After few races in the final part of the 1978 season, in 1979 Piquet competed in his first full year in Formula One. He drove for the Brabham team, alongside double world champion, Niki Lauda. Brabham spent almost the whole season with BT48, car designed by Gordon Murray and powered by a 12-cylinder Alfa Romeo engine. Although reasonably quick and competitive, the BT48 was a very unreliable due to the fact that the Carlo Chiti-designed Alfa V12 engine was very new. In first 13 races of the season Piquet and Lauda retired 20 times out of 26 starts (including Piquet’s drive in older BT46 in the season opening Argentinian Grand Prix). In 1979 Alfa Romeo started their own F1 team. So Brabham boss Bernie Ecclestone decided to end his relationship with the Italian engine manufacturer to avoid complications with being not a priority for engine supplier. During the 1979 season Gordon Murray’s team worked on new BT49 to be powered by Cosworth DFV. The new car was built from sheet aluminium alloy with reinforcement from carbon fibre composite panels and is one of the first Formula One chassis to incorporate this material structurally. The chassis was slightly longer than that of the BT48, and is much lighter due to reduced fuel tank to match the reduced fuel consumption requirements of the DFV compared to the Alfa Romeo. The BT49 did not achieve any success in the two remaining races of the 1979 – Piquet retired both at Montreal and Watkins Glenn, and Argentinian Ricardo Zunino who replaced retired Niki Lauda, finished 7th in Canada. But the new concept brought dividends to the team in the future – the BT49 was updated over four seasons taking a total of seven wins, six poles, and Piquet’s first World Championship in 1981.
|Nelson Piquet||6||Parmalat Racing Team|