Posted on January 17, 2012
Williams F1

Bruno Senna took part in a conference call with media this afternoon, answering questions about his move to Williams.

Among the eye catching notes to arise from it were that he first had contact with the team about a 2012 drive at the Japanese Grand Prix, that he and senior Williams engineers believe that they will be solidly in the top ten in qualifying and the races this year and that his grand parents – Ayrton’s mother and father – were ‘ecstatic’ about the news.

It’s very clear that tomorrow morning’s headlines will be all about the death of Ayrton Senna in a Williams Renault and how his nephew is reviving memories of that ill-fated partnership 18 years ago. It’s a persuasive and emotive story-line, especially since the Senna legend has been rekindled with the success of the film about him. Memories of Senna tend to be of him winning in a McLaren and fighting Alain Prost, the Williams chapter was very short and brutal. It’s a memory many F1 fans wish to let drift from their consciousness.

It’s a storyline which, as Senna himself admits, creates its own pressures on him.

These will not be so much in terms of burden of expectation, because expectations are not all that high based on his season and a half in F1 to date. However he knows he will face the Ayrton in a Williams question at every new venue his visits from local media and it will sit with him as an ever present. But Bruno is used to dealing with the subject of his uncle and has managed to carry it off with an easy grace. Time will tell how wearing it might get.

But Senna has fought for a long time for the chance to have a proper F1 drive, one which involves pre-season testing and the right kind of preparation for a full season of racing. And few would argue that he doesn’t deserve it. He brings plenty of Brazilian sponsorship money, as the team and he acknowledge, from telecoms company Embratel and oil company OGX, which made him more attractive.

But interestingly Williams also put forward its senior operations engineer Mark Gillan today, to explain that the team had been through a thorough evaluation process involving assessing speed, tyre management, technical feedback and many other parameters and that Bruno came out ahead of other contenders.

This is important messaging; to play down the suggestions that he has won this drive due to the significant sponsorship backing. The message is that he won the drive on merit, the sponsorship is a bonus.

The team went through a similar process last year with Pastor Maldonado, who arrived with significant backing from Venezuelan oil company PDVSA. He had a more difficult sell as the team chose him over the clearly very talented Nico Hulkenberg.

He didn’t have a fantastic first season, but was able to show his speed by regularly outqualifying Rubens Barrichello. Both drivers are something of an unknown quantity in F1 terms so it will be hard to make an evaluation of their performance relative to each other.

Incidentally, Barrichello tweeted his congratulations to Senna when the news was announced,

“Twitter friends..I won’t be driving the Williams car this year.I wish my friend @BSenna all the best..the future is wide open.”

The external evaluation of Senna will begin in Jerez in a few weeks time when he drives the new car for the first time and then through the race weekends. There are grounds for arguing that without proper preparation with Lotus and with a very poor car with HRT, it has not been possible to give him a fair assessment. This is his chance to establish himself as a Grand Prix driver. He has good backing, so as long as he gets results he can go on to have a decent career in F1.

And Gillan argues that there is evidence that he’s improving all the time, which is very important for an F1 driver.

Gillan said that the team had put Senna through a very thorough evaluation process before making the decision.

“We had an extensive driver evaluation process with a handful of drivers,” he said, without wishing to elaborate on who they were. “We picked the final decision based on a number of factors; the raw pace, consistency, tyre management, technical feedback, mental capacity and most important the impact that a new driver could have on the team.

Bruno has had not a lot of experience in single seater racing but has shown real improvement and a lot of talent. We’re looking forward to working with him this year after what was a relatively poor year for us last year.”

Gillan was asked about Adrian Sutil, “I don’t want to talk about individual drivers,” he said, “But Adrian was part of our plans. Based on everything that was on the table Bruno was the best choice.”

Gillan said that Williams is going through a process of wholesale change with a new technical team, new drivers, new engine. He admitted that the lack of experience of Senna, Maldonado and test driver Valterri Bottas was an talking point, but saw it as an opportunity rather than a problem.

Gillan said that the new car is on schedule and looking good, “Performance trends look very encouraging.”

Williams ended the season as the slowest of the established teams. They suffered from not being able to make the most of the exhaust blown diffusers, as this was not something Cosworth was able to push hard on. With EBDs banned this year, this is one performance differentiator Williams will not be disadvantaged by.

“It (the new car) will be quite a significant improvement in performance, but that’s our goal and I’m reasonably confident that we can achieve that goal,” he said.

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More on the Senna move to Williams
126 Responses

  1.   1. Posted By: Eleanore
        Date: January 17th, 2012 @ 3:13 pm 

    Couldn’t agree more with your assessment of the situation, James. I appreciate the thorough write-up, as always, and am very much looking forward to finally seeing Senna get a full season and a truly decent shot at proving his skills.

    [Reply]


  2.   2. Posted By: ian
        Date: January 17th, 2012 @ 3:23 pm 

    Were all the drivers assessed ‘pay drivers’?

    [Reply]

    AH Jordan Reply:

    You know who else have been “pay drivers” when they were starting out..??

    Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso

    So it really saddens me when people assume that just because a driver brings sponsorship money, that they mustn’t be very good.

    It’s not like there’s a shortage of Brazilian drivers for these companies to back, yet they chose Bruno…I think that says something and you may well disagree, but I think he deserves a chance.

    [Reply]

    ian Reply:

    Yes – and goodness I hope he is the next Alonso! But so far nobody else seems to think so. And sponsors are not the best judges of talent. The problem is not just Senna, it’s that Williams have two pay drivers – presumably neither of whom can be sacked.

    [Reply]

    hero_was_senna Reply:

    I don’t remember Alonso being a pay driver…

    [Reply]

    Scott Reply:

    In his early career Telefonica certainly followed him around, and these days Santander.

    Whether you’d call him a real pay driver or not is up for debate, but he has certainly brought sponsors with him to teams.

