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Bottas gets his chance as Williams drop Senna for 2013
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Posted By: James Allen  |  28 Nov 2012   |  12:34 pm GMT  |  116 comments

Williams F1 Team today confirmed the line-up for 2013 which had been suspected for some time – Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas.

The promotion to a race seat of the 23 year old Finn, a protege of Williams’ shareholder Toto Wolff, is an exciting step for F1, as he has impressed with his Friday morning test performances at Grands Prix this year.

He won the GP3 championship in 2011 and has been with Williams in a reserve driver capacity since 2010. Williams did a similar programme with Nico Hulkenberg, giving him several years as an apprentice with the team before he got his race opportunity in 2010. Despite a pole position in Brazil that year he was dropped in favour of Maldonado, for largely commercial reasons. However Maldonado won the Spanish Grand Prix this year and has shown his speed in qualifying.

But inconsistency has dogged him with only two points finishes since that victory in Spain. If he can mature into a consistent performer with the pace he has, he can move up the driver rankings.

As a result Williams finished 8th in the Constructors’ Championship in what was arguably one of the top five cars this year, as Sir Frank Williams acknowledged,

“The FW34 was a strong car and on the whole we feel that we should have done better with the equipment we had,” he said. “Our long run pace was consistently strong and whilst we need to improve on our qualifying pace, at certain tracks we did manage to give the top teams a run for their money over a single lap.”

The new technical team of Mike Coughlan in charge of design and Mark Gillan in charge of operations, seems to have gelled quickly and there is no reason why Williams shouldn’t have just as good a car in 2013, with no major rule change. It is up to teams like Mercedes and Force India to out develop them over the winter.

In hiring a rookie, they are taking a gamble on their constructors’ championship position again, the key will be securing results quickly and regularly, but Bottas’ pedigree indicates that he should get up to speed and won’t do anything silly.

The move leaves no space for Bruno Senna, who leaves the team after just one season. His best chance of a seat in 2013 now lies with the Caterham team, as team-mate to Charles Pic.

Senna brings a budget of around €10 million and the deal was said to be close in Brazil, but with Caterham securing 10th place in the Constructors’ Championship for a third season, with a substantial financial bonus as a result, the next weeks and days will be key to deciding which direction they go on drivers.

Bottas said, “It feels incredible to be driving in Formula One next season and to be with a team like Williams, with all its pedigree, is even more special. I’ve worked hard to get here ever since I started karting at six years old, but the real work starts now as I prepare myself for the biggest challenge of my career. The fact that I’ve been with Williams since 2010 will help a lot though because I know the engineers really well and have a good working relationship with them.

“There are only a handful of circuits on the 2013 calendar that I have never driven, in Australia, Monaco, Valencia, Austin and Singapore. There will still be a lot of work to do but it means that I do have some knowledge to work from heading to most races next season.


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116 Comments
  1. JSHT says:

    Didn’t Ayrton once say that Bruno was going to be faster than him? I sometimes wonder what kind of driver he would have been if his mother, Viviane Lalli, did not stop him from racing following Ayrton’s tragic death.

    1. Optimaximal says:

      There are a number of drivers who have gone on record to say “you should see [relation X]. He’s faster than me”.

      Michael Schumacher was one.

      1. FuelGreener says:

        And to this day there are many who will still say that, as far as Ralf’s glory days were concerned, Michael was right. Whatever the ‘completeness’ of Ralf’s talents, raw pace was never an issue…

      2. Andrew M says:

        Please put me in touch with anyone who believes Ralf was faster than Michael, I’ve got some magic beans to sell them.

      3. Liam in Sydney says:

        Same here! I have this bag of dirt for sale!

      4. Adrian Newey Jnr says:

        Ralf won several races. Bruno hasn’t (for several reasons). The stats will show Ralf was pretty handy.

      5. FuelGreener says:

        Oh hush. It’s perfectly true – i.e that there were many at the time who thought it. There was a feature in an issue of F1 Racing mag around 10 years ago where they narrated a fantasy Grand Prix set 25 years in the future, where the drivers raced on futuristic ‘Tron-like’ tracks…and in the story, Michael and Ralf were watching, both team owners, both with 9 WDCs between them (the inference clearly being that by picking an odd number, it wasn’t yet clear which would end up accruing the most titles…)

        Similar predictions were being made when Ralf appeared on the cover of Bernie’s own F1 magazine around 2002 (I think Jame Nottage might have written the feature) Factor in statements by Frank Williams in ’99, when Ralf was averaging 5 places in a dog of a car that Zanardi could barely squeak a 15th place in, and yes, my statement is utterly true. Many at the time thought that whilst Ralf had yet quite some way to go to unlock his potential, and that his complex character might mitigate against the chances of consistently taking glory, the fact was that ‘on his day’ he was very possibly the possessor of more raw, pure, unadulterated pace that his brother…

        So yeah,

      6. Optimaximal says:

        Re-read what I wrote. I wasn’t saying anything against either Schumacher brother, just that he was the only example that sprang to mind.

  2. Paul C says:

    Feel gutted for Senna. Despite bringing talent and a sponsorship budget of his own. The guy was never really given a chance. In a new team to loose, on average, a third of your weekend practice mileage this season can never be good. And yet Senna remained a more consistant points scorer then Maldonado. This decision reminds me of the time they dropped Hill for Frentzen. Then followed another barren patch for the team.

    1. Optimaximal says:

      Frank Williams refuses to develop emotional connections with his drivers following Alan Jones leaving them following his championship win.

      As a result, he views them as nothing more than employees. Rubens & Nico (Hulkenberg) received pretty much the same ‘so long and thanks for all the fish’ epitaphs when they were dropped for business reasons.

      1. Steve says:

        Business is business

    2. ian says:

      ‘Barren patch”? 97′ world title in fact.

