To compete in this day and age of F1, you have to be many things.
Ridiculously fit and healthy to cope with the masses of G-Force put upon your body during a race weekend, not to mention a good control over your bladder!
You need a strong and consistent mental attitude, focused fully on keeping all four wheels on the track and heading in the right direction.
Most importantly, however, you also need to have a competitive pace relative to your teammate. Fail and it’s only a matter of time until you’re shown the door.
Zanardi and the unfortunate, Christian Klien, are names that come to mind; all three drivers who showed promising pace in parts, but never quite got a strong foothold on F1 eventually being shown up by their superior teammates.
What makes it doubly as difficult to make an impression is if you are a rookie placed in a team with a highly recommended teammate.
Lewis Hamilton showed last year that it is possible to come straight in and get the job in season one. Villenueve did the same and to a lesser extent David Coulthard.
A career can effectively be over after just one full season in F1 – or even half a season depending on quality or lack there of – if you cannot show emerging talent or immediate pace.
It is highly important for any rookies to force others to take note and give their team or other teams reasons to keep them in motor sports elite championship.
Last year, Heikki Kovalinen was somewhat surprisingly given a seat with reigning champions Renault.
Early signs throughout the season suggested it was the catastrophic decision made by the team.
He was outclassed, outpaced and out pointed by his experienced yet diminishing team mate Fisichella and showed very little cause for his place within the sport.
Midway through the season, however, something happened.
Maybe it was a kick up the rear that he definitely needed; maybe it just took him time to adapt to the Renault car beneath him.
Whatever it was, he finished the season strongly, embarrassing his teammate in the process and earning him a place with McLaren for the 2008 season in his switch with former Renault champion Alonso.
Possibly, Piquet Jr., after his improved performance in Magny Cours will follow suit.
He can take comfort from seeing Heikki turning a season around, hopefully transferring it to turning his own season on its head.
Before the French Grand Prix, talks of his impending departure from the Renault team midway through the season must have sent shivers down his spine, alarm bells ringing, and the impetus to improve he desperately needed.
Fail to succeed and improve and most definitely the time were running out before his immediate departure.
His start to the season was an absolute nightmare, a demoralizing mess.
Drivers in less competitive cars, Coulthard, Webber, Trulli and Glock, to name a few, outpaced him and he was seemingly stuck in a midfield rut.
You had to wonder whether he would get the heave ho from his team long before the conclusion of his season.
After all would Renault gain the expected fourth place in the constructor’s championship, ahead of Red Bull and Toyota if his race weekends yielded very little in manner of points?
Piquet’s French performance will do wonders for his self-belief and confidence, and also in turn his immediate career prospects.
To manage a controlled race, emerging at the finish line just a few seconds behind his gifted teammate will no doubt keep the heat from his doubters off for a little while longer.
Yes, his first point’s finish of the season by his standards was a massive triumph over adversity.
The question now is, can he follow the same route Kovalinen paved for himself last season and keep himself within the confines of Formula 1?
Or will he conclude his career in lower divisions, highly unlikely to return to the top of his field?
Does he have that killer instinct in him to succeed and continue to close in on his experienced and talented teammate?
At the moment I still think not.
He has a mighty climb ahead of him and his inexperience may cause negative ramifications.
I often wonder whether his introduction to the sport was more involved with his family connections rather than his sporting talent.
Nico Rosberg was a driver in recent years who followed family into the sport and wowed the spectators with his raw pace and determination. Thus far, he has shown tremendous promise and put away any talk of his place in the sport being advantaged by his bloodline.
It would seem that unless Piquet Jr. can revitalize his season and gain consistent points finishes, he could come to live with that tag; a nervous son hoping to emulate his fathers illustrious career.
A part of me hopes he can show more promise and give the doubters something hard to swallow, but as was said about Christian Klien a couple of years ago, another part of me thinks that maybe he needed more time to mature in lower divisions, before being given a premature advance to the top ranks.
Such decisions to advance drivers quickly through the rankings has in the past ended F1 careers rapidly because drivers don’t have enough time to adapt and flourish in such a competitive environment.
Whichever way he will continue to be under increased pressure and a large spotlight as he tries to prove his worth within the 2008 season.
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