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How good was Nelson Piquet?


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#1 George Costanza

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Posted 03 August 2020 - 22:08

Just how good was Nelson Piquet? When compared to Prost or Senna, I think he gets a little overlooked.

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#2 PlatenGlass

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Posted 03 August 2020 - 22:37

I think he lost some of his reputation when he came up against Mansell at Williams. Mansell was generally seen as the better driver in both 1986 and 1987 (so before the Imola shunt anyway), even though Piquet took a title and Mansell didn't in that period.

 

He was a top driver of the day, but Prost and Senna are seen as better and I think that's reasonable. Mansell arguably too despite the one title. But titles can hinge on the smallest of things and Mansell won more races than Piquet.



#3 PlayboyRacer

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Posted 03 August 2020 - 23:14

In his prime... very good. One of the most underrated World Champions in history imo.

#4 john aston

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 06:11

Just look at his results - surely they tell you nearly everything you need to know ?  To remind you - 23 Grands Prix , 3 world championships . Poor drivers don't win world championships , and Piquet won three .

 

He was as good as it gets - try listening to podcasts from Frank Dernie and Gordon Murray and you will be left in no doubt that he was absolutely top drawer, very hard working and diligent in understanding how the car worked . So not entirely like his erstwhile team mate then , you know the chap , the one with two championships fewer ...    



#5 ensign14

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 06:25

...but one more Indycar title...



#6 Michael Ferner

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 07:19

The problem with Piquet is that he could be quite indifferent, that was part of his personality. He didn't care what people thought about him, he was all about having as much fun as possible in life, and if motor racing got in the way it was liable to suffer. That doesn't mean he wasn't totally professional about racing, but he most probably lacked the work ethics of a Niki Lauda, or Ayrton Senna, to say nothing of Michael Schumacher, perhaps the polar opposite of Piquet as a driver. To use a cliché, Piquet was perhaps the last of the playboy racers of the romantic age. His talent was such that it took him to three titles with the least possible effort. I'm sure he doesn't care one bit if lesser people think his titles were "not convincing", and that he wasn't really "head and shoulders" in any of his championship years. To win those championships, and still have so much fun on the side was what mattered, not the petty criticism from Mansell or Senna fans. If you'd ask him whether he would rather have liked to have had a career like Senna, he'd probably not stop laughing for days!



#7 Gary Davies

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 07:47

Not sure Mrs Mansell likes him a lot.



#8 john aston

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 08:04

Piquet reputably put in a huge amount of effort Michael . He also specialised in effective use of mind games,, especially the ones which suggested to his opposition that he wasn't entirely serious... Looked like it worked ok for him . And no , he didn't have an Indy car title - I guess he can live with that....



#9 Myhinpaa

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 08:52

Mind games, when Piquet heard that Williams teammate Mansell hadn't given his mechanics a Christmas bonus.., he paid them the same as he had to his own mechanics.

 

THAT overtake of Senna in Hungary 1986 : https://youtu.be/AMKPJlV-srE?t=100  (Anyone who can do that is one of the greats in my book)

 

Some more examples of his mischief : https://youtu.be/PNcOdgg4j1c



#10 absinthedude

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 09:00

Piquet is an interesting one. He certainly employed mind games more than other drivers of his era, which probably surprised people. Someone like Mansell would have been totally surprised by that because to him, racing was going as fast as possible...which certainly included working with the engineers, testing and so on...but mostly meant going balls-out as much as possible. Piquet brought a different aspect to his game by having off-track games...playing with the press/journalists as much as his fellow drivers. There's also the ....cough...strong rumour that one of his titles was won in an illegal car....

 

But that's not to say Piquet wasn't a top drawer driver. If Prost (also a player of mind games) and Senna were that little better, Nelson was still bloody quick and bloody good. At least until his San Marino accident affected his ability to judge distances. But he later redeemed himself at Benetton, enjoying a late career resurgence and proving that he still had it.

 

I believe Mansell was faster, as we saw in 1986/87 and that rattled Nelson. But in his heyday, Nelson was definitely one of the top guys. Helped by having lesser team mates at Brabham perhaps but he still drove those cars to those wins. 

 

I am sure Mrs. Mansell has no time for him after his insult against her, which Nelson saw as a joke to rib NIgel with. It certainly got on Nigel's nerves. But it's good to see that in recent years he and Nelson appear to have buried the hatchet. They say complimentary things about each other in interviews and even filmed an advert for Ford together recently. 



