar for the fourth Formula E season
Nelsinho changed the team for the fourth season of the Formula E (2017-2018), joining Panasonic Jaguar Racing. He improved his results compared to the previous two seasons but still was missing podiums, finishing in the fourth place three times. After twelve races, he was ninth in the points.