    Jon Wilde Reply:

    With all the talk about Pay Drivers at the moment I would be very interested to see a piece (from James) on the definition of a pay drivers.

    As mentioned by others here a lot of drivers on the grid bring sponsor backing.

    Is a pay driver a derogatory term or simple a definition of how a driver facilitates his/her progress through motorsport?

    A marketer may say that to back a driver through the lower ranks of motorsport and continue to invest in them in F1 would see a huge return on investment vs. other advertising methods.

    It could be said that Alonso is a pay driver, given the Santander backing he bought to Ferrari.

    [Reply]

    Phil C Reply:

    Agree to all the points made above regarding pay drivers – Bruno has been given a chance, evaluated and tested, passing them well enough to achieve a race seat.

    Lets not forget that Red Bull back drivers to get into F1 on their development program. Vettel must have been receiving Red Bull money during his days as BMW’s test driver. So are Red Bull developed drivers ‘pay drivers.?

    [Reply]

    DC Reply:

    To me, the term ‘pay drivers’ is still used in a derogative term, but the reality is that probably all drivers now coming into F1 are pay drivers to a degree. Its become the norm, but people still like to deride drivers when it suits. Ive never thought of the Alonso situation, although i think the difference is that if there was no Santander money, Ferrari still would have him on talent alone.


  3.   3. Posted By: jim
        Date: January 17th, 2012 @ 3:28 pm 

    “We had an extensive driver evaluation process with a handful of drivers,” he said, without wishing to elaborate on who they were. “We picked the final decision based on a number of factors; the raw pace, consistency, tyre management, technical feedback, mental capacity and most important the impact that a new driver could have on the team.”

    They say themselves that the most important thing is “the impact that a new driver could have on the team.” and the biggest impact would be the $$$ that Bruno brings. :lol:

    [Reply]

    Davexxx Reply:

    AGREED! I don’t buy all that ‘evaluation’ crap, for sure they checked him out as a driver but, as everyone else is saying,’Money Talks’!

    [Reply]

    Adrian Newey Jnr Reply:

    Perhaps they used the same evaluation process as the one for Maldanado?

    [Reply]

    Brent McMaster Reply:

    They evaluated his pace, his knowledge…etc and they found his bank account made up for his other shortcomings.


  4.   4. Posted By: Red5
        Date: January 17th, 2012 @ 3:43 pm 

    Good news for Bruno, I think we would all like to see Williams produce a race winning car.

    Lots of respect for Rubens, surely with his extensive knowledge he could land a development role somewhere in F1. Would love to see him back in the paddock even if he’s not on the starting grid every other weekend.

    [Reply]

    Baktru Reply:

    Williams, slowest of the non-new teams, race winning car? You must be joking.

    [Reply]


  5.   5. Posted By: Nil
        Date: January 17th, 2012 @ 4:16 pm 

    It is interesting how the Williams lineup is evaluated. Two good but inexperienced drivers, two paid drivers with reasonable talent or one paid and one promising driver?

    [Reply]


  6.   6. Posted By: Janis
        Date: January 17th, 2012 @ 4:27 pm 

    Well,
    good luck to Bruno, of course.
    However I can’t help thinking about Ralph Schumacher: he was also given a chance because of his name, and he wasn’t bad at all, but – he was never Michael Schumacher.

    [Reply]

    Alex W Reply:

    Ralf was the third best driver on the grid. according to himself…

    [Reply]

    hero_was_senna Reply:

    Sadly he never understood that it wasn’t the F1 grid.

    [Reply]


  7.   7. Posted By: goferet
        Date: January 17th, 2012 @ 4:30 pm 

    “We had an extensive driver evaluation process with a handful of drivers,” he said, without wishing to elaborate on who they were.”
    ————————————————

    Hahaa sure.

    For all we know they could have used Nakajima as the benchmark & no, only a very naive person would think Bruno won this seat based on his raw talent behind simulators, this is all about the money baby, make no mistake.

    Very difficult to turn down a CEO whispering sweet nothings into a telephone line across the Atlantic & I guess Bruno was also smart in using his uncle’s surname as his own even though it wasn’t his birth name = Opened a number of doors.

    And oh, last I checked, there’s a big difference between the conditions one experiences on a test track/ simulator to those one is faced with on a race track.

    Anyway, this season was shaping out nicely with several inter-team battles throughout the field, but now Williams + HRT (& Former Lotus) have thrown a spanner in the works

    As for Rubens, glad to see, him finally get some rest after years of living out his suitcase & it’s interesting that his Ferrari nemesis Schumacher gets to out live him.

    P.s.

    I wonder what made the Senna family change their mind about Williams?

    From what I understand, they have always been against their nephew racing for the team that killed their son/ brother.

    I just hope they aren’t getting a cut out of this sponsorship deal. No joking, I have lived a long time on this goddamn planet that nothing shocks me anymore.

    [Reply]

    ian Reply:

    ‘I wonder what made the Senna family change their mind about Williams?

    From what I understand, they have always been against their nephew racing for the team that killed their son/ brother.’

    Presumably they understand that motor racing is dangerous, and that Ayrton died in an accident which could have happened in any car.

    [Reply]

    James Allen Reply:

    The cars are a lot safer today

    [Reply]

    Landon Reply:

    And let’s not forget, the car in question was designed by Newey (now at Red Bull) so the whole situation seems much more palatable.

    Phil R Reply:

    They must have been on amicable terms with Williams since 1995 as I can’t see them allowing the team to run the Senna Double S on their cars without their permission.

    James, do you know how Williams’s search for a title sponsor is shaping up? How much of a hole has their 9th place caused to their budget?

    [Reply]

    Thomas in Canada Reply:

    I always thought Williams showed a true touch of class running the Senna Double S on the front wing all those years after Senna had gone. Do they still have it on their cars?