      1. David Ryan says:

        …which was the last year they had a car designed by Adrian Newey, the FW19, which was based heavily upon the FW18 that Damon Hill did a lot of the development work for. Thereafter, Williams themselves would admit they hit a lean spell, and but for the BMW deal would probably have been for some time. Getting rid of Hill certainly didn’t help the team’s prospects much.

      2. Optimaximal says:

        They still got 3rd in the WCC with the FW20. Only 99 was a relatively dry year (5th) before the BMW contract started.

        It’s nothing like the post-BMW lull.

    3. Steve Zodiac says:

      Always thought Senna was much better than he was made to look. His improvement over the season, considering that he lost out on fridays, has been significant and was marred only by bad luck during the races( ie Vettel on Sunday). Maldonado on the other hand has been “bigged” up in spite of being largely crap and too full full of his own( limited) abilities. Hope Senna gets a drive for next year and gets to show what he can do

      1. Nick says:

        Yeah Senna couldn’t get his head around Qualifying, which is what let him down….he had more points finishes than Maldanado, but because he managed to pull a win out in Spain he was just made out to be better than Senna, even though he had a lot more incidents.

        I wish Bottas all the best and no ill towards him, but Senna got the short end of the stick and deserved more of a chance to get himself into a groove with Williams. Of course he was compromised by having to give his seat up for FP1.

        Oh well…I hope he finds a home elsewhere…maybe Force India where he can show his skills and finish above Williams next season.

  3. Menoslobos says:

    Onneksi olkoon Valtteri!!! (Congrats)

  4. Jane Kay says:

    Great news! I was hoping for this for most of the season. Great to have another Fin racing in F1. Go Valterri, show them your best!

  5. Jon Wilde says:

    Sad news for Senna, I hope he finds a home with Caterham or Findia.

    It will be interesting to see if Botta’s experience as 3rd driver this year pays off. Good Luck to him and the team.

    How much money does Botta’s bring in terms of Sponsorship?

      1. Irish con says:

        That’s not what toto Wolff has said today James.

      2. F1 Fanatic says:

        Toto Wolff just admitted in an interview that Bottas has amassed quite some sponsorship from Finland- check Andrew Benson’s tweets

      3. Optimaximal says:

        Didn’t he recently confirm that he was making an attempt to find some and was ’75% there’?

      4. Steve says:

        His salary is likely close to none as well.

      5. Graham says:

        From a Williams Q&A, on Adam Cooper’s blog

        Q: You have considerable support from Finland, can you tell us about that?

        “I’ve had a lot of support from back home, starting way back in karting and since then I have been lucky to have been supported by some great Finnish companies. Without this sort of backing I would not be where I am today, so I’m very grateful and hopefully I can taste success with Williams and pay back those who have helped me get to Formula One.

      6. Charlie says:

        At least Wihuri and Kemppi are two Finnish companies backing Valtteri.

      7. Jon Wilde says:

        So what is the conclusion here? Does Botta’s bring finance to Williams?

        Given that Kemppi and Wihuri share a sponsorship window on the rear wing endplate of the Williams I guess they are paying Botta’s salary if nothing else.

    1. Liam in Sydney says:

      I think James’ point is that Bottas is not a pay driver.

      1. Fireman says:

        Exactly this.

  6. S2K says:

    It is a shame that Senna is going, probably he will struggle to find a seat for 2013. Is Bottas a paid driver? It is a shame what Williams have become… to hire paid drivers… :(

    1. Antti says:

      In my understanding, Bottas brings practically no money to the team. In any case, nowhere near similar amounts as Senna did.

      Of course, the hope is Bottas will help Williams finish higher up in the WCC, bringing more money to the team that way.

    2. Optimaximal says:

      I think only Red Bull and Toro Rosso aren’t taking money from at least one of their drivers.

      1. Wade Parmino says:

        Ferrari. Last I heard Massa doesn’t pay for his drive.

      2. dxs says:

        Santander sponsored Mclaren when alonso went over there. Then he unexpectedly left after his first year but santanders contract was for a number of years.

        Santander is now sponsor of ferrari after Alonso moved there. All big cash.

        Ferrari’s biggest emerging market (well it was 2 years ago so may still be) is brazil, and we all know where massa is from.

      3. MISTER says:

        You telling me Ferrari are asking Massa or Alonso to bring money for their seats?

        Or McLaren? Next year Perez doesn’t take any financial backing to McLaren. As far as I know Telmex stayed with Sauber.

      4. Optimaximal says:

        I was sure it was widely known that whilst Alonso commands a wage for his talents, he also brings sponsorship from Santander.

        I wasn’t sure if Perez was bringing Telmex money to McLaren or not – it’s not like the Slims don’t have enough to go around.

        I did forget about Mercedes, but they’ve been so anonymous this year it’s unsurprising. Also, Schumacher also brought money via his image association.

        Grosjean comes packaged with Total at Lotus AFAIK.

      5. S2K says:

        Are you sure? I don’t think Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes and Renault and maybe some others are actually taking money from their drivers.

      6. radohc says:

        Fernando is bringing Santander

      7. Oskari says:

        And by Renault you mean what? There are 4 teams who have Renault engines, whose factory team is Red Bull.

      8. Wade Parmino says:

        I’d say you are right. Many drivers have sponsorship deals/associations which benefit their respective teams. However, unless a driver’s contract is dependant on what sponsorship they can bring, they cannot be considered to be a pay-driver.

        Ferrari would still retain Alonso even if he brought with him no Santander money (or anything else) as well as pay him his $30 odd million salary a year.

        It’s ridiculous, some of these claims. Next people will be saying Red Bull have Webber to get money from Swisse! Laughable!

