Piquet came to the track locked in Bernie’s boot

Mark Scott

Ex-Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has recalled his first memories of Nelson Piquet arriving into the sport, 40 years on from his Formula 1 win.

Monday, March 30, 1980, saw Piquet record his first career win for Ecclestone’s Brabham team at Long Beach. He would go on to win another 22 races and land three World Championship titles in process.

Ecclestone has always had plenty of stories to share about all 33 drivers who became World Champions and, with Piquet, he was given a very early indication of just how committed the Brazilian was to reaching the pinnacle of motorsport.

“When we found Nelson in Brazil, he came to the track locked in the boot of my car,” Ecclestone told PA Sport.

“We didn’t have any passes for him but Nelson didn’t care. He was old school. He would clean the car. He would pitch in with the mechanics.

“He was willing to sleep on the floor if he had to. He would do whatever you wanted. He was desperate to be in Formula One.”

“When he came to England, he didn’t know where he was going to stay, so he told me he would happily sleep under the truck.

“So, on the first day of testing in 1979, I said to one of our mechanics, Bob Dance: ‘Put a sleeping bag under the truck, and tell Nelson that is where he is sleeping. Then we will see if he is really that keen.’

“He had no problem with it!”

“Nelson suddenly discovered a good English sense of humour. He was special. He was a super competitor. He wanted to win.”

Ecclestone, who lives in Brazil, says he is still in contact with the 67-year-old.

“He is in good shape,” Ecclestone added.

“Normally we would have caught up with each other, but with how the world is now it is not easy to do that.”

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