    [Reply]

    Simon Donald Reply:

    They certainly do…

    http://www.gpupdate.net/en/f1-photos/11/williams/186210/#/186210

    Jon Reply:

    I don’t know where people have got this weird idea from that Bruno’s name isn’t really Senna. Bruno Senna Lalli using Senna is no different to Ayrton Senna da Silva doing the same.

    [Reply]

    Eleanore Reply:

    Exactly. It’s quite a common practice in Brazil, from what I understand, for a child to go by the mother’s surname.

    [Reply]

    James Allen Reply:

    Nelson Piquet Sr used his Mum’s maiden name. His real name was Souto Maior, I believe.

    Paul J Reply:

    Thank you for clearing that up!

    [Reply]

    Will Reply:

    And Alonso’s name is Fernando Alonso Diaz. Perhaps the Brazilian Portuguese custom is similar to the Spanish custom of including the mother’s maiden name.

    kenny Reply:

    errrr no…
    Senna’s family never had an issue with Williams.
    a year after Senna’s accident, Frank williams visited the Senna family in Sao Paulo to discuss the accident etc…
    no one really know what was said, but it is well known the familty never planned to sue Williams as that was never going to bring Ayrton back… They only wanted to know what happened, and it is rumoured that is why Williams went to see the family a year later.
    Ever since Imola 95 there is a Senna-s on the every Williams car ever since…

    [Reply]


  8.   8. Posted By: F1 fanatic
        Date: January 17th, 2012 @ 4:43 pm 

    James how far do you buy the official take on matters? Do you think William’s are being honest about seeing some good talent in Bruno rather than only basing the decision on sponsorship money?

    [Reply]

    James Allen Reply:

    Well he’s bringing cash and that adds to the attraction. But with Sutil sidelined by a trial and Barrichello not on the same page as Adam Parr, of the candidates taken in the round you can see what’s happened.

    [Reply]

    CH Reply:

    Hope things go well for Bruno. Sad for Rubens, but kudos to him for speaking his mind along the way. Parr seems more an image/deal guy than a motorsport sort. Thought it significant when Sam Michaels was ousted and a better team wanted him.

    [Reply]

    CH Reply:

    Just noticed Peter Windsor’s interview with Rubens of a few days ago.
    http://smibs.tv/the-flying-lap/2012-rubens-barrichello-f1

    Brent McMaster Reply:

    What do you think about Parrs record. Six years and average 7th in the constructors, 9th this year and no major sponsor? Is he doing the job?

    [Reply]


  9.   9. Posted By: Daniel
        Date: January 17th, 2012 @ 4:46 pm 

    Good luck to the guy. Shame for Rubens though.

    [Reply]


  10.   10. Posted By: Anand R
        Date: January 17th, 2012 @ 5:08 pm 

    What about Williams Stock Price, what was the reaction by investors?

    [Reply]

    Rich C Reply:

    Interesting question. I wonder if it goes up/down in accordance with race results.

    [Reply]

    Dominic J Reply:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/quote/WGF1:GR It appears that they fell on the rumour, then rose on the news. Look at the 1M (month) and 1Y (year) views to see longer term trends.

    [Reply]

    Anand R Reply:

    In a rational world it should go up given Senna gets additional sponsorship money. That’s money to the team not from public investors. I doubt the market traders really care about who’s driving unless its an established driver like Alonso/Vettel/Schumacher/Mclaren’s/Raikonnen etc (who would attract sponsorship on merit not nationality or last name).

    [Reply]


  11.   11. Posted By: Marcel
        Date: January 17th, 2012 @ 5:09 pm 

    Well.. I believe that Senna can do a great job this year.

    and I really hope that the Williams team build a good car… they don’t deserve an end like Tyrrell.

    [Reply]


  12.   12. Posted By: Ritchie Hicks
        Date: January 17th, 2012 @ 5:23 pm 

    If Williams thought last season was bad, they’re about to experience an all time low. I’m not a huge fan of Barrichello but his experience. Nothing against Bruno, but all he brings is money and a name, and it takes more than those two things to win Grand Prix’s in 2012. Best of luck to the entire team though – I’m sure we would all like to see them competing with the front runners again.

    [Reply]

    DMyers Reply:

    Hmmm, given how much Barrichello boasted about his input into the design process of last year’s car (which was a dog) and then being routinely outpaced by the unfancied Maldonado, I wouldn’t put much stock into his experience. There are numerous examples where young driver pairings have been able to do good things for teams. And who knows? Barrichello may have been part of the same assessment process as Senna and others, and lost out on merit – just as Senna got the drive on merit. And as for bringing no more than “money and a name”, he did a good job of outqualifying Petrov in the Renault with less experience of the car.

    [Reply]

    Ritchie Hicks Reply:

    It was only a few years ago that Barrichello came second to the world champion and I don’t agree that Senna got a drive on merit. He didn’t drive for a lot of the the season. As for Maldonado – he’s the worst point scorer that Williams have ever had!

    [Reply]

    Will Reply:

    If you are referring to 2009, Rubens finished 3rd, not 2nd in the championship behind Button and Vettel

    hero_was_senna Reply:

    You’re forgetting 2002 and 2004, 2nd to Schumi…

    K Reply:

    You think Williams is about to go through a period of all-time-low just because you are a fan of Barrichello and he ain’t hired by them?? Lol.. kinda funny way to come to this conclusion.

    +1 on DMyers.

    [Reply]

    Ritchie Hicks Reply:

    Read my comment “I’m not a huge fan of Barrichello”. I think an inexperience Senna and poor point scorer Maldonado will be a recipe for disaster. Guess we’ll find out in a couple of months.

    [Reply]


  13.   13. Posted By: Kevin Green
        Date: January 17th, 2012 @ 6:26 pm 

    Still stand by my thoughts he should not be driving for that team by any means paying paid even if they were sitting at the fore front of the grid year in year out currently. It all just seems so wrong.

    [Reply]

    MarkF1 Reply:

    I’m repulsed by the thought of Bruno sitting in a Williams. The Senna family lost a lot of respect around the world today.