      9. S2K says:

        Radohc… Sandander’s sponsorship is not conditional of Alonso driving for Ferrari

        Oskari… I mean Lotus :( This is what happens when the fingers write quicker than the brain dictates :)

  7. Sut says:

    Still think they should have kept Rubens last time.
    Maldonado would have been quicker this year but Barrichello consistent – this could have elevated them to fifth in the standings. By taking on another rookie even if he is a nice guy will only maintain the status quo and not elevate Williams beyond the midfield even with a good car.
    Unlike DC or Michael it didn’t seem Rubens had lost his speed or racecraft.
    I’ll stick my neck out and say this is a mistake.
    Come on Wayne, you always post thought inducing posts. What do you think ?

    1. Brent McMaster says:

      Barrichello would have brought home consistent points in this Williams. It was a good car driven by 2 guys, that until the financial crisis, weren’t good enough for F1.

      1. Andrew says:

        What does it take for people to understand?
        Maldonado was the GP2 champion in emphatic style. He fully deserved to be in F1 and has shown tremendous speed from the beginning when he matched Barrichello in his first season.

        Of course Barrichello may be more consistent. Similarly, Button, Raikkonen, Alonso etc make fewer mistakes than Hamilton and Vettel but it doesn’t mean that Hamilton and Vettel shouldn’t be there.

        Maldonado’s team mate this season was a GP2 runner up and is a respectable driver yet Maldonado was far quicker in qualifying.

        If Maldonado isn’t good enough then perhaps you could tell everyone why the various, Perez, Kobayashi, Di Resta, Sutil, Buemi, Alguersuari, Gutierrez, Petrov, Glock, Pic etc are. Or who you think should be given a seat if not the winner of the most prestigious feeder series?

      2. Brent McMaster says:

        It is not understanding it is opinion. I feel many of the drivers you mention shouldn’t be in F1 and wouldn’t had they not brought money to buy the seats, put Senna on that list. GP2, like any feeder series has years with strong fields and others without; the best new drivers aren’t always from GP2. Maldonado was given a good car this year and threw away a pile of points, he’s 3 laps quick.

      3. Fernando Cruz says:

        Until the financial crisis Bruno Senna was set to get the Honda drive on merit (for what he had done in GP2 and at the Barcelona test, where he matched Button’s speed) and probably he would have won races had the japanese not retired, even more if he had the opportunity to test in the winter. He would be a much better driver by now, much more developed.

        Even so I think he can still improve a lot if he gets a drive for 2013 with Force India.

      4. Brent McMaster says:

        Senna hasn’t got it and he is to old to get. The maybe ride with Honda has only ever been mentioned by his fans, Brawn never said it. He has raced with 3 teams and nobody is chasing him for 2013; the bosses have seen his driving and that can’t get him a ride without the accompanying pocket of cash. Putting him in the Force India car would be a step down the driver scale for them and I doubt they would do it.

        I don’t care what he missed in life or why, it has no bearing on whether he should be in F1 or not.

      5. Fernando Cruz says:

        “I don’t care what he missed in life or why, it has no bearing on whether he should be in F1 or not.”

        Of course, but in races he proved to be fast and consistent and he can improve a lot in qualifying if he has as much free practice time as others. Maybe it is hard to convince Force India bosses about it, but with 2013 tyres he can recover the qualifying form of 2011 and become a much better driver. I think he could do as well as a Kobayashi or a Sutil.

        In Caterham it would be a step back and I doubt he will ever get an opportunity with a really good midfield team.

    2. Martin says:

      Hi Sut,

      While, I’m not Wayne, I’ll put my $0.02 in.

      I agree with you on Rubens being a better idea than Bruno. I think Pastor would still have delivered most of the qualifying high points, but Rubens would have made Q3 on a regular basis.

      Personally, I dont buy the missing P1 argument with Senna. His race performances show that the team was getting the car well set up in general. P1 tends to involve part evaluation and basic checks. P2 is where most of the long run work and tyre evaluation is done. P3 fine tunes this and adds qualifying simulations as the track is cleaner. Sure the extra time never hurts, but the set up is clearly pretty good and Senna gets all the necessary time in P3 to adjust the car to low fuel, low tyre pressures, etc to get the car right for qualifying.

      The mentality of the team is that it wants to win. The team is not like Torro Rosso or Force India where 3rd is a great result. Williams still thinks like the big team it was. In the current era of F1, in dry conditions, the only way to win races is to start at the front and be quick all the way through the race. Kimi in Bahrain was the only driver to really challenge for a win on pure merit from outside the top ten. Alonso relied on a safety car and retirements in Valencia and Perez got to the podium, but couldn’t match Hamilton. Senna through his F1 career has shown that he is not fast in this era of cars. He can put good races together, but would never be a regular winner. He’d be a SLOWER Button. And probaby not as good in the wet, and lacks the experience.

      Senna might be attractive to a team that regularly qualifies outside the top ten and has a choice of strategy. He’s another Alguersari – although I think Jaime is probably more polished at this stage, and is a lot younger. Red Bull binned Jaime because he lacked one lap pace (in my view. Red Bull might also have felt his race pace was not up to it).

      Still, if Williams think that Bottas is a winner, and was planning for 2013 drive, was Senna the wrong call? You can read all soughts of things into to his head-to-head with Petrov depending on your point of view. Senna brought money and would be easy to bench in P1 for Bottas. Paying Barrichello not to drive P1 wouldn’t make sense. Maldonado was becoming the team’s hope in terms of performance, and brought really big $. The expectation would have been for Senna to get more out of qualifying then he did, which would have made Rubens very expensive.

      Fundamentally, F1 is too different from GP2, GP3, FR3.5 and F3 for the feeder series to be a perfect predictor of F1 performance. Di Resta’s “I beat Vettel in F3″ isn’t as important than Nico is faster than Paul in F1. Get into the fastest cornering cars in the world in qualifying trim, where so much braking is done while turning and also needing creative throttle skills on entry, and what you achieve in GP2 with spec engines is only a starter.

