Nelson PIiquet won his third world title in 1987, but his success has always been tainted by suggestions that he did not deserve it Yet is that really fair? He did adopt a conservative route to the title based on consistency, but does that make him undeserving?
Certainly, Nigel Mansell had the edge on his team-mate in terms of pure speed over the course of the season: Mansell took eight pole positions to Piquet’s four, and six wins to the Brazilian’s three.
What made the difference in the end was Nelson’s string of seven second places and just one retirement, compared to Nigel’s five before Suzuka, when a crash ruled him out of the final two races. But don’t forget that Piquet missed Imola after a dreadful practice shunt at Tamburello, one which many believe affected him for ever after.
Piquet and Mansell’s open animosity began as soon as Nelson joined Williams in 1986 firm in the belief that he was the team’s number one. He didn’t account for a fiery and talented teammate who refused to accept a secondary role.
Frank Dernie dispels any suggestion that Piquet had become lazy by 1987: “Nelson used to do a lot of testing. What disappointed him was that Nigel refused to do much, then would take Nelson’s set-up and race him with it.
“You had this situation where Nelson was pissed off because he thought the only reason Nigel was quick was because he had taken advantage of his hard work, and Nigel thought Nelson was a bit of a wuss because he didn’t want to race. Nelson wanted to perfect a set-up and then win by driving as slowly as possible, not by racing his team-mate.”
A case of two completely different characters in an environment where they were allowed to just get on with it. But it wasn’t fun for the team.
Dernie: ‘The situation was pretty bad. Patrick [Head] and I used to race-engineer the cars in those days — there was no such thing as specific race engineers back then. I worked Nelson’s car, while Patrick looked after Nigel’s. Often we had to wait until they had gone before we could discuss the cars. Both of them wanted to keep anything they discovered a secret from the other. It was fairly tedious.”