    [Reply]

    newton Reply:

    well I respect them for being grown up about it and not bearing grudges.

    [Reply]

    Patron Reply:

    Sheesh, grow up guys.

    [Reply]


  14.   14. Posted By: HFEVO2
        Date: January 17th, 2012 @ 6:30 pm 

    Bruno Senna just might turn out to be a top flight F1 pilot and he now has a fair chance to prove it.

    My real concern is for the team : in the short term, taking two young drivers with sponsorship they may have improved their profitability but it certainly won’t help the engineers develop the car.

    I think they should have stuck with Rubens for 2012

    [Reply]

    Paul J Reply:

    I agree, but how much worse can they possible do than only scoring 5 points all season? I think that if they are going to take a risk on a driver or two, now is the right time to do it. The only way is up, right? ;-)

    [Reply]


  15.   15. Posted By: Steve
        Date: January 17th, 2012 @ 6:31 pm 

    I don’t think you can just look at finishing results when rating Bruno as there were a few races where he got a much lower place than his actual performance during the race would have got him.

    At Spa a lot was made of his qualifying position & turn 1 accident, However after he pitted for a new nose his race pace was actually fairly strong when compared to Petrov.

    When he scored points at Monza its often overlooked that he was last at the end of lap 1 having driven through the gravel avoiding the turn 1 crash & had to pit for a new nose as a precaution due to going through the gravel.

    He was faster than Petrov all weekend at Singapore a track which is one of the most physically demanding circuits on the calender.

    He matched Petrov’s pace all weekend at Suzuka & outqualified Petrov despite having done no qualifying simulation during practice due to his crash.

    From memory he was ahead of Petrov in India when his KERS failed & Got screwed by the team’s strategy at Abu-Dhabi when they pitted him at the end of lap 1 expecting a safety car, Then as he was coming back through the field he had another KERS failure.

    He was also well ahead of Petrov at Brazil untill the incident with Schumacher which I still see as a racing incident undeserving of a penalty, Especially since the penalty was for the initial collision & not for the one which gave Schumi the puncture. Bruno’s pace was then very strong & he had made progress through the field before getting the 2nd penalty for ignoring blue flags.

    Also its worth remembering that he was only 3 tenths of Button’s pace when he had the test with Honda at the end of 2008 & Ross Brawn spoke very highly of Bruno & did say that had Honda not pulled out & had they had more preperation before the start of the 2009 season he would have gone with Bruno rather than retained Barrichello.

    From the Barcelona Test on 20/11/2008:
    5 Jenson Button Honda 1m21.387 94
    8 Bruno Senna Honda 1m21.676 107

    From an earlier test at Barcelona in similar conditions:
    7 Rubens Barrichello, Honda, 1:21.950 sec 122

    Remember Button had a ton more experience in the Honda RA108 & that car round that track while it was Bruno’s 1st ever run in an F1 car.

    [Reply]

    DMyers Reply:

    Completely agree. I’d agree more if it were possible ;)

    I think it’s time for the naysayers to stop bleating. The team have explained why they chose him over everyone else, and he deserves his place on the grid. If ‘Barrichello’s experience’ is all that was going to count for anything, he would still be on the grid aged 60.

    [Reply]

    TG Reply:

    Great comment – People just assume Bruno’s bought his way in because of the name, they don’t look at the stats. I reckon he’ll do a lot better than people think.
    Consistent top 10 qualifying, as the team expect? Maybe not, the car won’t be that good surely, but I reckon he’ll keep pushing and score a few cheeky top 10 race results.
    As for Barrichello, great guy, sad to see him go, but at the same time it’s good for the sport that the next generation of drivers are getting their chances.

    [Reply]

    chris Reply:

    Dont be mean, similar is not the same and its a marginal difference, so a marginal condition….

    [Reply]

    CurlyPutz Reply:

    +1

    I hope he makes the most of this! It’s his first proper end to end, in from the start, full season and by the end of the year we will know for sure. I for one think he has some magic and now he has a chance to prove me right!

    It will be very strange seeing Senna in a Williams but I wish good luck to Bruno & Williams (and James for 5-live)

    [Reply]

    Eleanore Reply:

    Couldn’t agree more, thanks for the rundown.

    I’ve said many times that, when driving a twitchy car like the Lotus Renault was last year (I don’t believe they ever got KERS working again after it failed; I think he was running without it for at least the 3 final races), you’ve got to pay more attention to pace and sector times than finishing position. This is especially true considering how god awful many of LRGP’s pitting strategies were, for both Petrov and Senna. On occasion they made sense, but most of the time they just didn’t.

    During at least one race I recall he was actually matching Hamilton’s pace for a good portion, which can’t be a cake walk in a malfunctioning car (vs a front grid McLaren).

    So far, it feels like the guy can’t catch a break. Had Honda not withdrawn when they did, I imagine he’d have had his chance much earlier and I sincerely doubt he’d have as many critics. Debuting with HRT was unfortunate, but it was a foot in the door, and Lotus Renault ended up being not much better, but hopefully this will finally be the year where he gets his proper chance. I look forward to seeing what he can really do. He’s had some great drives, if you’ve been paying him any close attention.

    [Reply]

    MISTER Reply:

    Great comment and stats. Thanks for that.
    I agree with everything you say. Bruno deserves his seat. Barichelo had his time. Just let new and young drivers get their chance.

    Go go Bruno!

    [Reply]


  16.   16. Posted By: Richard D
        Date: January 17th, 2012 @ 6:36 pm 

    A sad day that Rubens Barricello has been elbowed out of his seat to make way for a significantly lesser driver. Two if you look at Maldonado as well. I used to have a great deal of respect for the Williams team but they appear to have made some poor choices on the driver line up for 2012. I hope I am proved wrong but we know the relative performance of Maldanado against Baricello in 2011 so let’s see how Senna does.

    [Reply]

    Rich C Reply:

    If he’s still that good then another team will pick him up. But he’s not anymore.

