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Senna to test Renault in Hungary, but Grosjean is the real target
Posted By: James Allen  |  25 Jul 2011   |  4:57 pm GMT  |  108 comments

Following on from the driver switches at HRT and Team Lotus in recent races, there is more movement with Bruno Senna being given a chance to drive the Renault in Friday morning practice in Budapest.

The Brazilian has been in a reserve driver role this season after a difficult debut season with HRT last year.

Nick Heidfeld’s seat with the team is under review, the veteran German has not performed as well as expected against Vitaly Petrov – it is seven to three in qualifying to the Russian – in the seat left vacant by Robert Kubica’s accident.

But it is thought that if Heidfeld is to be replaced before the end of the season it will be towards Romain Grosjean that the team will turn.

Team principal Eric Boullier is an admirer of his fellow Frenchman, who currently leads the GP2 series with four wins. Grosjean was drafted into the team in 2009 after the sacking of Nelson Piquet, but with no testing and up against Fernando Alonso in the other car he didn’t look great. Boullier believes he deserves a second chance.

“He wasn’t ready in 2009 and those seven races alongside Alonso did him a lot of harm,” Boullier said over the weekend. “He’s proved in GP2 this year that he’s a very good driver and he deserves a chance.”

The word is that as soon as he wins the GP2 title, it’s thought the 25 year old will be drafted into Heidfeld’s car. The final rounds are at Monza in early September, but he may have it wrapped up by then.

There is a lot of pressure for France to be represented on the grid. It’s an unprecedented situation for the country which gave a name to the races not to have at least one driver in the field.

Renault is no longer the owner of the team, merely the engine supplier, but due to its historical ownership of the team and the complications in
changing names, it is still called Renault. The team is owned by Luxembourg based investment firm Genii.

The team is somewhat in limbo about drivers, going forward, as it waits to see what happens with Kubica. Everyone is remaining positive and Kubica’s rehabilitation is going well, but if he is able to recover sufficient feeling and movement in his severed right hand to drive an F1 car competitively, it will be a miracle.

Boullier also confirmed that Renault would continue to work on the rear-facing exhausts they tested with Heidfeld on Friday. “The drivers set identical lap times with different exhaust layouts, so it makes sense to investigate the rear exhausts more because that will help us to develop next year’s car, he said.”

(Additional Reporting: Tom Clarkson)
(Photo: Lotus Renault GP Team)

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I think we all know what Grojean did last time in F1,so if you want a driver that can race fast thats Bruno Senna.Dont forget that late Ayrton Senna told about Bruno:”if you think im fast,wait ’till you see my nephfew Bruno”!I think if Senna did they tyhat you(as a team owner),should at least give him a chance to race for 5-6 races!


The thing is, Ayrton Senna said this in 1993 while Bruno was karting. After Ayrton’s death in ’94, Bruno’s family stopped him from racing and it was 10 years before Bruno took up racing again. For someone who lost 10 years of development, he showed remarkable talent – which is still there – but that 10 year gap plus the lack of in-season testing will always hinder Bruno.

There’s also the obvious notion that karting talent doesn’t necessarily translate to Formula 1 talent but, in this case, I’m more than happy to defer to Ayrton’s judgement.


How is Boullier regarded as a team manager and how much of a match is he with the culture at Renault?

I wonder because not since Briatore left have I heard such negative comments from a manager regarding the team’s own drivers. How was his comment that Petrov’s Russian mentality dosen’t go well with “the arrogance of the English”” received by the English element of Renault’s workforce?

Returning to the “culture” of Renault, and Boullier’s disappointment at the lack of leadership, could this be a hangover from the Alonso/Briatore era? How much “leadership” is a driver expected to provide? Do the folk at Renault need someone to bang fists on tables, be demanding and quick to criticise? How much leadership is Boullier delegating to Heidfeld?

Imagine a driver. He’s fast and he’s there to win races and championships. He feels he’s entitled to a brilliant car – not that he expects to be given one on a plate: he definitely puts in the effort but expects and demands the team to deliver. He’s willing to accept that this could take two or more seasons but time isn’t on his side so there’s more pressure on the team or he’ll start looking along the pitlane and considering his options. Loyalty is one thing but he’ll be aware that, even though McLaren gave Senna a car that enabled him to win 3 championships and 35 race victories, he still switched to Williams.

This seems to be the driver Boullier wants.

Of the current drivers, I could be describing Alonso, Hamilton or perhaps Vettel. I rate Heidfeld as a driver but I never thought he was cut from the same cloth as I listed. Boullier seems to have confirmed that, but surely he should have known before hiring him?

The difficult thing is that Heidfeld probably knows he’s in an almost impossible situation. Supposing he gives Renault the drive and direction Boullier wants and picks up a race victory – Renault will still drop him for Kubica or Grosjean. He’d make an ideal number two driver for Ferrari but they already have one. McLaren are fully booked and when Webber retires he’ll be replaced by someone from the Red Bull stock. Mercedes have di Resta hovering around in the background. If he really wants to drive, then his best hope is a gig like Trulli’s but does he want that and will one be available?

