Piquet, Nelson

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Born Nelson Sautomaior, on August 17, 1952, he used his mother’s surname Piquet to hide his early racing adventures from his disapproving parents. His father, a prominent Brazilian government minister, had been a regional tennis champion and when Nelson showed early promise in that sport he was encouraged to pursue it. At 12 he was one of Brazil’s most promising junior prospects. At 16, to further hone his tennis skills, his parents enrolled him at a school in California. But whacking a ball around a tennis court began to take second place in Nelson’s mind to driving a car around a race track, particularly when his countryman Emerson Fittipaldi started making inroads abroad. And so Nelson Piquet began racing in his home state of Brazilia. Winning championships in karts and sportscars failed to win over his parents, who sought to distract him by sending him to university. But studying philosophy, engineering and management proved no substitute for the lure of racing and Nelson dropped out after a year. He sold his road car to buy a Formula Vee and in 1977 became the Brazilian champion in that category.

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