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How good is Bruno Senna?
Discussion started by TerraNova19 , 18 January, 2012 10:06
How good is Bruno Senna?
TerraNova19 18 January, 2012 10:06
How good is Bruno Senna?

Andrew Benson | 08:57 UK time, Wednesday, 18 January 2012
Bruno Senna describes sealing a drive at Williams in 2012 as "the start of my Formula 1 career for real". It is a date that could have come three years previously, had events turned out slightly differently.

In the winter of 2008-9, the nephew of the Formula 1 legend Ayrton Senna was on the verge of being signed by the Honda team after impressing in a test alongside Jenson Button.

But then Honda pulled out of F1, team principal Ross Brawn was forced to spend the winter desperately trying to save the team, and when he did so at the 11th hour, he thought it better, given the circumstances, to stick with the experience of Rubens Barrichello rather than the promise he had seen in the younger Brazilian.

Now the wheel has turned full circle, and it is Senna who has deprived Barrichello of a seat in F1. But it has been a long time coming.

Bruno Senna drove for HRT in 2010 and spent most of 2011 as a reserve for Renault. Photo: Getty

While Button went on to win the world title for the reconstituted Brawn team in 2009, Senna was left to scrape around for a drive in sportscars, biding his time before another chance in F1 came up, before landing a drive with the nascent HRT outfit in 2010.

The dream turned into a nightmare as the team limped through their maiden season, and for Senna it was a relief to leave, even if it again meant he did not have a full-time grand prix drive.

He spent most of 2011 as a reserve driver for Renault, doing very little driving, before being drafted in to replace the sacked veteran Nick Heidfeld for the final eight races of the year.

The fractured nature of his brief F1 career so far reflects that of his rise up the junior formulae (LINK []) and means it is very difficult to assess the quality of a driver on whom, realistically, a post-restructure Williams will depend to revive their failing fortunes, given the erratic form shown by his team-mate Pastor Maldonado in his debut season last year.

Senna's path to the Williams seat was eased by a substantial sponsorship package from Brazil, a situation that will inevitably see him labelled in some quarters as a 'pay-driver'.

This is quite a stigma in F1 - it traditionally means the driver needed to bring money to make him attractive to team, the implication being that his talent on its own was not enough.

Both he and Williams were at pains to emphasise on Tuesday that they had put their new driver through a rigorous assessment programme before signing him up - and that any talk of money had followed only once they had established to their satisfaction that he was good enough.

"We had an extensive driver-evaluation programme with a handful of drivers," said chief engineer Mark Gillan, "and we made the final decision based on raw pace, consistency, tyre management, technical feedback and mental capacity - and most importantly the potential impact they would have on the team.

"In all those areas it was very clear that Bruno has not had a lot of experience in single-seater racing, but has consistently shown improvement and real talent."

Of course, Gillan would say that - Williams chief executive Adam Parr spent a long time last year trying to convince the world that Maldonado was not a 'pay-driver', despite the sponsorship deal with Venezeula's national oil company that accompanied him to the team.

Maldonado has talent - he out-qualified team-mate Barrichello at Monaco last year, for example - but it is fair to say that he would not be in an F1 car without that help.

Senna is a different case.

Ayrton Senna once said of Bruno: "If you think I'm good, wait until you see my nephew." That, though, was when Bruno was cutting his teeth in karts in Brazil as a child. The great man's death brought Bruno's fledgling career to a shuddering halt at the age of 10.

His family forbade him from racing, and it was not until 10 years later - very late for a man to start a career in single-seater racing cars - that Bruno was able to take it up again.

It has meant a career on fast-forward, and the necessity to soak up vast amounts of information and experience much quicker than his rivals.

Ayrton Senna once said of Bruno: "If you think I'm good, wait until you see my nephew." Photo: AP

Inevitably, that has led to mistakes, but there have also been flashes of real talent, even if it has remained difficult to form a conclusive judgement.

At HRT, the car was awful, the team struggling just to survive and his team-mate Karun Chandhok was then an unknown quantity.

At Renault last year, the qualifying scores between Senna and team-mate Vitaly Petrov - who had not only been in the car all year, but was also in his second season in F1 - was four apiece.