Really, though, I’m a fan of Heidfeld and I’m disappointed too – I wish he’d draw more attention to himself. He’s been given yet another chance to show other teams what he has to offer and he should be tarting himself as publicly as possible. He should at least be insinuating his name into the perennial Massa-replacement story.

Heidfeld should be pushing Renault as if his career depended on it… because his career depends on it.


Definitely not a hangover from the Alonso/Briatore era. I remember last year Boullier even critisized Alonso last and talked up Kubica along similar lines talking about commitment and leadership. This despite the fact that he wasnt even in the team during Alonso’s Renault days. Says a lot about Boullier. Most of his interviews seem to be a lot of empty words without much meaning.


I didn’t know Boullier criticised Alonso – he seems pretty good at criticising any driver who isn’t Kubica!

I could be wrong but Boullier’s interviews do seem to have meaning. Increasingly, they seem to mean “Things are going badly but, even though I’m in charge, I’m entirely blameless.” I predict a long career for him in Formula 1, followed by the presidency of the FIA…


Boullier has stated that Heidfeld was unable to provide the “leadership role” that Renault hoped for in Kubica;s absence.

In the first place, how can you expect a driver brought in as a temporary replacement, knowing he would lose his seat as soon as Kubica was ready to return, to provide a “leadership role”?

In the second place, Heidfeld has more seat time and more experience than Roman Grosjean, who is being touted as his potential replacement. What in the heck qualifies Grosjean to provide more of a “leadership role” than Heidfeld? The fact that he is French? Or the fact that he is managed by team principal Eric Boullier?


Sign in Raikonen


Heidfeld needs a strong weekend for sure. Needs to really leave Petrov for dead this weekend which may or may not happen. I agree that the gap between Petrov and Heidfeld is too close for concern likewise his qualifying pace is letting him down but he does tend to pick up points via stealth slipping into points than gaining them ala Hamilton. I think testing Senna and Grosjean shows that Renault have given up on this year which I think shows a massive weakness in the leadership of the team. The car simply doesn’t appear to be developed meaning it is going backwards to other teams. Its all because they allowed Robert rallying


Nicks had enough chances. Probably make a good sportscar driver.


Its pretty interesting what is going on at Lotus Renault at the moment.

You have Boullier wanting to bring in Grosjean to help the government promote a new French F1 race. Possibly to also try and stay as Renaultsports preferred partner with Williams threatening to take that away.

You have Genii who owns the team backing Jerome D’Ambrosio.

Then you have their title sponsor Lotus Cars who would probably prefer to see Bruno getting the drive to help rekindle the Senna in a JPS car image having lost the Team Lotus rights battle.

All this on a backdrop of Russians possibly grabbing control of the team when they can’t pay their loans back later in the year.

They seem to be in a real mess at the moment.


I would like Romain to get the F1 ride.. just for us to see his girlfriend more!!

We need more F1 drivers with stunning looking girlfriends!


Finally…someone with the priorities sorted.


Why aren’t they going after Timo Glock? He’d be the perfect stand in number one.


I think Grosjean is a good driver and has probably been the most consistent driver this year in the GP2 Series, and could have a good career if in the right team conditions.

On Kubica, I think that miracles do happen and will happen in the sporting arena, as long as hope is there, which it still is. I would like to ask you if you, Tom Clarkson or any other journalists in F1 has actually interviewed or has talked to Robert Kubica in person recently?


Strange. I understand the argument that Grosjean wasn’t given a proper chance but he was pretty horrendous on some occasions and I’m not sure he’s going to generate the same buzz. If they really want French (rather than French-Swiss), why not give Jules Bianchi a drive? I’m sure Ferrari would be glad for him to get experience and with the high expectations and family history of success, it would give Genii the opportunity to generate the buzz they seem to crave.


Bianchi is tied to Ferrari


Firstly,I highly doubt that anyone could bring far better results for this year’s Renault,other than Heidfeld.It seemed really unfair for me that he hadn’t secured a seat for this year anyway and only got one due to unfortunate circumstances regarding Kubica.But,give him a break…he got drafted in halfway during the very shaoing if the car,which is one it’s one a handfull and a crazy experiment if you ask me.I only expect him though to further increase his points tally against Petrov.

Furthermore…it seems crazy to me…how can F1 banish serious testing and at the same time teams trying desperately to bring in extremely young talents? It has to be all about funding otherwise it just doesn’t make any sence to me.The Hamilton thing worked because it was in the making years ahead of its time.But nowdays,trying to squeeze 20 year olds down the F1 pipeline seems so unfair both for the drivers and the sport.IMO,even current young world champions clearly need more maturing.Hamilton needs to be patient and calculative,Vettel needs to learn there is track space beyond the racing line and can be used for… overtaking perhups.Still both of them are amazing talents,and I don’t think gp2 or any other dicipline can offer such talent in a yearly base.