      Some drivers, such as Webber, have the natural attributes such that the speed of an F1 car isn’t a problem, so that a relatively poor junior formula career doesn’t prevent him from being one of the top ten F1 drivers in the world. He certainly wouldn’t be one of the top ten drivers in the world, but the specialist environment of F1 with its fitness and neurological demands filters other drivers out.

      Bruno Senna may well be a star in other racing series in the future, but I don’t see him being a star in F1. He’s potentially a Sebastien Bourdais if he’s good enough.

      Cheers,

      Martin

      1. Fernando Cruz says:

        I think you are wrong but you are right when you suggest losing FP1 was not the main issue for Senna’s trouble in qualifying.

        Bruno Senna showed good race pace in 15 GP, as far as I can remember. In Australia and Brazil his races were badly compromised in the first lap through no fault of his own and in Bahrein, Spain and Canada he had the same sort of trouble that affected even a Champion like Button, both suffering to conserve their tyres due to their smooth driving style. Anyway, the slim performance window of this year’s tyres hurt them more in qualifying and that explains why Button could only score 7 points in 6 races (in the first half of the year) and Bruno had so much trouble to qualify well, as he also had the aditional disadvantage of
        losing 15 FP1.

        So, with more normal tyres in 2013 and not losing those 15 FP1 anymore, Bruno Senna is going to recover the qualifying form that saw him put the Lotus in Q3 four times, even managing to outqualify Alonso at Spa the very first time he drove a real F1 car. Add that to the speed and consistency he showed this year in the races and we will have a really good F1 driver, capable of winning races if he has a really good car. I hope he gets a seat in Force India and I expect him to match Paul di Resta during the year.

        You should also remember that after losing so much in 2009, 2010 and 2011 (years he could not develop at the same rate of other young talents that had full proper seasons in F1 or even GP2) Bruno has had a mountain to climb. Basically he has been playing catch up and used this season with Williams to recover most of the ground he lost since losing the Brawn drive in 2009, following Honda’s withdrawal.
        Had he entered at the right time, after almost winning GP2 title in 2008, he would be a much better driver by now.

      2. Fernando Cruz says:

        Also remember GP2 in 2008 was one of the most competitive we have ever seen in that series, as we had there names like Bruno Senna, Lucas di Grassi, Romain Grosjean, Pastor Maldonado, Sebastien Buemi, Vitaly Petrov and Alvaro Parente. It’s true they were all beaten by Giorgio Pantano, but the italian veteran took advantage of his great experience, as he was already in the series since 2005, after a passage in F1 with Jordan.

      3. Martin says:

        Hi Fernando,

        My feeling from reading some of your comments on Bruno over the last couple of months is that you are fan of his in the sense that you want him to do well. I guess I might by slightly the other side of neutral in that his path to the top in terms of gaining sponsorship was aided by his name. I was aware of him coming up through the ranks, largely through Autocourse, but never saw him drive.

        Your estimate is that Senna had good race pace in 15 races. The difficulty for us in our lounge rooms is that we don’t have a lot of information relative to true benchmarks. If we compare Senna to Maldonado, Maldonado would be at a disadvantage as he’d used more tyres to get to Q3 and having to start on used tyres. In some cases Senna probably started on used softs too, but immediately that gives an advantage for the whole race as all the stops can be later and for a given fuel load the tyres are not as advanced on the degradation curve, therefore each stop comes later.

        While Senna made good drives, the only notable one that sticks out to me was his efforts post the restart in Malaysia. I’ll admit that I haven’t paid anywhere near as much attention to Senna as you have, but also in the Autosport reviews, it is rare that Senna got great marks (more than 7) out of ten (every driver is rated in every race).

        If I was an F1 team manager, why would I hire Senna based on what I have seen of his 46 race F1 career? My expectation was that he’d beat Chandok by more than he did in 2010 as Senna was the favoured driver in the team. In realistic qualifying, it was about 4:3 in Senna ‘s favour after weak results were taken out. In 2011 he was paired with Petrov. You could interpret the results many ways, but there seemed to be a few wasted opportunities from what I recall.

        Watching the UK Sky coverage that we get in Australia, it was a common theme that Martin Brundle would say in Q1 and early Q2 that Senna looks on for a Q3 slot and then Senna failed to get there. Rather than a lack of pace, my sense is that there were errors. Some such as Singapore were more obvious than others. Put the pressure on and Senna didn’t deliver a clean lap.

        [From what I read in Autosport about Button, it wasn't the tyres, but some secret system on the rear suspension that made a mess of Button's set up by giving misleading feedback. Button was quite capable of getting good laptimes out of the car in qualifying prior to this point, and ended the year 0.05 off Hamilton in Brazil. Generally Senna only got near Maldonado when the latter messed up too. ]

        I strongly believe that Williams thinks that Senna is slower than and not as good as Bottas and Maldonado. Senna brings more money than Bottas and has more experience. So if I was Vijay Mallya, I’d be taking note of that very strongly. You can argue that Williams should be renamed Wolff, but I wouldn’t agree with you there – the view on Bottas comes from the engineering side of the team as well from what I’ve read.

        Given Senna’s lack of experience in general, you could argue that he did pretty well in GP2 in 2008. But being good in GP2 cars is not the same as being good in F1. The performance difference between the cars makes a big difference in the way the cars are turned into a corner, with the drivers having to do more in less time in F1. This is this only real area where lap time is lost, it is a massive factor. I wouldn’t knock being beaten by Patano – he’s a good. The key with GP2, apart from speed is having a great race engineering team and driver being in sync with this team to get the set up right. For a spec formula, only a handful of teams regularly win.

        If Senna had gone to Brawn in 2009, what would have happend? In those races up to Turkey, when Button was happy with the car, you can rule out any chance of a win in my opinion. Ross Brawn has said that if you give Button a perfect car then he is faster than anyone else he’s managed. After that point the Red Bulls and McLarens took over, so Valencia and Monza were probably the only chances Senna would have realistically had to win. To do that he would have needed to deliver qualifying performances he has been unable to do in 2012. Even if he won, with Honda gone and Mercedes coming in, I very much doubt Senna would have had a drive ahead of Rosberg and Schumacher. He might have got a better drive than a HRT, but we’ll never know.

