Career of triple F1 champion Nelson Piquet
Nelson Piquet (born in Rio de Janerio) took up tennis on the advice of his father. Although he showed promise in tournaments he competed in, he would eventually start a career in motor racing. After going through karting, British F3 and other racing series, he found his way up to F1.
Hockenheim 1978: F1 debut with Ensign
Piquet made his debut at Germany’s Hockenheim circuit in 1978 with Ensign. The Brazilian qualified 21st on the grid and retired from the race with an engine failure.
1978: Two team changes in two months
For the following three races he drove for customer McLaren squad BS Fabrication, securing a ninth place finish in Italy. For the final race of the year in Canada, he moved to Brabham.
Long Beach 1980: First F1 win
Piquet rose to prominence in the 1980 season with Brabham, scoring his first win at Long Beach (USA). He was joined on the podium by countryman Emerson Fittipaldi, who had played a crucial role in his journey to F1.
1980: Runner-up in the standings
Piquet went on to win two more races in the season, in the Netherlands and Italy, to finish second in the championship behind Williams’ Alan Jones.
Las Vegas 1981: Maiden world title
In 1981, Piquet won three races with the modified BT49. In the season finale, the Caesars Palace Grand Prix in Las Vegas, Piquet finished fifth to secure his first F1 title. He beat Williams’ Carlos Reutemann by just a single point.
1982: Brabham moves from Ford to BMW
Piquet raced the Brabham BT50 in 1982, equipped with a new BMW engine. Although the Brazilian managed to win the Canadian Grand Prix, poor reliability of the BMW engine meant he could finish no higher than 11th in the standings.
Rio de Janeiro 1983: First home win
Piquet started the 1983 F1 season with a victory in the opening round in Rio de Janerio, which also happened to be his home race.
1983: Inching closer to the second title
Towards the end of the season, he won back-to-back races at Monza (Italy) and Brands Hatch (UK, European GP) to enter the final round as a championship contender alongside Renault’s Alain Prost and Ferrari driver Rene Arnoux.
Kyalami 1983: Second championship in the bag
The 1983 F1 season finale took place at the Kyalami circuit in South Africa. With both title rivals Prost and Arnoux retiring with engine failures, Piquet cruised to the finishing line in third position – behind teammate Ricardo Patrese and Alfa Romeo’s Andrea de Cesaris – to score his F1 championship. With this triumph, BMW also secured its first and only title as an engine supplier.
1984: Second fiddle to McLaren
Much like 1982, Nelson Piquet was unable to successfully defend his title in ’84. The season was dominated by McLarens of Alain Prost and Niki Lauda, but Piquet managed to pick up two victories in Montreal (Canada) and Detroit (USA) to finish fifth in the championship.
Le Castellet 1985: Last Brabhaim win
In 1985, Piquet won the French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard – his only victory of the year. Also with Brabham’s form declining in succeeding years, it would turn out to be the last victory for the squad.
Le Castellet 1985: Last victory for Brabham
Pictured in this photograph is the podium ceremony of the 1985 French GP. Piquet was joined alongside on the podium by Williams-Honda’s Keke Rosberg and McLaren’s Prost, who would go on to win the championship in ’85. A few days after this race, Piquet’s wife gave birth to their son Piquet Jr, who made his F1 debut in 2009 before finding title success in the inaugural Formula E season half a decade later.
1986: Move to Williams
For the 1986 season, Piquet decided to leave Brabham for Williams. However, just before the start of the season, team boss Frank Williams was injured and that would leave him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Two-and-a-half weeks later, Piquet brought delight to the squad by winning on his Williams debut at Rio.
1986: Titlte contender
With victories at Hockenheim, Hungaroring and Monza, Piquet again found himself in contention for the title.
1986: The four drivers with a shot at the title
This iconic photograph captures the four title contenders of 2017 season: Ayrton Senna, Prost, Nigel Mansell and Piquet.
Adelaide 1986: Missing out on the title
The championship fight went down the wire in Adelaide, by which time Senna was no longer in the hunt. Piquet’s teammate Mansell retired with a tyre failure, while Prost clinched back-to-back titles by winning the race. Piquet finished second in the race, but couldn’t overtake Mansell for second spot in the standings.
Rio 1987: Second season with Mansell
Piquet and Mansell would again fight for the title in ’87, but tensions began to grow between the Williams pair. In the first race of the year, defending champion Prost claimed top honours ahead of Piquet.
1987: Crash at Imola
In the second race of the year, Piquet suffered a horrific crash at Imola and was forced to miss the race on doctor’s advice.
1987: A series of podiums
After the crash, Piquet scored four podiums in five races, including at the Monaco Grand Prix, where he finished second behind Ayrton Senna.
1987: Winning spree
This was followed by a run of three victories in four races between the German and Italian GPs, with the Brazilian only missing out on the top spot in Austria.
1987: Title number 3
Although Mansell was generally the quicker of the two drivers, particularly in qualifying, and won six races in total, he lost the title to Piquet. The Englishman was also forced to miss the last two races of the year due to a qualifying crash at Suzuka. With Mansell unable to take part in the final two rounds, Piquet comfortably won his third championship.
1988/1989: 2 years at Lotus
Amid rising tensions at Williams, Piquet joined Lotus where he was offered a ‘number 1’ role. Although the Lotus was no match to the similarly Honda-powered McLarens, Piquet was able to finish sixth in the championship with three podiums. The 1989 season, however, proved to be much harder, primarily because of the incompetencies of the Judd engine.
1990: Return to winning ways with Benetton
At the start of the new decade, Piquet made his last team switch by joining Benetton. Although McLaren still ran away with the championship, Piquet was able to finish the year on a high by winning the last two races in Japan and Australia.
Montreal 1991: Last F1 win
Piquet stayed with Benetton for the 1991 season, when the clothing brand switched to Pirelli tyres. In the fourth race of the year in Canada, Piquet was steadily running in second place until…
Montreal 1991: Last F1 win
….race leader Mansell suddenly came to a halt on the final lap, gifting him his 23rd and last F1 win.
1991: end to his F1 career
After 207 races and sixth place in the 1991 drivers championship, Piquet retired from the sport as a triple world champion. During the last six races of his Grand Prix career, he was the teammate of Michael Schumacher.
1992: Crash during Indy 500 practice
Piquet attempted to take on the Indy 500 the following year, but suffered a huge crash in practice and that ruled him out of the race. A day after the incident, Piquet’s daughter Julia was born.
1993: Indy 500 comeback
In 1993, Piquet returned to the Indy 500 with Team Menard, qualifying a respectable 13th in a field comprising of 33 cars. Unfortunately, his race came to an early end with a mechanical failure.
1996: Le Mans debut
After Indy 500, Piquet tried his hand in another iconic race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Together with teammates Johnny Cecotto and Danny Sullivan, he finished eighth overall and sixth in class in a McLaren F1 GTR.
1997: Le Mans and first sportscar success
Piquet returned to the Le Mans 24 Hours the following year, but a crash for teammate JJ Lehto led to an unfortunate retirement. However, Piquet did find success in sportscar racing in 1997 by winning a 1000 mile race in Brazil onboard a McLaren F1. Following that victory, Piquet hanged up his racing helmet.