Bottom line…Grosjean…I don’t really see anything in him…Senna,neither.Maybe in the next couple of years,maybe after the change in engines makes F1 a baby friendly sport.But for now,totally unfair for young drivers,fans and teams alike.


The Renault just isn’t that great a car. Nick is fast, just not a miracle worker. I seen no point in putting a driver in the car who will finish further back just so you can say you gave someone else a chance.

Tom in Adelaide

Good to see T.C contributing to the site. His work with OneHD for Australian T.V coverage is really good.


Since not very quick Nick has been given ample time to demonstrate that he is really no quicker than the somewhat previously average (although improving) Petrov. There’s nothing really to lose by giving Senna or Grosjean a Friday drive. It would not surprise me if either or both were quicker than “give me just another chance”. They’d probably cost a lot less too?


With the current lack of testing, is it now the time the FIA allowed an extra session for teams to ONLY use reserve drivers.

In my opinion I would love to see Senna get a chance to have at least one race in this years Lotus Renault, I went to see him when he tested for Honda ( Braun ) and he was only a few tenths of Buttons time. Also Senna has been a brilliant ambassador for the Lotus Renault brand.


I think bruno is good too. He has never had the car to prove it in F1, so will be interesting to see how he does.

and after going through Eau Rouge one handed in reverse recording it on his iphone, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. 😉


I believe Grosjean would be given a test before his first race under rules evolved in last couple of years.


Great news, Grosjean is the best racer I have seen in GP2 since Hamilton – as long as he truly has addressed his attitude off track as it seems he has looking at Boullier’s words then I have no doubt he will be a superstar with a proper intergration, he has all the driving ability needed.


The problem is this though.

Hamilton came into F1 alongside Alonso and matched him blow for blow in the same car, Grosjean didn’t do anything of the sort, didn’t even score a single point.

I got the feeling he was capable of being quick over one lap but his consistency and racecraft were terrible, simply too accident prone.


James, I will cease to like you 🙂 if you don’t stop calling Kubica’s return to competetive driving a miracle. Me and all Polish fans hope that Kubica will beat “your” Hamilton next year (at least a couple of times, maybe once or twice). Maybe a wishful thinking on our part, maybe not.


I think most if not all fans want to see Kubica back next year as if nothing ever happened. Let’s make it a surprise if he does, not a disappointment if he doesn’t.


Agreed, let’s wait and think positive.


A difficult one on which to have a strong view because the car has been inconsistent and its ultimate pace remains questionable. It is fair to say that Heidfeld has not out performed it but will replacing him mid-season provide any real benefit?

If Renault is serious about moving forward, it needs the quick and strong team leader next year it thought it had for 2011 with Kubica. That man certainly isn’t Heidfeld and nor is it Petrov but I would be surprised if it’s Grosjean, particularly in the short term. I would have thought they really need a more experienced hand but I have to admit most of those are either signed up, in the twilight of their careers or set fair for permanent mid-fielderdom.


If Kubica is not available for 2011, and Heidfeld is dropped, I doubt Senna or Grosjean will get the drive unless they can bring significant sponsorship.

Eric Boullier may prefer a Frenchman, though Jackie Stewart would no doubt prefer a Scot.

Genii’s boss Gerald Lopez owns Gravity Sport Management company that looks after a host of young drivers, including Chinese Ho-Pin Tung…

All that said, an accomplished experienced driver will be essential to develope the car. That being said who from the current line up are potentially available? Massa is their best shot.


They need Heidfeld’s experience to take the car forward, but they also need a star driver. Perhaps by giving Grosjean a few drives this season they are grooming him as plan B in case Kubica’s comeback doesn’t go well.

Edward Valentine

I don’t think Bruno Senna has had a proper go in F1 yet. I think he’d do well if he were to be given a race seat at Renault, but the quality of talent on the current F1 grid is, in my view, higher than it has ever been. With the pay drivers taking the race seats of more accomplished drivers it seems that the cream will take longer to rise to the top.


I remember vividly Grosjean’s run in 2009 and I have to say he was abysmal. Half decent drivers give at least a hint of being good enough to race in f1 but Grosjean didn’t give one hint. I felt sorry that Alonso had to be paired with such dire team mates in 2008 and 2009 but then again that was his choice.


I don’t see how any other driver will bring in as many points as Nick for the rest of the season. A replacement driver can only be justified if Renault need immediate funding. I still can’t get my head around the Nick bashing. The qualifying differential is nonsense – last time I checked, you don’t get points for qualifying and overtaking isn’t so impossible making qualifying less important than in past years.


Too bad about Heidfeld. I rooted for him to get another chance, I always felt he had more to show. I have no idea whether it’s the car or it’s him, but I’m sorry he hasn’t had a better season.

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