By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – Brazilian Nelson Piquet junior says he would welcome former team mate Fernando Alonso in Formula E, should the double Formula One world champion be lured to electric racing in the future.
“I think it would be great,” the 33-year-old told Reuters at the launch of his Jaguar team’s new race car on Wednesday when asked about recent overtures by Formula E founder Alejandro Agag.
“It would be good not just for Formula E but good for Fernando to show people that he’s a true racer and he doesn’t care what he’s racing.”
Agag, always willing to provide an eye-catching headline, has spoken of his eagerness to bring fellow-Spaniard Alonso to his series in 2020.
“I think he’s going to America this season, but definitely for the season after we are going after him,” Agag said at the weekend.
McLaren driver Alonso, 37, is leaving Formula One with a return to the Indianapolis 500 likely after winning Le Mans with Toyota this year.
Piquet and Alonso were team mates at Renault when the Brazilian triggered a major scandal in 2009 with the revelation that he crashed deliberately at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix to bring out a safety car that helped the Spaniard win.
Since then, Piquet has raced in a variety of series and secured his place in the history books as Formula E’s first champion in 2014-15.
Brazilian Felipe Massa, Alonso’s former Ferrari team mate, is Formula E’s big name rookie this year after retiring from Formula One.
Speaking before flying to Sao Paulo for the latest round of the Brazilian touring car championship, Piquet said Formula E was now drawing some serious attention from fans and drivers as well as manufacturers.
Most of those who might once have mocked were not doing so now.
“You still have those guys who don’t accept — the bullies that were bullying back in the day — who don’t accept saying ‘Oh, now it’s cool’,” he said.
“They’re still going to keep (asking) ‘Oh, how’s your little Duracell car doing’.
“But you see the engagement of the fans, and you see the amount of people coming to the races and even the interest of drivers.
“In the beginning they were like ‘yeah, how’s the car going? Is it going already at over 150 miles an hour? (240kph)’ and this and that. And now the drivers are starting to call us and (say) ‘can we get a test?’.”
Piquet said even his touring car team mate, retired Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello, was pushing to try the new Gen2 car which will debut at the season-opening race in Saudi Arabia in December.
“I said ‘Look Rubens, it’s not simple. Half of the world’s drivers want to do a test here’,” he laughed.
The cars will now be able to complete an entire race distance, a break from the past where two were needed and drivers had to pit halfway through for the changeover, and are also faster.
Top speeds of 280kph are predicted and Piquet expected the racing to generate more of a buzz.
“You see it all around. The interest is just getting bigger and bigger. And especially for drivers because the manufacturers are here, so money is involved. Drivers want to race and make money,” he added.
Much water has flowed under the bridge since Singapore 2008, and 2006 when Piquet was Lewis Hamilton’s closest rival in the GP2 feeder series, the pair battling down to the final weekend before the Briton won.
Fast forward, and Hamilton is well on his way to a fifth Formula One championship.
Piquet, whose father and namesake was a triple F1 champion and whose ambition remains to win three titles of his own, said he too was in a happy place.
“When you are young you always dream of winning and fame and money or whatever. At the end life is not just all about that,” he said.
“It’s about doing what you love and enjoying what you’re doing and being around the right people.
“But you only get to understand and learn that a little bit later on in life. I’m still learning it. I’m still young, not married, no kids or nothing. We all have goals in life. I’m still racing, having a great life, I’m healthy.”
“He (Hamilton) is going to be a five times world champion and I was the first ever Formula E champion…It’s just that life takes you in different paths.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Nick Mulvenney)