Nelson Piquet Jr., the Formula 1 turned NASCAR driver, certainly has the world at his feet. The son of a three time world champion Formula 1 driver, Nelson has grown up in the life many a driver could only dream off. Now, making a name for himself in his own right, Nelson has a bright future ahead.
Nelson has stopped by The Global Townhall to tell us about his life, fitness routine, diet and his switch to racing in NASCAR.
Gabrielle Reilly: What attributes are most important to be the fastest driver possible?
Nelson Piquet: I often get asked if it's something you're born with or if it's something you can learn. I believe you can learn. But you need to love it to really dedicate yourself to it. It's like any professional job I think.
Gabrielle Reilly: What do you find most fundamentally different about racing in NASCAR as opposed to Formula 1?
Nelson Piquet: It was, of course, a completely different experience to learn this kind of racing car as it was very different to anything I'd driven before. I didn't expect the car to brake and turn as much as I was used to, so I had a different approach. I took it easy in the beginning when I started testing as it was a big car and it wasn't difficult to adapt. The biggest difference is that the whole geometry and design of the car is made to turn one way so I think it would be more of a shock if I was driving on a normal track turning left and right.
Gabrielle Reilly: I recently interviewed former NASCAR Champ Kurt Busch who, like you, grew up with a famous racing father who was his coach and mentor. What was it like growing up with your dad and what is the most important professional advice he has given you?
Nelson Piquet: Motor racing is a very expensive business and my name helped me to get sponsors and contacts. But the name will not get you anywhere unless you have the talent to support it. I have always been very successful and that encouraged the sponsors to come onboard and to stay with me for many years when I was on my way to Formula 1. Of course with the name it also brings expectations! My father has always been there if I wanted to ask him something or needed his support but he really left me to make my own decisions and go my own way and he didn't get in the way. But he was always there if I needed some advice.
Gabrielle Reilly: What does your fitness regime look like?
Nelson Piquet: Fitness is really a big part of racing now, it's part of being a racing driver. I work out every day and I try to mix it up, whether it's running or cycling or on the gym machines. I have a special neck trainer which helps to build up the muscles in the neck to cope with the G-Forces we deal with in the cars.
Gabrielle Reilly: What does your diet look like?
Nelson Piquet: I've always eaten pretty healthily, I'm not a fan of junk food. I eat a lot of pasta and salads but my absolute favourite foods are sushi and Brazilian style food like meat and rice and beans.
Gabrielle Reilly: I usually get to this question with my guests since it took me a few years to understand this process myself. How do you handle the good, the bad and the ugly of being in the public spotlight?
Nelson Piquet: For me and all the drivers I know, we don't care about being a celebrity. It is all about racing and winning. We have all been doing this since we were children and have worked hard to get to where we are. We are sportsmen. I get recognised a bit in Brazil but really, everywhere else, unless I'm at a race track I don't really get recognised that much so it's like any normal life.
Gabrielle Reilly: Do you have anything you regret doing that you would have rather done differently?
Nelson Piquet: Well, I think everyone knows the story of Singapore when I was in F1 and I regret my actions to follow the orders I was given. Now that I am out of that situation I cannot believe that I agreed to the carry out the order, but when it was put to me I felt that I was in no position to refuse.
Gabrielle Reilly: Do we have any hope of you following in Hélio Castroneves's footsteps doing the Fox Trot as a competitor on "Dancing with the Stars?"
I don't think that would ever happen, I'm not a great dancer!
Gabrielle Reilly: Can you give our readers some words of wisdom to help improve their life that you have learnt along the way?
Nelson Piquet: I've learnt a lot, especially over the last 12-18 months. I have very good friends and family and that's important to me. I've also learnt that happiness is just as important as ambition.
Gabrielle Reilly: I live about 15 minutes from the Kansas Speedway... would love to watch your race. Do you have plans to race here sometime (yell out if you would like some great recommendations in town)?
Nelson Piquet: If it's on my race schedule, I'll be there and I'd love some recommendations! Everything is new to me over here!