Piquet downplays ‘crashgate,’ says door was open to stay in F1

Nelson Piquet Jr. was ordered to crash out of the 2008 Singapore GP to bring out a perfectly-timed Safety Car period that allowed his teammate Fernando Alonso to take the lead and ultimately the win.

When it comes to ‘crashgate,’ the only protagonist who did not rebuild his F1 career was Nelson Piquet Jr.

Since the Singapore crash scandal struck, Pat Symonds has returned to the pitwall with Williams, helping to revive the once great British team.

And Flavio Briatore is regularly linked with a return to a prominent role in F1.

So why was it different for Brazilian Piquet, now 29 and the first champion of the Formula E series?

"The difference is that I didn’t stay there (in F1)," he told Universo’s Grande Premio. "The difference is that as soon as I left there, I went to the US.

"The next year, if I had wanted to race at Toro Rosso I could have, but I preferred not to," Piquet added.

He also said the entire ‘crashgate’ affair was revved up out of proportion by the media.

"It (crashing in Singapore) was something that I was forced to do but the journalists turned it into something huge.

Piquet becomes inaugural Formula E champion

"I don’t know the reason for it, as I’ve won championships, I’ve won in NASCAR, led Rallycross in my first season. People with small minds still talk about it, of course, but if I’m succeeding now it’s because the cars are equal, the tracks are new for everybody, the conditions the same for everybody.

"When you put me in a situation like that, I have no doubts. In F1, it was obviously a little different because I was with (Fernando) Alonso and I don’t have words to describe how good he is. And I was under pressure."

Now, he says it is money that is preventing drivers like him from leapfrogging from the top of one series into the pinnacle of motor sport.

"If I had a check for $5 to 10 million in my pocket, the door would be wide open," said Piquet. "Nowadays, it doesn’t matter who you are, to get into F1, you have to come with that check."

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