#11 Charlieman

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 09:49

I believe Mansell was faster, as we saw in 1986/87 and that rattled Nelson. But in his heyday, Nelson was definitely one of the top guys. Helped by having lesser team mates at Brabham perhaps but he still drove those cars to those wins. 

For a couple of years, the absence of a solid number two driver at Brabham just gave away points to the opposition.

 

I saw him in F3 and it was obvious that he'd make it to F1 along with a few others. You never could guess how well a driver would make the switch to the next level, but Piquet adapted well. Second in the WDC in his first 'proper' season in a fast, reliable car, after the try-outs and the Brabham-Alfa? That seems like a quick, determined driver to me.



#12 SophieB

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 11:11

I find it fitting and pleasing that assessments of his talent seem as difficult to reach consensus on as his character. Always the most enigmatic/hard to read of world champions on every level for me.



#13 garoidb

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 12:27

Piquet reputably put in a huge amount of effort Michael . He also specialised in effective use of mind games,, especially the ones which suggested to his opposition that he wasn't entirely serious... Looked like it worked ok for him . And no , he didn't have an Indy car title - I guess he can live with that....

 

Yes, team personnel from Brabham and Williams have highlighted this (including Gordon Murray in a recent Motorsport podcast - or at least one I listened to recently). He just didn't have a serious demeanor. 


Edited by garoidb, 04 August 2020 - 12:27.


#14 Izzyeviel

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 13:21

He was fairly great. He always had more intelligence than speed. He was never many peoples favourite, but he was one of those guys that when he won you thought, 'he deserved it'

 

Should've won the title in 86, lost two seasons in a dog of a Lotus, probably lost another title or two due to Brabhams inability to build a reliable car



#15 rl1856

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 13:40

A combination of Head and Heart separates champions from the rest.    This thread and the names referenced are prime examples.  NQ was one of the greats, but maybe suffers a bit in retrospect by peaking between Lauda and Senna/Prost.



#16 Roger Clark

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 14:23

Do we not need to consider separately his career before and after Imola 1987?



#17 sstiel

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 14:30

https://www.belfastt...24.html<br><br>https://www.motorspo...ime-f1-champion



#18 PlatenGlass

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 14:35

I think most people would put him outside the top 10 of all time greats (with Prost and Senna inside) but easily in the 11 to 20 range (along with Mansell). I think the debate is whether you put him higher or lower within this range.

Edited by PlatenGlass, 04 August 2020 - 14:36.


#19 PayasYouRace

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 14:55

I think at the start of the 80s you could have been justified in calling him the best in F1, especially with Lauda retired for the first time. By the end of the decade he was the fourth of the big four, behind Prost, Senna and Mansell.

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#20 KWSN - DSM

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 15:10

I think at the start of the 80s you could have been justified in calling him the best in F1, especially with Lauda retired for the first time. By the end of the decade he was the fourth of the big four, behind Prost, Senna and Mansell.

 

He was better than Mansell.



#21 garoidb

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 15:20

He was better than Mansell.

 

If the argument is that, in 1989, Mansell was considered to currently be the better driver then that may be true. I didn't think it, but others could have. However, I don't think Mansell's career up to the end of 1989 could be considered superior to Piquet's up to that point.


Edited by garoidb, 04 August 2020 - 15:20.


#22 KWSN - DSM

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 16:33

If the argument is that, in 1989, Mansell was considered to currently be the better driver then that may be true. I didn't think it, but others could have. However, I don't think Mansell's career up to the end of 1989 could be considered superior to Piquet's up to that point.

 

Maybe I am looking at this wrong, or did not understand the question I answered.

 

I see this thread as being 'How good was Nelson Piquet when looking at his full career' - And over his full career, as well as in ultimate talent, Piquet was always better than Mansell - If the question I answered was 'How was Piquet and Mansell seen respectively in 1989' then I should not have answered, since it fall outside what I thought the thread was about.



#23 garoidb

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 16:49

Maybe I am looking at this wrong, or did not understand the question I answered.

 

I see this thread as being 'How good was Nelson Piquet when looking at his full career' - And over his full career, as well as in ultimate talent, Piquet was always better than Mansell - If the question I answered was 'How was Piquet and Mansell seen respectively in 1989' then I should not have answered, since it fall outside what I thought the thread was about.

 

I probably should have also quoted the post before yours (that you quoted), as I was partially responding to the comments about the end of the decade in that post.



#24 George Costanza

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 16:49

Excellent answers everyone. Nelson's was indeed a little underrated compared to the world champions. Was he the fastest? Perhaps not.

#25 PayasYouRace

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 16:50

He was better than Mansell.


It’s not that simple. By the time they were teammates, they’d crossed over.