        Re Senna getting into Q3 four times in 2011, the merit of the car needs to be taken into account. While he out qualified Alonso, Alonso was a second behind Massa, and the track conditions favoured drivers who didn’t take too much out of their tyres early in Q3 as the rain never returned – as demonstrated by Webber. With all that it was hardly a clear indicator of a stunning performance. With parc ferme conditions there’s a bit of guess work going on with running a dry track race car in a wet Q2. If you want to play random statistics, in those eight races, Senna only beat Petrov in Q2 once, which is a continuation of the problem in 2012 of not getting everything out of the car in qualifying when it matters.

        You can argue inexperience, but Kimi was signed as McLaren driver with fewer car races than Senna has had F1 races.

        The reality is that Senna will only be in F1 next year due to being a pay driver. Your hopes for his as yet undemonstrated potential to qualify a car even in the league of a Webber or Massa will be just that unless he can outbid other drivers.

        If he joins Force India, it will be interesting to see which driver can make the most excuses. Di Resta starting needing a lot of them as Hulkenberg improved in the second half of the season. I suspect the tyres are only a small part of the problem. Bruno needs to find even half the mind management skills of his uncle if he is going to succeed. He appears to be intelligent, but that is only a small part of the game. It could be that fundamentally his neurological system is not up to the demands of an F1 car on the limit, therefore mistakes creep in qualifying, especially if the head isn’t clear.

        If I was in Force India position, on equal budgets there’d be no contest between Sutil and Senna. Alguersuari with a budget and Pirelli testing knowledge would be an interesting decision. Senna seems potentially faster to me in qualifying, but he almost never puts it together. As a fan of F1, I’d much rather see Kobayashi still in the sport than Senna. With a budget it would be a simple decision on performance too.

        In my view, Bruno Senna got into F1 on merit, but if he is still there next year, it will be due to money, and the family name, not based on what he has done in F1. Other drivers who are currently without a drive have done more in terms of qualifying and races performances.

        As a fan you want to see him there next year and that’s fine. I have no influence on where he will end up. Personally, I’d rather Bruno race in GP2 or FR3.5 and do a Grosjean and show that he is good enough to be in F1 on merit. However, we know that whoever took his place is likely to bring money, so in reality there probably wouldn’t be much change.

      4. James Allen says:

        [Keep it concise, please - Mod]

      5. Fernando Cruz says:

        Hi Martin

        I read carefully what you wrote and saw your point in many things you said.

        The main problem for Bruno was missing the Brawn seat too late, at a time there were no seats available in GP2. That and not having (at the time) the sponsorship teams asked young drivers to get, following the effects of financial crisis (thus missing to enter in 2010 with an established team) damaged his career massively, as he couldn’t develop at the same rate of other young drivers. I never thought he would be a great driver, but he was good enough to have a solid and good F1 career had he started at the right time with the right car. He surely would be a much better driver by now, much more developed.

        At Brawn he would be at the peak of his confidence and motivation, at 25, coming from a season with wins in GP2 and learning from a good and experienced driver like Button, a guy with a similar driving style. So, if the Brawn BGP 001 suited so well to Button, I guess it would suit as well to Bruno.

        Talking about his current qualifying issues, yes, I noticed he made too many mistakes at crucial moments in Q2, but I think that had something to do with the tyre issues, maybe he could not completely adapt his driving style to the characteristic of tyres and that led to more mistakes. If it was this I’m confident we won’t see those mistakes in 2013, as tyres will have a larger performance window, suiting more his driving style. Anyway we haven’t seen those mistakes in 2011, so I think we have no reason to worry. It’s true I find this format of qualifying very stressful, even if you have set a good lap time in the first part of Q2 that is not enough as it is in the last minutes of Q2 that everyone improves. But as I said, Bruno proved in 2011 he could handle that pressure.

        At 29, I’m also aware that he will hardly ever get a drive in a top team (that chance has gone due to the financial crisis that led to Honda withdrawal), but that doesn’t mean he can’t succeed in F1 if he gets a drive with a midfield team for 2013. He has a lot of room for improvement and he just needs to be in the right car at the right time. As you said there are drivers outside F1 that showed more (they could develop more between 2009 and 2011) but I believe Bruno can compensate that on money to get a good seat and prove next year that in a second proper season he can put it together, being as fast in qualifying as he is already in the races. If we didn’t believe that it wouldn’t make sense even to fight for a good drive for 2013 (it would be better to go to another series), as qualifying is crucial, even more with such a level playing field.

      6. Martin says:

        Hi Fernando,

        FYI Autosport is reporting it is expecting Bruno to sign for Caterham.

        Regards,

        Martin

      7. James Allen says:

        We reported that on the day Williams announced their 2013 drivers…

  8. Craig Baker says:

    I am really quite sad to see Senna leave Williams as I believe he has inproved his driving this year. Senna reminds me of a young Jenson Button and I hope Bruno can find a drive for next year.

    1. Sebee says:

      BTW – looks like we’re down to 22 cars next year with HRT sending notices to employees.

  9. Cedricbaum says:

    Great news for Bottas can’t wait to see what he can do compared to Maldonado. Bruno Senna in my view is a nice guy with a big budget. To be honest I’m surprised he lasted that long in F1.

    1. Chris says:

      Pretty cool racing surname as well ;)

    2. Fernando Cruz says:

      Had he started with Honda or Brawn he would have a lot more to offer, as he lost a lot during 2009, 2010 and 2011 while other young talents could develop much more with full seasons. Had he started with Brawn he probably would have won races in his rookie year and surely he would be a much better driver by now, much more developed. I feel he could have been one of the best, but unfortunately financial crisis (Honda retirement, lack of testing and so on) was for his career what fate was for Kubica when he had the accident that lost him to F1.