But of the four races where Senna was on top, two of them were the Belgian and Japanese Grands Prix, held at Spa-Francorchamps and Suzuka, two of the three toughest tests for a driver in the world, the other being Monaco. At Spa, on his debut for the team, Senna qualified a brilliant seventh, directly in front of double world champion Fernando Alonso's Ferrari, no less.

With a young driver, especially an inexperienced one, the key is always to look for the highs. The bad points, the crashes, the occasional clumsiness, can be ironed out. But without inherent pace, a driver is going nowhere.

They know a decent driver when they see one at Renault. Trackside operations diretor Alan Permane has worked with Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and Robert Kubica and he says his impressions of Senna were largely positive.

"I don't think there's any doubt about his pace," Permane says. "What lets him down - and he knows it - is his consistency. But he didn't get a chance to show it. He had eight races with us but a lot of them were compromised by car problems."

Permane admits that it is difficult to be sure exactly how quick Senna is because Petrov is not exactly a proven top-level benchmark.

"Bruno was at least as quick as - if not quicker than - Vitaly," Permane says. "It's difficult to say whether he's going to be an Alonso/Kubica/Schumacher character, but some drivers take a long time to come along.

"Look at Jenson Button - when he drove for us, Giancarlo Fisichella destroyed him, and Fisi would be the first guy to admit he's not a mega. He was a very good number two. But now Jenson's fantastic. Can Senna do that? Only time will tell.

"He's very confident, very relaxed, almost performs better under pressure. The cars these days are trickier to drive (than they used to be) for someone who jumps in cold. And I think he did a brilliant job to do that.

"There's definitely something there. He definitely can be there on merit."

Backed by a budget or not, then, Senna more than deserves a chance to show what he can do.

Re: How good is Bruno Senna?
AlanJones 18 January, 2012 11:03
Realistic article and nice article to read as a Williams fan. But as always in the recent years we must watch our toes for not getting too over enthusiastic by reading such promise.
If Bruno and Pastor can fight eachother off for frequent point finishes then Im more than happy. I just wonder how we will find out if the FW34 is a wonder car or not when you do not have proper drivers to put a benchmark on it.

Re: How good is Bruno Senna?
tedsouf 18 January, 2012 11:05
Nice read man,thanks.I feel a little more confident going into the next season now.

Re: How good is Bruno Senna?
Gunk 18 January, 2012 11:48
I just wonder how we will find out if the FW34 is a wonder car or not when you do not have proper drivers to put a benchmark on it.

It doesn't always work that way, of course. Didn't Sauber put Heidfeld in the car for a few races to benchmark the car with Kobayashi? I don't think they discovered anything they didn't already know.

With the advances in simulators and telemetry, the race engineers have quite a lot of feedback to work with these days.

Pastor and Bruno mostly need to find consistency in races - I think that's the main weakness of this pairing.

Re: How good is Bruno Senna?
JaimeAbraham 18 January, 2012 11:53
how good he is? he's driver who bring big money for Williams in history, but who care! after 5-6 races we will see,who is come first,talent or money!

"viva mexico"

Re: How good is Bruno Senna?
Ozzy Osbone 18 January, 2012 20:00
I think the vital point to this article and something I have struggled to put my finger on is looking at the highs. If you look at any motorsport it's the same. Look at Lorenzo and Stoner in MotoGP. Looked like crash kids for their early careers. BUT, the flashes of pace were there for all to see.

We saw Button put in an awesome quali at Spa in 2000 and that for me was what cemented my belief in him. I had followed him up through the juniors and thought he had it.

I see the same in Bruno. Good solid races in the early formula. He was one of the front runners and then in his early F1 career we have seen a few times that he can nail it.

Alonso, Vettel, Button, Webber were the same. Some guys never nail it. They just can't.

I suppose what seperates the top guys is that they somehow distill that down and work out how to do it again and again. I think Bruno has that capability. He's clearly a bright guy.

Think about this. Ayrton Senna had a mighty scrap pre F1 with Martin Brundle, who never won an F1 race. Now, I think Brundle was seriously under-rated and not only unlucky but he was really the guy who pushed Schumi hardest. So, was Ayrton just a little bit better than Martin? What can we draw from this? The answer is nothing much.