#26 Rediscoveryx

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 17:01

Excellent answers everyone. Nelson's was indeed a little underrated compared to the world champions. Was he the fastest? Perhaps not.


Actually, I thought he was pretty darn quick as well up until, say, 1985. Thereafter he kind of morphed into quick-but-not-deadly qualifier/consistent racer. Poor man’s Alain Prost in some sense.

#27 D-Type

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 17:11

How good was he?  Good enough to win three World Championships.

However, his off-track antics, particularly the insult to Rosanne Mansell, make it highly questionable whether he can be classed as a "great".

 

 

Edit:  Roxanne corrected to Rosanne


Edited by D-Type, 04 August 2020 - 22:02.


#28 KWSN - DSM

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 17:12

It’s not that simple. By the time they were teammates, they’d crossed over.

 

https://forums.autos...quet/?p=9162696



#29 garoidb

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 17:13

Actually, I thought he was pretty darn quick as well up until, say, 1985. Thereafter he kind of morphed into quick-but-not-deadly qualifier/consistent racer. Poor man’s Alain Prost in some sense.

 

Lauda and Prost made the same transition, and all three showed it to be effective. Prost is a few years younger so he did it later. 



#30 George Costanza

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 17:44

Actually, I thought he was pretty darn quick as well up until, say, 1985. Thereafter he kind of morphed into quick-but-not-deadly qualifier/consistent racer. Poor man’s Alain Prost in some sense.

I wonder how would he would have done if he was teammates with Alain? Would he be his equal, like Ayrton was?

Let's say they were teammates in 1986 at Williams or McLaren in '88.

Edited by George Costanza, 04 August 2020 - 17:46.


#31 TennisUK

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 17:48

The problem with Piquet is that he could be quite indifferent, that was part of his personality. He didn't care what people thought about him, he was all about having as much fun as possible in life, and if motor racing got in the way it was liable to suffer. That doesn't mean he wasn't totally professional about racing, but he most probably lacked the work ethics of a Niki Lauda, or Ayrton Senna, to say nothing of Michael Schumacher, perhaps the polar opposite of Piquet as a driver. To use a cliché, Piquet was perhaps the last of the playboy racers of the romantic age. His talent was such that it took him to three titles with the least possible effort. I'm sure he doesn't care one bit if lesser people think his titles were "not convincing", and that he wasn't really "head and shoulders" in any of his championship years. To win those championships, and still have so much fun on the side was what mattered, not the petty criticism from Mansell or Senna fans. If you'd ask him whether he would rather have liked to have had a career like Senna, he'd probably not stop laughing for days!

I think this is the common perception, but I don't think it's accurate. For sure, he knew there was a lot more to life than F1, and didn't appear to take many things very seriously, but he had a reputation within a team (well, probably not Lotus) of being an incredibly hard worker. He was supposedly fastidious when it came to car development and put in a lot of miles testing. The Williams active ride programme in 1987 was virtually all him working with Dernie et al - Mansell wasn't interested - but Piquet put the hours in because he could see it had potential. He was loved by his mechanics at Williams and Brabham. When he saw something wasn't really worth it, his head dropped - as in 1988 and 1989 - when he was already rich and a triple world champion, of course. It's important to split his career into pre and post Imola 1987.

 

Flavio's idea of putting him on a per-point retainer was a master stroke, too. It appealed to his other main interest, money.

 

I pretty much can't stand him as a man, but he was a very, very hard worker and on his day incredibly quick.



#32 TennisUK

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 17:49

I wonder how would he would have done if he was teammates with Alain? Would he be his equal, like Ayrton was?

Let's say they were teammates in 1986 at Williams or McLaren in '88.

I think they have more in common than they don't. Both had great race craft, were very political and were far, far faster than people noticed.



#33 George Costanza

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 17:52

Of the modern drivers, I think Fernando Alonso is fairly similar to Nelson Piquet, both very political and can do mind games pretty well to their advantage.

But would you put Niki Lauda above Nelson or below? For me that's a tough call.

Edited by George Costanza, 04 August 2020 - 17:53.


#34 PlatenGlass

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 18:58

Of the modern drivers, I think Fernando Alonso is fairly similar to Nelson Piquet, both very political and can do mind games pretty well to their advantage.

But would you put Niki Lauda above Nelson or below? For me that's a tough call.

I think Lauda is generally rated higher than Piquet, whether that's fair or not. Lauda is more likely to make an all-time top 10. But arguably he was fortunate to miss other all-time greats while at his peak. I think the accident in 1976 and his comeback from it winning the title in 1977, and also his comeback from retirement which led to another title make his narrative more compelling.


