Feb.15 (GMM) Rookie formula one driver Nelson Piquet insists that, with each passing pre-season test day, he is closing the gap to his famous 2008 teammate, Fernando Alonso.
At the beginning of the intensive winter period earlier this year, the 22-year-old - who now wants to drop the 'junior' from the end of his name - was often conspicuously slower than Spaniard Alonso, the French team's drivers' world champion of 2005 and 2006."I was missing the confidence I needed," the Brazilian confided to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport magazine as he tested this week at Jerez.When they went head-to-head at the circuit on Wednesday, Piquet's fast-lap deficit had dropped to just a few tenths, even if the gap is a bigger over longer runs.He recalls of earlier tests: "At the beginning of longer distances, I was basically as fast as Fernando but then the gap opened up; Fernando going faster and me slower."But at Jerez, Piquet insists that he is now beginning to fully understand the R28, which he says is a better car in all areas compared to last year's Renault."The gap to Alonso is shrinking," he proclaimed, albeit acknowledging that his teammate's experience is still paying dividends."Fernando carries more speed into the corners than I do. Sometimes I brake later than he does but I then have a problem going into the apex."Sometimes I go into the corner well, but then give away time to him at the braking point," he explained.Piquet, however, says doing a lot of testing recently is getting his race-fitness back up to scratch, but he would also enjoy spending lots of time in a McLaren-style driving simulator."If we had one I would sit in it day and night," the Brazilian said.He insists that he will not be pushing for stand-out performances at the beginning of the season, which kicks off in Australia in four weeks."For me I think it is important that at the start I don't make any stupid mistakes," Piquet said.He also revealed that Renault engineers are busily working to bring more performance to the R28."I believe they now understand the characteristics of the Bridgestone tyre. That is not our problem any more."Now we have to work on the aerodynamics and quite simply find more grip," he added.