This month’s magazine reflects the best and worst of Nelson Piquet Sr. Our cover story, on BMW’s peaks-and-troughs record in Formula 1, presents Piquet the driver, a man determined to unleash the potential of Paul Rosche’s four-cylinder turbo. His work ethic as a test driver and his wily racecraft secured BMW its only F1 World Championship in Gordon Murray’s Brabham BT52 masterpiece in 1983. But 26 years later, the other side of Nelson Piquet has reared its head.
As Nigel Roebuck writes in his Reflections column this month, we have no desire to defend or condone Renault’s actions at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. Although a paltry two-year suspended sentence for the team highlights once again the perversity of McLaren’s $100 million penalty for a lesser crime two years ago, Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds deserve their bans from FIA events for their reprehensible actions. Earlier this year we lauded Briatore for his pragmatic approach to team management, while understanding only too well he was far from angelic. But like so many ‘untouchables’ from history, his arrogance finally caught up with him.
As for Symonds, this popular racing man should be remembered for his brilliance as a strategist – how he and Fernando Alonso took on and beat the Michael Schumacher/Ross Brawn super-team in 2006 in a straight fight. Admittedly, he and Briatore have always been shadowed by accusations regarding the use of traction control at Benetton in 1994, but still Symonds commanded great respect in the paddock. Now his name will be synonymous with a shady act of cheating unworthy of such a fine engineer. What a terrible shame.
But three-time World Champion Piquet emerges from this just as badly. By turning whistle-blower as an act of cruel revenge on Briatore, he has shredded his own son’s career. Admittedly, Nelsinho has made a pretty good job of that himself in the past two seasons. But now, thanks to the advice of his old man, his reputation is shot – and as his post-hearing statement proves, he knows it.
In the wake of the revelations, another ex-F1 driver was asked what he would have done in similar circumstances. He answered honestly, saying that if his drive was at stake he could not be sure he would have said no. Sadly, such a view is not as shocking as it should be today. Somewhere down the line, we’ve gone horribly wrong.
So Lotus is returning to Grand Prix racing. Technical chief Mike Gascoyne made it clear that this wasn’t Team Lotus, but something new, something different. Too right it is. So why call it Lotus?
Yes, the Malaysian link has given Gascoyne and co the right to use the Lotus badge, but in reality the only connection with Colin Chapman’s team is that it’s based in Norfolk. Trace the origins of Brawn GP back through the Honda and BAR years, and the family tree starts at Tyrrell. But it would have been pointless and cynical for Ross Brawn to use that name in 2009. This was a fresh start and the name of the team reflected that. Brawn had no desire or need to piggyback history.
Others have done so in the past, of course. Who can forget the final iteration of Brabham in the early 1990s? It was an insult to a great team, and the name and its reputation should have been left in the past. Whatever happens next year, whether this new team is at the back of the grid or the front, the same is true of the name Lotus.
Damien Smith, Editor