  10. whilst i believe that bottas is highly rated by a lot of paddock personnel i am yet to be convinced.

    it is one thing impressing in FP but racing is altogether a different activity. i have no doubt that he has talent but i will wait for the analysis at the ’13 season half way mark. only then will it be possible to get a handle on his potential.

    the fact that he is finnish seems to be enough for some people. hopefully for williams he is more of a mika that a heikki!!!

  11. Elie says:

    Congrats to Valtteri. Its the choice I would have made also. Whilst Bruno was improving he was still making too many mistakes and unfortunately Interlagos was the game changer.

    1. Tim says:

      On the Saturday (24th) before the Brazil GP, Toto Wolf said on Finnish TV that the decision to replace Senna with Bottas had already been made but not announced.

      I think Senna was not a “happy bunny” going into Race Day. Perhaps his focus was not what it should have been as he lined up on the grid.

      Tim

      1. Elie says:

        Yeah actually Valtteri was rather happy when asked about his chances the week before- I forgot about that.

        Yeah you can’t blame him for loosing focus but the best answer to your future prospects is to make it your best race. Cheers Tim

    2. Fernando Cruz says:

      Bruno was making too many mistakes??? You must be joking. He raced so well in the last races prior to Interlagos and didn’t put a foot wrong, as far as I can remember. In Buddh he raced better than Maldonado and overtook him, was always very fast in clean air and did the second fastest lap of the race. In Abu Dhabi he recovered very well after Di Resta sent Hulkenberg hit him in the first corner and raced well also in Austin.

      In Interlagos Vettel was the one to blame for the accident, as in the first lap he should have kept the outside line at corner 4, with so many cars around him. It was too soon to make the usual line to that corner, as if he was alone in the track. Bruno was overtaking Di Resta on the inside, completely in control and there was nothing he could have done to avoid the crash. Vettel was not given a penalty because of the championship, even if I believe he didn’t deserve it, as he could not see Bruno was already there in the inside, because the Williams was hidden by the Force India.

      Had that accident not happened I feel Bruno could have done a great race (like Hulkenberg), as he is very good in the wet, as he showed in Interlagos Q1 (second fastest) and in Malaysia (as fast as Alonso, Hamilton and Perez in the wet race)

  12. Irish con says:

    Think Bottas was a certainty to be on the grid next year. Hard luck to Senna but it happens. A few months back Jaime Alguersuari seemed to be pretty certain he was going to be back in f1. Now it looks like there is only the 2nd seats at force India and caterham up for grabs with about 8 guys looking for the drive. Unless Paul di resta gets the boot which I guess is a possibility but would be a surprise. Maybe Jaime will be with James again next year after all.

  13. Ian says:

    James, You say that Caterham is the most likely home for Bruno but wouldn’t Force India be a better option for him.

    1. JC says:

      I’m sure Force India is a better option for him, but is he a better option for Force India…

  14. Wade Parmino says:

    There is a lot of hype about this Bottas and if he is not bringing any money to Williams he better live up to it.

    Senna should take a look at IRL. Probably better than a Caterham drive.

    On an unrelated note, Grosjean has yet to be confirmed at Lotus. What % chance would you say there is of Nicolas Prost getting a drive? Although he is 31, he did not start racing until he was 22 (which is geriatric in terms of when drivers usually start) so he was at a little bit of an experience disadvantage. Yet he has done really well; 2010/11 F3000 Euro series champion. Considering his heritage as well, it would be an injustice for him to not be given an opportunity in Formula 1.

    1. Kieron says:

      What is IRL?

      1. David Ryan says:

        Indycar. IRL is what it was called until it merged with ChampCar a few seasons back.

      2. Wade Parmino says:

        Indy Racing League (American F1). Definitely a step backwards from F1 but still quite high profile. He would do better there (as it is more of a level field) than in a bottom team like Caterham.

    2. Craig Baker says:

      Senna has received a family veto from driving in IRL as too dangerous. If you look at the family history, this decesion must be respected.

  15. forzaminardi says:

    Would it be fair to say that in retrospect dropping Rubens for Senna was a very silly mistake? Even with Senna’s alleged $10million, just a couple of positions up the championship table thanks to Rubens would have netted more money. I suppose that’s the gamble they took.

    Anyway, it’s good to see Bottas given a go, a young driver who has impressed everyone to date.

  16. Werewolf says:

    This seems a sensible, even obvious decision, given the indications of Bottas’ speed and committed approach. It’s also refreshing in these times to see a young driver selected on the basis of potential rather than budget. Two fast Williams drivers pushing each other will be good not just for the team’s rebuilding but also for F1 and its fans.

    As for Senna, his race performances have been pretty good (discussing errors by someone who is team mate to Maldonado seems petty!) but qualifying has been compromised partly by losing some free practice sessions but also by his own failure to deliver his best laps at the necessary times. Perhaps he tightens under one-lap pressure. I like the guy and wish him well …

    … which means staying away from Caterham, even if that spells the end of his time in F1. The team has consistently underperformed and hastened the ignominious ends of three drivers’ careers now. I see no reason to expect any improvement next year, so Senna and his backers would be better served taking their services and money into another series than funding a year of anonymous grid propping in F1 before being dropped with a reduced reputation.

  17. Brent McMaster says:

    I am sorry to see Williams financial position is such that they have had to keep Maldonado, but at least Senna could not get enough money together to buy the seat. If we are going to have a seat auction every year in F1 let it be limited to the young up and comers not the 30 year old neverweres.

  18. Bones says:

    Bottas will do just fine, better than Senna in my opinion. But what i am really looking forward to next season is seeing Maldonado who I hope will learn from this year.
    He has awesome pace in quali, just the racecraft isn’t there yet, but he is definitely one of the fastest guys out there.

