From open-wheel racing to stock cars, there’s not much that Nelson Piquet hasn’t found success in behind the wheel. From racing his way into the prestigious Formula 1, to reinventing himself as a successful NASCAR driver, Piquet is always focused, forever determined to be just a little bit better.
Those qualities will serve him well in his initial foray into Global Rallycross, where he will drive a Mitsubishi Evo prepared by X Team Racing. As he prepares to make his debut, he helped us get to know him better, both at and away from the race track:
If you weren’t a race car driver, what would you be?
I don’t know, maybe something to do with marketing or engineering. They’re the two subjects that I come across a lot during my career. So maybe one of those two, they’re the only ones that create a bit of interest.
What are your favorite hobbies away from the race track?
Lately I’ve been traveling so much, I hardly have time to do much. Usually when I have free time, I try to find more races to do, just because I think that’s part of my life. The more I do it, the more I practice, and the more I get involved, I think the better I can be. If I’m not in a race, if I’m not in the shop with the team working on the next race, I’m at the go-kart track. If I’m not at a race, I’m probably going to be in the airplane or having to rest at home, just to recover a bit more energy.
When I do have a bit more time—when I had the Truck schedule, which gave me a bit more time to do things, I did a triathlon, just to be a little bit more fit and to keep me motivated on the diet and working out. But with the schedule we have now, with races every weekend, it’s just racing, racing, racing. It’s sometimes very tough, but it keeps your mind only on one thing, and it gives you no time to lose focus.
Where do you go when you take a vacation?
The first time I spent a New Year’s celebration out of Brazil was this past year. Every year I would usually go to Brazil or be with my father. And it wasn’t the same vibe as when you’re in Brazil or when you’re with your family. So usually I’ll try to go down to Brazil, even if it’s just for a couple of days, or I’ll be with my father, just seeing him. Usually that’s the plan, seeing family and friends that I don’t see the whole year. You start getting old, friends start getting jobs, and vacations start getting shorter and shorter for everybody.
If you could describe yourself in only one word, what would it be?
Persistent. I’m very hard on myself, but I’m very persistent about what I do.
How do you prepare mentally for race day?
Before the race I just try to be relaxed and not think about anything. Usually I try to listen to music. It’s like watching a movie—when you watch a movie, you kind of forget about things, and you’re just paying attention to the movie. I listen to music, and sometimes it’s sort of the same thing. It gives you less of a chance to think about everything around. It kind of deletes everything around that’s happening and doesn’t give me a chance to worry about what’s not important.
What’s your favorite track that you’ve ever raced on?
Macau, Monaco, these two street courses are pretty amazing. It’s a tough one for drivers, because usually drivers are going to pick something they won or somewhere they did well, but I think these two are pretty amazing places to race that I really like.
What was the biggest victory of your career?
I think winning in Vegas last year was pretty special. Road America. I mean, a lot of the NASCAR wins I had last year were pretty big for me, because I had such a tough transition for me, coming from Europe over here without much support, sort of on my own. Every time I won last year was quite important for me, just to prove myself, to the fans, my sponsors, myself, my family. I think everything I’ve done here has been very important.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received from another driver?
I think it’s probably the same advice I hear every time—not from guys that are racing, but from guys that were drivers. Don’t beat yourself up too much when you don’t win a race. Because I tend to be pretty hard on myself when things don’t go well.
What’s your favorite thing about your fanbase?
They’ll always be behind you no matter what. It’s amazing how you can, any time of the day, especially with social media stuff, speak to them or find them. They’re there cheering for you. Some of them dedicate their lives as well to see you, just to see races that you do. I’ve had fans in Europe from my Formula 3 days, and since I’ve come to America I’ve had fans over here that have done crazy things for me. Sometimes it’s difficult to treat them as a fan, because they’re so nice, and think it’s so good to see you. All the loyal fans I’ve had have been important to keep me motivated.