    [Reply]

    Matt Yau Reply:

    It depends what you mean by ‘lesser’. I’m sure everyone can agree that Barrichello is a great development driver and really helps the engineers improve the car. But as the article says, Maldonado was scoring consistently better than him, and I think Bruno will score effectively too.

    Any movement up the championship table is what Williams need after their disappointing season.

    [Reply]

    Dominic J Reply:

    Maldonado scored one point all season, to Rubens’s 4. Admittedly he was unlucky in Monaco, but Rubens also had his share of bad luck during the season.

    [Reply]

    Alex W Reply:

    The statement about Rubens Performance against Maldonado is not correct on my view. Rubens did outqualify Maldonaldo and has score and finish better on the races….am I wrong ?

    [Reply]

    Matt Yau Reply:

    Sorry, my bad. My analysis isn’t particularly accurate.

    Here is the definitive form guide between Maldonado and Barrichello in 2011:
    http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/statistics/2011-f1-statistics/f1-2011-driver-form-guides/pastor-maldonado-2011-form-guide/

    But also, please bear in mind, it was also Maldonado’s debut season.


  17.   17. Posted By: dizzy
        Date: January 17th, 2012 @ 6:41 pm 

    So Williams will employ a GP2 Champion (Maldonardo), a GP2 Championship Runner Up (Senna) and a GP3 Champion next season (Valtteri Bottas).

    Hardly a poor Line-Up!

    [Reply]

    Brent McMaster Reply:

    Maldonado got spanked by Hulkenburg in the same equipment in GP2. In 2008 the field was weak and Senna was in the best equipment; Senna was second, Pantano was champion and where is he? A GP3 champion doesn’t really really enhance the package in F1.

    [Reply]


  18.   18. Posted By: Werewolf
        Date: January 17th, 2012 @ 6:46 pm 

    Great article, James.

    Of the drivers available, I think Senna was the best, if bravest, choice. Aside from Sutil’s other current distractions, I think we have got from him all we’re going to, ie a very respectable runner with flashes of inspiration but with little potential to improve further.

    Barrichello is entirely known, eminently reliable, good at set-up, still capable of some good performances but ultimately past his peak and has had differences with a key senior manager.

    Raikkonen was both too expensive and too much risk; plus I’m not sure that working with an under-performing, somewhat autocratic team to drive it forward is on his otherwise impressive skills set.

    Of the others, Hulkenberg should still be there, of course, but perhaps is glad now that he is not, given last year’s car! Bottas and van der Garde are far too inexperienced; Heidfeld is another the wrong side of his zenith; Alguersari has talent and potential but might find Williams a tough environment.

    Senna has no less potential than the others, seems uncomplicated and deserves the chance. I for one cannot wait to find out how good he really is with a proper team and devent preparation (even if Maldonado is not much of a yardstick, in my view). As for the links to Ayrton, having spoken with Bruno a couple of times, I think he is genuinely proud of his uncle and finds many positives – even inspiration – from the questions, although there is room here for some very nasty media manipulation, which I’m sure Bruno has the character to rise above.

    [Reply]


  19.   19. Posted By: JP Hinestrosa
        Date: January 17th, 2012 @ 6:50 pm 

    I think we need to to wait and see how Bruno performs this year after a proper pre-season preparation. There is not doubt that he is not in the same level as Ayrton (I recall a few races in the HRT when Klien was faster than Bruno). Anyway, money is an important part of the equation and everybody at Williams appreciates a paycheck every month :0 Last, I am glad Rubens is out of F1, he was born to be a #2 driver. Also Jarno, Pedro and Michael should leave; F1 is a young’s man sport!

    [Reply]

    Dominic J Reply:

    If F1 is a young man’s sport, how has Rubens just beaten the last two GP2 champions? Whilst Jarno has been underperforming his car, the same can hardly be said of Rubens.

    As for Pedro, HRT need all the help they can get, so he may prove a wise choice. But I bet they wish they had Maldonado and Senna’s sponsors!

    [Reply]


  20.   20. Posted By: Blade Runner
        Date: January 17th, 2012 @ 6:50 pm 

    I have a gut feeling that Williams might just have a bit of a comeback this coming year. No EBD will IMHO make a big difference and also look at their history, you just don’t forget how to engineer good F1 cars. Sad for Rubens, such a decent bloke, great career.

    It makes me laugh people saying that Bruno only got the drive because of the sponsorship money he brings, implying that you or I could turn up at Williams and offer them twice the going rate and they would hire us over them?

    Any driver that has even the slightest chance of driving in F1 has more driving skills and mental capacity than all of us put together and multiplied by a large number.

    Go Bruno!

    [Reply]

    Adrian Newey Jnr Reply:

    You’re forgetting the engineering department is still in rebuilding phase. Hard to compete and improve against the far more settled leading teams.

    [Reply]


  21.   21. Posted By: Shah Alam
        Date: January 17th, 2012 @ 6:57 pm 

    Not that I’m an expert but my brain seems to caluculate the Bruno or Rubens senario like this,
    if Rubens could not drive well with the Brawn car(Jens won first 6/7 racs) so how much can Rubens do to develop a new car like the William’s with the new Runult engine. That’s my only gripe otherwise I would have gone with R. The way I see it, stick a known young quick driver like Lewis, Alonso,Kimi, Vettel or eqv. new driver and if it flies then you know you got a fast car.

    [Reply]


  22.   22. Posted By: Werewolf
        Date: January 17th, 2012 @ 7:00 pm 

    Given how much respect de la Rosa, Wurz and Panis gained as third/development drivers, perhaps even more than they had a F1 race drivers, Barrichello may have a strong future in this area. McLaren has the money and he has worked well with Button in the past. Sam Michael?

    I can’t see him returning to Ferrari and helping develop a Mercedes for Schumacher sounds about as likely as Mark Webber naming a son Helmut!

