Legends: Nelson Piquet
When it comes to lists of Top 10 all-time Formula 1 drivers, the usual names always crop up: Fangio, Clark, Stewart, Moss, Prost, Lauda, Senna and Schumacher. Yet one guy, who won three World Championships, is rarely included – Nelson Piquet.
Why is that? Maybe its because he was a joker, and lived a very laid back life, and the fact that he didn’t seem to care, made others care little about him. What is he remembered for, three world titles, or fighting Eliseo Salazar in 1982?
When asked what winning the World Championship meant to him, his answer was; “it changes nothing. I still wake up in the morning, I am hungry to eat, and I fart. Just like everyone else.”
Or his view of Monaco, a circuit he hated. “It’s like racing a motorcycle around your living room.”
Even in those days, he was not a PR dream, and wound many people up, including his Brabham boss Bernie Ecclestone. But he was an extraordinary test driver, happy to pound around Silverstone for days. “I’m at my best when it’s a day full of laps, and just the Silverstone rabbits watching me…”
You cannot argue with his stats though: 23 wins, 60 podiums, 24 pole positions and 23 fastest laps. He also won championships against Alan Jones, Lauda, Prost, Mansell, Senna and Rosberg – strong opposition.
But the joker in him is still there. At Interlagos recently, for the Brazilian Grand Prix, he met up with his old foe Salazar. Both had suffered significant leg injuries in Indycar accidents since their F1 days, yet for fun they re-enacted the famous Hockenheim fight. They couldn’t raise their legs as high as they could in 1982, but they had a laugh. If only there were photographers that captured that.
by Andy Hallbery