IT CAN never be easy to fill the shoes of a famous parent, but Nelson Angelo Piquet slid into his father's old car as if it had been made for him.
Nelson Piquet snr, three times Formula One world champion, looked on with the naked pride of any doting dad as his 17-year-old son, at the behest of the PR people, coaxed the 1978 British Formula Three Championship- winning car around the circuit here yesterday. Twenty- five years on, Nelsinho has his own British Formula Three car and the word in motor racing circles is that the young Brazilian could be as good as his father. Piquet snr challenges that assertion.
"Nelsinho is better than me," he said. "The way he controls the car in the wet is unbelievable. I'm sure he'll be good enough for Formula One and good enough to be world champion."
Piquet jnr has, so far, been as good as his father's word. Driving for the team Piquet snr set up specifically for him, he dominated last year's South American Formula Three Championship, taking pole position at 16 of the 18 races and winning 13 of them. Piquet snr, intent on stretching his son, brought Nelsinho and the team to England for this season. Piquet jnr became the youngest ever winner of a British Formula Three race on his first visit to Knockhill earlier this month. This track, too, was uncharted territory for him until this Bank Holiday weekend, yet he claimed pole for the two races and won Sunday's event. "The feeling I get seeing what my son is doing is much better than any feeling I had when I was racing," Piquet snr said.
Nelsinho was born in Germany, one of seven children Piquet snr has had with three partners. He was raised in Monaco and moved to Brazil to foster his interest in racing. "My dad put me in a kart when I was eight," he said. "It was fun and I started winning. It went from there." Piquet snr expanded: "He won everything. It seemed natural for him. Every time we moved up he won again."
Piquet snr, whose company manufactures vehicle satellite equipment, returned to Britain with a two-year plan to establish his son's Formula One potential. Now, he admits, he may have to reassess that schedule. "We have just the one car, for Nelsinho, because I'm not interested in running anyone else. When we arrived here the team had no knowledge of the circuits, no data to work from. So I thought it would take us …