Edited by PlatenGlass, 04 August 2020 - 22:38.


#35 F1matt

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 19:28

If Nelson Piquet had walked away from the sport when he left Williams as a 3 time world champ he would have been remembered in higher esteem, I find it a strange decision to carry on if his eye issues were as bad as he claimed, he must have made plenty of money so why bother with Lotus and Benetton if you can't drive due to injuries, as for switching to ovals after that is bonkers...



#36 PlatenGlass

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 19:38

If Nelson Piquet had walked away from the sport when he left Williams as a 3 time world champ he would have been remembered in higher esteem, I find it a strange decision to carry on if his eye issues were as bad as he claimed, he must have made plenty of money so why bother with Lotus and Benetton if you can't drive due to injuries, as for switching to ovals after that is bonkers...

Well there is the alternative view that it only came out years later as an excuse. Not that I'm necessarily endorsing that view!

#37 PlayboyRacer

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 20:42

I think most people would put him outside the top 10 of all time greats (with Prost and Senna inside) but easily in the 11 to 20 range (along with Mansell). I think the debate is whether you put him higher or lower within this range.

Spot on imo.

#38 Parker1

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 21:46

Clearly piquet was a fantastic driver and his record speaks for its self . However he allways came across as an arrogant person who you could simply hate on site just for being who he was .  History tells us that he had a great early and mid carrier and a latter devoted to making money which unfortunately resulted in terrible injuries to his legs.  



#39 john aston

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Posted 05 August 2020 - 06:13

Let's  not degenerate into Racing Comments style remarks,  eh ?  .



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#40 Myhinpaa

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Posted 05 August 2020 - 09:13

Gordon Murray adds Piquet to Lauda and Senna when mentioning naturally gifted drivers who understood what a car was doing. (But adds "probably")

 

https://youtu.be/hySbZVhroWk?t=1410

 

Frank Dernie relates to the difference between Piquet and Mansell in terms of dedication, attitude and mentality. (Example from developing the active suspension Williams)

 

https://youtu.be/bWRQDbB0EJU?t=1260   (I thinks it clear who he rates the most....., no coincidence that Piquet got 3 WDC vs. Mansell's 1)

 

Here he speaks about why the best drivers are introverts, he mentions Piquet together with Schumacher, Prost and Senna : https://youtu.be/mhJbnx660OI?t=200

 

And finally on how Piquet was affected by his accident at Imola in '87, and finally made Mansell his "equal" : https://youtu.be/mhJbnx660OI?t=830



#41 Michael Ferner

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Posted 05 August 2020 - 13:06

Piquet reputably put in a huge amount of effort Michael ...



I think this is the common perception, but I don't think it's accurate...


To avoid misunderstandings,I didn't mean to say he wasn't totally committed when needed, but his life was not consumed by motor racing in the way Senna or Schumacher, for example, were, to the exclusion of nearly everything else - I don't think you could have had more than a very basic conversation with them about anything other than racing. Not so Piquet, but that doesn't mean he wasn't a very hard worker when it was required. In fact, he may be the one driver with the híghest testing mileage of all!!

#42 kayemod

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Posted 05 August 2020 - 13:29

I was always a Piquet fan, and one thing that says a lot to me is that Denis Jenkinson wrote quite a few times in the years he was at his best, that Nelson was his favourite current driver. and Jenks was usually not all that free with praise where F1 drivers were concerned. Also, in Maurice Hamilton's book Williams, it's clear from quotes that Frank rated Nelson very highly as well. I got the impression that Frank was even quite fond of him as a man. Neither DSJ or Frank would have been easy men to impress.


Edited by kayemod, 05 August 2020 - 15:59.


#43 Doug Nye

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Posted 05 August 2020 - 14:12

A Brabham team member when asked how he rated 'Pie-crust': "Magic - once he put his mind to the job..."

 

A Williams team member when asked how he rated him: "Magic - at winding up Nigel..."

 

​A Lotus team member when asked how he rated him: "A total, time-wasting f------ w------r!"

 

Plainly, commitment was the key.

 

DCN



#44 AJCee

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Posted 05 August 2020 - 15:27

In 1985 Niki Lauda rated Nelson Piquet as “the best driver in the world”.
I think it would be fair to say that he is definitely someone whose career can be rated differently depending on whether you focus on one particular period or not. Around 1983/4/5 few would have argued that he wasn’t top notch.
Some of the jokes, especially the one in the pit lane in Zolder 1981, saw my liking of him wane somewhat.