  19. Honkhonk says:

    Disappointed for Senna, wish he would get a legitimate full year including practices. As for Williams, I think they act like a lower midfield team, and so only deserve those sorts of results.their competition is Sauber and Force India, two teams with no continuity in drivers also it seems. Pitiful. Hope Sauber leave Williams in the dust.

    1. tarun says:

      I dont understand why people are sympathetic about Senna but not so much for people who are just as good or better than him. Alguesuari/Sutil lost out their drive last season. Arguably better than Senna, to me Bruno hasnt shown that X factor that the teams are looking for in upcoming drivers these days…Grosjean seems to have it..bruno doesnt, no matter how many chances you give him, its really not going to change anything. to simply put it he isnt world champion material!and to be honest he’s been given plenty of chances to prove himself…a podium atleast would have shown his speed…I guess the level of expectation is just too high for him. I wish him well. but he really didnt do much in the Williams to justify his selection for next year.

      1. Craig Baker says:

        What is this X factor you are talking about? Is it the ability to punt other drivers off the circuit like Grosjean has done for most of the year.
        I guess everyone is entilted to their own opinion.

      2. tarun says:

        maybe Grosjean is a wrong example ( to be fair to him he did show some speed in the first half of the championship)…you can compare Senna as poor man’s Nick Heidfeld…atleast he was considered to be a quick driver.

  20. Paul Mc says:

    It was always going to be tough for Bruno to separate the expectation of the Senna name and be his own man. The association with Williams made that connection only stronger and highlighted his downfalls even more.

    If he gets the Caterham drive i feel he should ditch the Senna colours and try and forge his own path and identity in Formula 1. He has shown at times that he has the pace.

  21. Christian S says:

    Any chance of Petrov staying at Caterham?
    - He beat Senna during their time at Lotus quite handily
    - He was the driver that got 10th place in constructors for Caterham, beating Heikki in the process. That should mean something, no?
    Plus he could potentially help with the team budget (I don’t know the status of his sponsors but with a Russina GP coming up it would make sense that someone would step in)…

    1. Fernando Cruz says:

      Senna started only in the 12th race in 2011 and even so he managed to beat Petrov several times in qualifying, so in pace they were evenly matched…

  22. James says:

    There have been suggestions that Bruno may have a shout at being one of the Force India pilots next year too?

  23. Ant Dale says:

    As a Williams fan i am chuffed at this news. If the FW35 is competitive then i expect good things from the team next year. Shame for Bruno though, seems a good guy. hope he gets a drive next season

  24. Gras Albert says:

    Good news for Williams, had they had a top 5 driver this season they would have been on multiple podiums, perhaps multiple winners.

    The car was good enough, the drivers not so much

    1. Maybe – but I bet overall they are pretty happy with their one win. That is a good result for Williams

      Sometimes things do not work out – Mercedes probably had a top five car and two excellent drivers and they could barely manage a podium (beyond China of course)

      I hope Williams can perform again, but it has been a long time…

    2. Fernando Cruz says:

      The car was good, but not that good. Anyway, with more experience, in a second year with the team, even Senna could do much better than he did in his first year. With 2013 tyres and not losing 15 FP1 I’m sure he can have a lot more to offer next year, if he gets the Force India drive.

  25. EI says:

    Who is most likely to get the seat at Force India (assuming Kovaleinen gets dropped by Caterham as some rumours suggest) and assuming Grosjean retains his seat with Lotus ?

    Candidates for the seat would seem to be Alguesari,Sutil,Kobayashi, and Kovaleinen.

    1. Fernando Cruz says:

      Hopefully will be Bruno Senna.

    2. Fireman says:

      It’s Grosjean or Kobayashi, although Kovalainen is also in contact with Lotus.

      1. Fireman says:

        Above drivers to Lotus. For Force India, most likely Sutil.

  26. Canadian Fan says:

    Sounds like a lateral move for Williams – It may help a little on track, but it will hurt in the pocketbook.

    The real loser this off-season looks to be Kobayashi…that guy deserves a seat in my opinion.

    1. Dave Aston says:

      I agree re Kobayashi; results wise, he’s at least as good as Sutil; he has more charisma, and fewer assault charges. I reckon each year there are 5 teams who should take up the top ten spots in the WDC. Kobayashi finished 12th three years running. I would have thought he would be considered good value for a sponsor. But… It looks like we may never see him in F1 again.

  27. Paul Beenkens says:

    What do I Think ? THE story right now is that Alonso should be World Champion.Because there is clear video evidence that Vettel overtook Vergne’s Torro Rosso under yellow and that Vettel should be given a 20 second penalty demoting him to eight place securing the world title to Alonso ! But what is the FIA doing ? They say Ferrari first must lodge a protest !The FIA themselves should start an investigation immediatly ! What’s your reaction on this issue James ?

    1. David Ryan says:

      Looking at the video on the BBC Sport website (which is so far the only one running the story), there’s a flag being waved at the marshals post at the pit exit. Whatever colour it is, it isn’t yellow so logic suggests it was a green flag. The marshals have a radio link to race control so if they’d seen him overtake under a yellow flag it would definitely have been reported, so this seems a bit spurious. The fact no other reputable source has mentioned it so far doesn’t help.

    2. Yak says:

      Just before Vettel made the overtake, there was a marshall to the left waving a green flag. That gave Vettel the ok to pass. The move was legal. Alonso isn’t the 2012 WDC. Get over it.

  28. David Ryan says:

    Feel slightly sorry for Senna – he’s a nice enough guy and he’s shown some talent in his time. Unfortunately, he just didn’t seem to make the most of the equipment at his disposal, and certainly wasn’t the step up from Barrichello that was (presumably) expected when he replaced him. Live by the sword, die by the sword I suppose.

  29. Galapago555 says:

    Absolutely off topic, James, are you going to post anything about flag-gate and supposed intention from Ferrari to appeal Brazil’s GP outcome?