What we have seen is that Bruno can put in stunning laps when the pressure is really on. Like fighting for your career on.

I'm really happy with this. I think he'll do well.

Re: How good is Bruno Senna?
Gwanni 18 January, 2012 20:19
what i still cannot phantom to understand is that our drivers got 3 points in 45 gp. i would love that both would prove me wrong but at the moment i am sceptical of having two unexperienced drivers. (or limited experienced)

Re: How good is Bruno Senna?
drunkmunky 18 January, 2012 20:24
The concern that I have is the amazing qualifying pace does not continue into the race.

We've had that problem all 2011. You can blame it on the cosworth, or the aero package.. but the drivers must be intelligent enough to make the tires last.

Re: How good is Bruno Senna?
Mikef1 18 January, 2012 20:30
The Cosworths were thirsty engines. It was the weight of the fuel that bogged us down in the first part of the race. Often our drivers would put in a solid stint at the middle or end of the race when our fuel was more on par with the rest of the field.

Re: How good is Bruno Senna?
K1 18 January, 2012 21:10
i do believe that raw talent/pace is a prerequisite for an F1 drive and maybe senna has a modicum of that. we will see in a couple of weeks just where the mustard gets cut.

i did however have a chuckle when reading gillans piece about how senna was put through a complete set of tests before they made the decision. i bet the major part of that exercise was 'due diligence' on the $$$ to put into williams account!!!

Re: How good is Bruno Senna?
pgj 18 January, 2012 21:47
I find the #1 first choice business a little hard to take. If he was #1 choice then why not name him as soon as he became a free agent?

Not a convincing statement from Williams but Bruno has got the seat and he gets my support.

Williams and proud of it.

Re: How good is Bruno Senna?
K1 19 January, 2012 10:20
you're easily satisfied PJ. i will reserve judgment until i see the car and the first three tests are complete. senna may be a 'diamond' and then again he may be just part of the 'dross'. only time will tell. i haven't seen enough of him to form amy strong opinions. eight races is simply not enough.

Re: How good is Bruno Senna?
rrafekaj 19 January, 2012 10:48
For Senna MkI 8 races was enough. We'll see what he can do when the rain falls in Monaco.

Re: How good is Bruno Senna?
rpralon 19 January, 2012 11:53
He is in the same level of Pastor at least ... he was vice on GP2 against Pantano. In 2008 Pastor was already in GP2, and was 5th. He is quick as he showed last year in Spa but he must improve the race pace and consistency.

For a team that had Nakajima Jr for two years as second driver in a better car , I dont see any kind of problem hiring Bruno Senna for one year bringing a lot of money and his famous name.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 19/01/2012 12:05 by rpralon.

Re: How good is Bruno Senna?
rrafekaj 19 January, 2012 13:01
For a team that had Nakajima Jr for two years as second driver in a better car , I dont see any kind of problem hiring Bruno Senna for one year bringing a lot of money and his famous name.

When you put it like that it's a no brainer!

Re: How good is Bruno Senna?
crusty_bread 19 January, 2012 13:09
For a team desperately needing to reestablish itself, who is meant to be the breadwinner? "Promise" wins no prizes. The worst thing you want to hear from your number one driver is that he is inconsistent.

A promising 8th in the Constructors Championship with endless missed opportunities will get this team nowhere.

Re: How good is Bruno Senna?
rpralon 19 January, 2012 13:25
indeed , in fact the little Nakajima has never won a single race in GP2...

Re: How good is Bruno Senna?
Ozzy Osbone 19 January, 2012 19:32
Did anyone else watch the GP2 races with Senna? He was good, very good in fact. I have no doubts over his overall speed or ability to cope with pressure. I guess the doubts are over his consistency but I think that is something which can be solved over time with the right training.

Re: How good is Bruno Senna?
drunkmunky 19 January, 2012 19:43
any gp2 footage?

Re: How good is Bruno Senna?
crusty_bread 19 January, 2012 20:10
Im more interested in his 26 races in f1. Karun Chandhoc looked too much to handle...

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