#45 PlatenGlass

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Posted 05 August 2020 - 19:51

 

 

And finally on how Piquet was affected by his accident at Imola in '87, and finally made Mansell his "equal" : https://youtu.be/mhJbnx660OI?t=830

This just shows his bias to be honest.



#46 absinthedude

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Posted 06 August 2020 - 07:35

Certainly Piquet was at his best when he was motivated, when his mind was on the job. In years or even races where his car wasn't competitive he would switch off a bit. Sometimes we talk of drivers who need the car to be "just so" in order to do their best....maybe Vettel is somewhat similar. 

 

Which is why the Brabham guys would say he was "magic...when he put his mind to it"...and why the Lotus guys would be disappointed. They knew nothing of his vision problems post San-Marino 1987 and thought they were hiring a fully fit 3x and reigning WDC. Equally Nelson thought he was joining a team ready to deliver him a good crack at a fourth WDC. What Nelson found was a car barely capable of fighting for 3rd place on it's very best days, considerably off the pace of McLaren, Ferrari and even Benetton. Also a team in terminal decline with bad management. That lead Nelson to be disinterested, hence not a favourite of the Lotus guys.

 

Flav did indeed hit on a stroke of genius when he hired Piquet with a low retainer and bonus money for points....was it $100k per point? Which bagged him a cool $4.3 million for 1990 - a very good salary for an F1 driver then...a well as two victories and 3rd in the WDC. 

 

I do think that pretty much everyone was surprised when Mansell proved capable of beating him in 1986. Nigel had shown flashes of speed and bags of courage in his Lotus days but after Colin Chapman died and Peter Warr took over he lost the wind in his sales. Going from a team principal who believed in him sufficiently to pay off his mortgage to one who publicly stated "Nigel Mansell will never win a grand prix while I have  a hole in my backside" would have affected him. Once he established himself against Keke and started winning, the floodgates opened. Mansell was braver, faster...but better? 



#47 wolf sun

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Posted 06 August 2020 - 09:32

Whatever happened to the hole then?  :cat:



#48 10kDA

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Posted 06 August 2020 - 11:11

Relocated, about halfway down his arm.



#49 F1matt

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Posted 06 August 2020 - 13:51

Certainly Piquet was at his best when he was motivated, when his mind was on the job. In years or even races where his car wasn't competitive he would switch off a bit. Sometimes we talk of drivers who need the car to be "just so" in order to do their best....maybe Vettel is somewhat similar. 

 

Which is why the Brabham guys would say he was "magic...when he put his mind to it"...and why the Lotus guys would be disappointed. They knew nothing of his vision problems post San-Marino 1987 and thought they were hiring a fully fit 3x and reigning WDC. Equally Nelson thought he was joining a team ready to deliver him a good crack at a fourth WDC. What Nelson found was a car barely capable of fighting for 3rd place on it's very best days, considerably off the pace of McLaren, Ferrari and even Benetton. Also a team in terminal decline with bad management. That lead Nelson to be disinterested, hence not a favourite of the Lotus guys.

 

Flav did indeed hit on a stroke of genius when he hired Piquet with a low retainer and bonus money for points....was it $100k per point? Which bagged him a cool $4.3 million for 1990 - a very good salary for an F1 driver then...a well as two victories and 3rd in the WDC. 

 

I do think that pretty much everyone was surprised when Mansell proved capable of beating him in 1986. Nigel had shown flashes of speed and bags of courage in his Lotus days but after Colin Chapman died and Peter Warr took over he lost the wind in his sales. Going from a team principal who believed in him sufficiently to pay off his mortgage to one who publicly stated "Nigel Mansell will never win a grand prix while I have  a hole in my backside" would have affected him. Once he established himself against Keke and started winning, the floodgates opened. Mansell was braver, faster...but better? 

There is no way he joined Lotus with a 4th title in mind, Senna at his best could only muster a few wins per season by then and his team mates were nowhere, it was obvious the team was in decline only Senna kept them punching above their weight. If he thought he could win a title with them he clearly hit his head harder than he thought. 
 



#50 garoidb

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Posted 06 August 2020 - 14:03

There is no way he joined Lotus with a 4th title in mind, Senna at his best could only muster a few wins per season by then and his team mates were nowhere, it was obvious the team was in decline only Senna kept them punching above their weight. If he thought he could win a title with them he clearly hit his head harder than he thought. 
 

 

I think you are using too much hindsight about the team there, and you are assuming Piquet rated Senna. If the Lotus had been competitive with the McLaren, he could have hoped that being the focus of the team could have given him the edge over the pair of them.