  30. [MISTER] says:

    James,
    Did you hear any updates on the story about Vettel overtaking Vergne under flashing yellows?

    BBC published an article about it with some footage that doesn’t look good for Vettel.

  31. Simon Lord says:

    James, might I suggest that in the close season it would be worth having an article on the pay drivers of the last 10 or 15 years – what their credentials were, what they achieved in F1, what they did after F1?

    Some will have made the grade and overcome the ‘pay driver’ stigma, some will have been stuck in the no-hope teams that never allowed them to show what they could do, and some will have been an embarrassment. It would be interesting to hear your opinion of who fell into which category.

  32. Fernando Cruz says:

    Bruno Senna had to have a very good season not to lose the drive to Bottas, as the Finn is a promise who has been prepared to race in 2013 and also has Toto Wolff as one of the main shareholders of the team. Losing 15 FP1 proved a massive disadvantage and Bruno could not qualify well, so he is out. Anyway, I think Bottas can do better than Bruno did this year (if he really is that good) but maybe not as well as Bruno would do in a second season with the team.

  33. JB HAM says:

    James you commented on this very here website that you doubt that Bottas will find enough money for a seat. You’re sources are not “observating” in enough detail then?

    1. James Allen says:

      No I didn’t!

      It’s been clear for some time that Bottas was destined for a drive

      1. Miran says:

        I think you did. You said that you think Bottas is not likely to get the seat.

  34. JB says:

    I’m not surprised that Senna is out. He is like DiResta, i.e. no natural speed.
    Maldonado have very good natural speed. I see him as a threat in the future.

    I’d feel gutted if I was Senna though. After plenty of $$$ gifts, now Williams can finally afford a decent driver (Bottas).

    Whatever it takes to win, I guess….

  35. Warren Groenewald says:

    I’ve been watching Senna drive long before he made it to F1 and genuinely believe the only thing he is lacking is a proper amount of time in the car.

    If one of the championship contenders misses a practice session in a weekend it’s considered a very big deal – Senna missed one almost every weekend and it’s just too big a disadvantage to overcome.

    It looks a very high risk move at the moment by Williams to pair a rookie with Maldonado. Pastor is not nearly consistent enough and I really believe that if Williams had stuck with him and Senna for another season at least they’d fare much better. Pastor has the speed to pull off the surprise win while Bruno consistently brings home the points, often starting further back than he should.

  36. Michael says:

    Any news on Calado’s next move? He is not on the list of GP2 drivers for next year?

    He would most likely have beaten Gutiérrez/Chilton were it not for food poisoning at Singapore and performed very well compared with Bottas in GP3.

    Is there any news on a third driver position/WS by Renault?

  37. I’ve got mixed feelings about this. Bruno has matured nicely this season, into a very competent racing driver who will stay out of trouble and bring the car home in the position it should be. His qualifying was weak, but this was exacerbated by him missing out on 75% of the FP1 sessions. He made a good partner for the mercurial Maldonado, a safe pair of hands to complement Pastor’s ‘win it or bin it’ approach to racing. I felt the writing was on the wall for Bruno when we arrived at Interlagos and nothing had been confirmed: what better time to announce you’ve re-signed Senna for 2013 than at the Brazilian Grand Prix?

    On the other hand, I’ve been excited about Valtteri Bottas prospects for years. I first saw him in Formula Renault in 2008 and he looked blindingly quick. When you combine that kind of fundamental speed with a laid back manner and intelligent approach, you know you’re looking at a very special driver indeed. It’s a big, big jump from GP3 to F1, but he’s been carefully groomed by Williams and it feels like he’s ready for a race seat.

    Make no mistake though, this is a bold move by Williams. Between the chaotic brilliance of Maldonado and the calm competence of Bruno Senna, they had an ideal driver pairing for where they are at right now. The conservative move would be to stick with that for another year and maneuver Valtteri into a GP2 drive. As a rookie, Bottas will make mistakes but I’m more concerned at how Maldonado will respond to having a team mate who will rival him for outright pace.

    What does the future hold for Bruno? Well he’s shown himself to be very capable and quite quick and he brings a decent-sized pot of gold with him. The grid for 2013 is looking mighty congested, but personally I would opt for Senna over someone like Sutil, who offers similar pace and qualities but would bring less funding with him. He may or may not get the Caterham drive (I’m hoping 10th place may secure Heikki’s seat), but I suspect Bruno will be back in 2014 come what may.

  38. surya kumar says:

    Feel sorry for the guy but that is life in F1. The season with Williams was a life line given to him and did not make the best use of it. I for one would prefer Kaumi in the force India seat than Bruno. Now What about Di reista he seems to have lost it all in the final two GPs and seems down beat. Does it mean that Force India might have a completely new pair next year?.

  39. Carl says:

    What a curious place to work.
    Bruno Senna did a good job and scored many points for his team, thus a lot of money for them + the money he brought with him.

    Only in Formula 1 we can see people coming with a lot of money and see their boss taking it with a big smile and as a thank you they (the boss and team principal) will talk you down an entire season and downsize you at the end.

    In a normal corporation an union and the law would prevent that.

    It is also disrespectful to the sponsors brought by the driver to the team.

    (Yes it happened many times before with a lot of other drivers)

    About Bottas… how can people be convinced that he would be better as we know by recent F1-history that no new young fresh driver rocked the F1 world since Triple World Champion Sebastian Vettel and World Champion Lewis Hamilton. Both also drove a lot of miles before their first race.
    Every year we hear about the new God given super driver talent (Daniel Ricardo last year)and they all fail
    So Bottas, won’t change the statistics.

    Thanks to this year tires some young driver got into the spotlight, but through the end when knowledge about this season tires was mastered, they faded away.

    There isn’t any mega stars in the new generations of drivers and the future of Formula 1 looks sadly bland.

  40. Carlos Silva says:

    Bruno Senna is not a good pilot.

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