    [Reply]


  23.   23. Posted By: terryshep
        Date: January 17th, 2012 @ 7:00 pm 

    I suspect that it’s the designers & engineers who will determine what we think of Bruno next December. Not the money, not the history, just the car. Williams has no more right to a special place than the real Lotus, they have to earn that place every year. If they don’t, they just become a part of F1′s history. Just hanging about for a long time isn’t enough.

    I do wish Bruno – and Pastor – all the luck. On a personal level, it’s good to see someone succeed.

    [Reply]


  24.   24. Posted By: Jaco Pretorius
        Date: January 17th, 2012 @ 7:22 pm 

    You have to be really naive to believe that he got the seat on merit. Hulkenberg got the only Williams pole in – what, the past 10 years? – and he was dropped for a pay driver.

    Williams might as well have announced how much sponsorship money Bruno Senna brings instead of pretending that he’s there because of his talent.

    [Reply]


  25.   25. Posted By: Steve
        Date: January 17th, 2012 @ 7:41 pm 

    Good choice for the team.
    people complain about pay drivers but in reality most of them are, Alonso brings around £80million of Santander money to Ferrari.
    We should wait to see how he races before complaining.

    [Reply]

    K Reply:

    +1 on Steve, especially on the point of Santander and Alonso.

    Not to mention of course that Alonso does the job well and highly rated by engineers.

    [Reply]

    Brent McMaster Reply:

    The difference is Santander follows Alonso because he has proven himself to be worthy of spending wads of money on. How much money could the name Alonso raise in Spain before Fernando came along? Could he have got Senna’s amount of money with no more credential then his name?

    [Reply]

    James Allen Reply:

    Let’s not forget that the great Ayrton Senna brought money from Nacional bank and Alain Prost had very close links with Elf etc etc. if you have a top quality driver the money follows

    [Reply]

    Brent McMaster Reply:

    It would be my position that Ayrton Senna is still drawing sponsor money to F1 but now Bruno recieves the benefit. If Bruno walked into a room as a Lally he would have to have a segway in to his family history. When he walks into a room as a Senna the first question becomes are you related to the late great and his actual ability is replaced by supposition and longing for glory days.

    The men controlling the purse strings today were the young F1 racing fanatics when Ayrton died. This, like much in life today, is another attempt by the most self centred generation in history to find there youth. If we shoot our botox, take our viagra, drive our muscle cars and Senna is in a Williams we will all be young again.

    hero_was_senna Reply:

    James, I always thought Nacional was a personal sponsor to Senna, I don’t remember them ever paying for a drive. They continued sponsoring Senna when he went to Mclaren.
    Surely the same arrangement that Lewis has with Reebok?


  26.   26. Posted By: Nick
        Date: January 17th, 2012 @ 7:43 pm 

    It is indeed a persuasive and emotive story-line, I wish him well, not 100% sure he is the right driver for Williams, will be very happy to be proved wrong though.

    [Reply]


  27.   27. Posted By: andrew
        Date: January 17th, 2012 @ 8:45 pm 

    In case this is a question area, I have on good authority that Sutil is also a pay driver, albiet only family money.

    [Reply]


  28.   28. Posted By: jrecker
        Date: January 17th, 2012 @ 8:58 pm 

    My suspicions are that young Bruno’s discussions with the Grove outfit have been underway for some time, and that Patrick Head’s departure was not entirely coincidental.

    He was the man responsible for the engineering side of the team in that era and hardly a popular figure within the Senna family.

    Idle conjecture on my part.

    [Reply]

    Dave Aston Reply:

    Are you joking?

    [Reply]

    Kevin Green Reply:

    I have had the same recent thoughts and quite agree with that bit i also reckon a huge factor of bruno accepting a drive with williams would have been under the condition of patrick head stepping aside for sure. Good observation jrecker

    [Reply]

    ian Reply:

    oh please.

    [Reply]

    Dave Aston Reply:

    Not a good observation – it’s fantasy. Do you think Bruno would turn down the drive if Patrick Head was still there? Do you really think Bruno, or the Senna family, have any influence on what Patrick Head and Frank Williams do, or how they run their race team?

    [Reply]

    Kevin Green Reply:

    Not directly no but there had been serious indication that Patrick was coming pretty much near the end of his role there anyway and would seriously doubt if Bruno would join the team if the head of engineering at the time of his uncles death was carrying out the same role at the start of his time there it just would be obsurd its shocking enough that he is driving for the team at all just by the means of team mamesake never mind what staf were and are currently still there. It absolutely beggers belief! And tell me dave who the hell would have come up with the previous perverse thought of Ayrton’s nephew joining williams in the future if you turned the clock back even just as far as 3 yrs ago NOBODY! its basically materialised from a medium field driver running out of options left with a desperate choice to carry on with his career as i said in another post my bet is given the chance of a drive in any team from Caterham or above he would be there.

    Dave Aston Reply:

    You should run that theory by Patrick Head if you ever bump into him. While you’re at it, ask anyone in F1 if they think he’s somehow responsible for Senna’s death. Ridiculous.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Green Reply:

    I would imagine Patrick and others have allready probably run it past himself/themselves enough over the last 16-17 years Dave.


  29.   29. Posted By: Forzaminardi
        Date: January 17th, 2012 @ 8:59 pm 

    Um, quite clearly the major criteria has been money. If they were so keen, they’d have done the deal in Brazil, or at least as soon as Renault had gone public on dumping Senna. They’ve clearly been holding off, to see which of Sutil, Senna and Rubens could bring the most money to the table.

    [Reply]


  30.   30. Posted By: Rich
        Date: January 17th, 2012 @ 9:06 pm 

    With the Senna movie success, bringing in the Senna name can only uplift the team at Williams. Assuming they dont dwell on the obvious irrelevant (imo) fact.

    Bringing in Sutil with his current affairs would, while he is an awesome driver, not inspire people.

    Bringing in Barrichello, while he has still ‘got it’, he is not going to produce anything outstanding.

    Senna still has a bit of an ‘unknown’ aura about him, which is exciting – which is good for the morale of the team.

    ‘Uplifting the team’ and ‘raising morale’ may sound a bit fluffy, but attitude raises performance hugely.

    [Reply]


  31.   31. Posted By: Geek
        Date: January 17th, 2012 @ 10:23 pm 

    Hi James

    Do we know how long the contract is?

    [Reply]

    James Allen Reply:

    No. A year with options on team’s side for a further two would be my guess.

    [Reply]


  32.   32. Posted By: Paul J
        Date: January 17th, 2012 @ 11:35 pm 

    I wonder if Rubens will be offered a test driver/development role within the team? He said on Twitter that his future is “wide open” – does this mean the old fella has still got something up his sleeve? Any insights, James?

    [Reply]

    K Reply:

    LOL wide open might mean with other series like Le Mans, DTM, etc.. Could even mean lay back and do nothing :D

    [Reply]


  33.   33. Posted By: Darren
        Date: January 18th, 2012 @ 2:10 am 

    Great to hear Bruno will be driving, now he HAS to perform, he has shown signs of being good before but had excuses of being in an HRT and being thrown in at the deep end in the Renault. Now lets see what he can do, I really hope that Williams can build a good car and get themselves up the grid a bit, it is sad seing that great team trailing around at the back.

    Do Williams cars still carry a Senna “S” logo on the nose cone? I’m sure I also read once that they carried a tribute to Piers Courage who was the other driver that was killed driving a Williams car, do they still have this?

    [Reply]

    James Allen Reply:

    Yrs they still have a Senna S on the nose

    [Reply]


  34.   34. Posted By: Josh
        Date: January 18th, 2012 @ 4:39 am 

    If they took him on for talent, they wouldn’t need to talk up how they tested him.

    Those Brazillian reals were mighty tempting.

    [Reply]


  35.   35. Posted By: Craig in Manila
        Date: January 18th, 2012 @ 4:49 am 

    Great.
    In 2012, Williams will have :
    - best-possible drivers (according to them)
    - championship-winning engines
    - new people to replace Sam Michael etc
    - money from drivers
    - added money from F1 (due to their length of service)
    Seems that they’ve now put themselves in a position where they can have no valid excuses if 2012 isn’t better than 2011 ?
    Good luck to them….

    [Reply]


  36.   36. Posted By: Shah Alam
        Date: January 18th, 2012 @ 5:45 am 

    James, do you have any details on the length of the contract? Is it going to be the usual rookie ‘pay per point’salary or do William’s use the sponsorship moeny? Hard to think the latter as I’m sure Senna comes at a good price.

    [Reply]


  37.   37. Posted By: Riccardo Consulini
        Date: January 18th, 2012 @ 8:10 am 

    HORRAY. ….Rubens is finally gone!! I’ve been watching F1 for a long time now and I think I never came across a driver so self centered and delusional as Barrichello. The guy achieved nothing, claims to have knowledge simply because he was in F1 forever without winning, blames everybody for his misfortunes but himself, was given a clear shot at the tittle in 2009 when Brawn Gp had a clear and arguable advantage over their rivals and he blew it (as always) and to be honest, had not Hamilton crashed into half of the field in Monaco…Maldonado would have beaten him in the end. I say GOOD RIDANCE!!

    [Reply]


  38.   38. Posted By: Sergio Seixas
        Date: January 18th, 2012 @ 9:27 am 

    Barrichello outqualified Maldonado 10 times this year and let us not forget that several races he qualified doing some experiments for the Team and not with the best set up.
    When he drove for Jordan he helped retired Martin Brundle and also made more points than Irvine (an Irish driver in an Irish Team). When he moved to Stewart he drove ahead of all his team mates and when at Ferrari he out qualified Schumacher and won races against the Ferrai protege several times even with Ross Brawn giving him a strategy to be second.
    Ross Brawn also helped more Button than Barrichello at Brawn F1.
    Rubens was and still is a fast driver, still faster than Maldonado, Senna, Hulkenberg etc.
    We also shouldn’t forget about his experience and ability to help the team to develop the car.
    Ross Brawn said once that Rubens had helped Ferrari in his first 3 months more than Irvine did in 3 years.
    I know Mr. Allen that you are a huge Michael’s fan and for this reason you can not see clearly the caracter qualities and driving skills of Rubens Barrichello.
    I really believe that if it wasn’t for someone like Ross Brawn, Barrichello would have the respect and reconition he deserves.

    [Reply]

    James Allen Reply:

    I’m not a huge Schumacher fan. I wrote two books on and with him but I’m impartial. I have huge respect for what he has achieved, however

    [Reply]

    hero_was_senna Reply:

    What a coincidence, I have just finished “the edge of greatness”, it’s a great book.

    I, myself, am a Ferrari fan and am grateful that he was at Ferrari with the dream team during his dominant era, I’d have hated to see that at Mclaren!!!
    But I was never convinced that the “Schumacher” era was actually blessed with great drivers.

    I wanted to ask a question, James, about something you wrote in the book.
    You mentioned that he recognised Alonso as his successor in 2002, not Kimi or JPM, and then later you write, he believed Alonso was actually better than himself.

    IMO, I’ve always believed that Alonso is the best driver since Senna, it was strange to see that Schumi may well have thought so too.

    [Reply]

    James Allen Reply:

    Yes he identified Alonso when he was a test driver at Renault.

    The other reference was to Monaco 2006, the level Alonso had reached relative to Michael at that time. I didn’t say that he thought Alonso was better than him. He’d never see it, even less admit it

    hero_was_senna Reply:

    Hmmmmmm, lmao….

    [Reply]


  39.   39. Posted By: O.S.
        Date: January 18th, 2012 @ 12:01 pm 

    James, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts re: a comparison between Ralf Schumacher and Bruno Senna.

    Both arrived in F1 to a greater or lesser extent because of the “name”, but in the case of Ralf he went on to be moderately successful. The interesting twist in this case is of course the Senna-Williams history.

    I have good memories of 2001-2002 seeing the Williams-BMW connection developing and finally securing a race win (Imola 2001).

    I can understand some people’s displeasure that Williams have resorted to a “pay driver” – but I don’t think Bruno has really been given a chance in F1 in a competitive car, for a full season.

    And to Shah Alam (above) – I believe I read Senna had signed a one-year deal.. Reading between the lines does this mean that whichever 2012 driver comes out on top will be partnering Bottas in 2013?

    [Reply]

    James Allen Reply:

    Very different because Ralf was racing from a very young age, whereas Bruno was only starting out when he was told to stop after Ayrton’s death. So he missed out on the 10,000 hours thing that youngsters need in a discipline if they are to become expert.

    Ralf was very fast, but lacked his brother’s application and ruthless streak. I think Bruno is more hungry, but more incomplete because of the missing years

    [Reply]


  40.   40. Posted By: Phil C
        Date: January 18th, 2012 @ 2:42 pm 

    ‘inexperienced’ driver strategy has worked in the past for Sauber, who have employed drivers with little or no F1 experience together before. It works out ok for them.

    [Reply]


  41.   41. Posted By: geek
        Date: January 18th, 2012 @ 3:22 pm 

    Hi James

    I (and lot of others)always found you impartial irrespective of the nationalities of the drivers.

    [Reply]


  42.   42. Posted By: Anil
        Date: January 18th, 2012 @ 3:37 pm 

    I’m a massive rubens fan but come on, his performance in his early Ferrari days were pretty bad most of the time. He always lacked a lot of pace compared to Michael and his left foot braking didn’t help as well. He was better in 09 than he ever was at Ferrari.

    [Reply]


  43.   43. Posted By: Arya
        Date: January 18th, 2012 @ 3:40 pm 

    I wish all the best to Brunno. I wish I could say that this is the way forward for Williams F1, but in all likeliness it is backwards. It saddens me to see that with an exception of HRT, every team has at least 1 better driver than Williams duo. Clearly shows the state of affair in Grove. Even smaller teams like Marussia have balanced the financial and ability of their driver pairing. I would not be surprised if Caterham starts challenging Williams in this season or next.

    [Reply]


  44.   44. Posted By: DC
        Date: January 18th, 2012 @ 11:57 pm 

    Interesting to hear the response from Rubens, makes me wonder whether he had any input into the decision, maybe suggesting he would vacate his seat gracefully if Bruno replaced him?

    Also, am i wrong for thinking that Bruno, assuming he has some solid results this year, should look at this year as a springboard back to a better driver in future, or would Williams have clauses in the contract to keep him?

    [Reply]

    Steven Reply:

    I dont think Williams cares if Rubens “vacates his seat gracefully” LOL Its not “Rubens seat”, its Williams seat and they will hire whoever they want.

    [Reply]


  45.   45. Posted By: Steven
        Date: January 19th, 2012 @ 3:12 pm 

    Its sad to see all these “fans” spell doom for Williams F1, they have been winning races since 78/79, I think they know what they’re doing.
    On the issue of “pay drivers”, not all pay drivers pay because they stink, some of them pay because the teams need the money, so, even if they were good enough to get a drive without paying they would stil have to pay to get in a car. It think Bruno will do well, now he has the expirience of having been to all tracks, and with the added bonus of been part of winter testing he will be ready, not having to shake off rust. Lets give these guys some room and see where they go before we judge them

    [Reply]

    hero_was_senna Reply:

    “All these fans” have witnessed many F1 teams, which were once successful, slowly become worse and worse till they no longer had the funds to continue in F1, never mind at the front.

    I personally have witnessed Lotus, Brabham, Ligier and Tyrrell all come to the end of their race and championship winning eras and consigned to the history books.
    ( I’m aware that Ligier didn’t win championships, but in 1980 and 1981, they were right up there.)
    In the 80′s, Lotus was on a par with Ferrari for wins and Chmapionships.

    Williams has been following the same journey and whilst I like the team and Frank, it’s run its course.

    [Reply]


  46.   46. Posted By: Kevin Green
        Date: January 20th, 2012 @ 10:18 am 

    Never said anything about him being directly responsible BUT he was head of the Engineering depo at the time was he not? lines need to be drawn somewhere if not necessarily legally definitely from a personal point of view being the family. its seems quite clear he never lost control of the car as such down to driver ability so that cant really be taken away from the freak point of view so to speak about the exact path of the end of the sheared component that hit Ayrton on the head. There was CLEARLY a car related factor pre impact.

    [Reply]

    Dave Aston Reply:

    After the pace car, cold tyres not up to pressure, pushing too hard, bottomed out. As Damon Hill said, ‘he just made a mistake’. If team bosses or technical heads had to quit every time a driver crashed, they’d all be out of a job.

    [Reply]


  47.   47. Posted By: Kevin Green
        Date: January 21st, 2012 @ 12:24 pm 

    Yes which is fundamentally a design fault no giving the driver no known positive control of the car no? I am pretty sure there’s tougher ride hight rules now since the accident to essentially stop it ever happening again on that scale? But if course there’s the question on the steering column too!. It has very much been an accident that has been left open to debate prob more so to deter direct blame for a known error or tech factor due to the scale of who he was, Remember this is the guy who had possibly the largest remembrance gathering other than for maybe key religious political and possibly “whole team” remembrance situations. If anyone had been legally held accountable it would never have calmed down and would prob have ended Williams and effected a lot more lives i’e employee’s. But on that F1 is a continually evolving sport from race to race and more, Nothing will bring him back now anyway so the sport can only learn from it and it clearly has just a shame it takes his death for the wheels to get in motion. If it had just been Roland that had died that day i question whether changes would have happened in the scale it has? would there be another few deaths

    [Reply]

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