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French Grand Prix
Renault confirms Bruno Senna will race for team in Belgian GP
Posted By: James Allen  |  24 Aug 2011   |  8:03 pm GMT  |  101 comments

Less than 24 hours before the drivers are due in the Spa Francorchamps paddock for the FIA Press Conference, Renault has confirmed that Bruno Senna will race for the team this weekend.

A brief statement said only that he would race in Spa in place of Nick Heidfeld and that he would be in the press conference. The team will announce more details in due course.

The news was first broken by BBC’s Eddie Jordan on Monday and comes after a disappointing campaign for Heidfeld, who was drafted in to replace the injured Robert Kubica. Senna drove in Hungary on Friday morning as a prelude to this opportunity. Like his former HRT team mate Karun Chandhok in Germany, he is being given a chance to show what he can do over a race weekend.

There have been suggestions from team principal Eric Boullier that he would like to run Romain Grosjean in the car this year, the French/Swiss driver is managed by Gravity, which is part of the Genii group that owns the Renault team.

At the same time, Genii announced earlier this month an important strategic tie up with WWI Group, to create a $10 billion investment partnership. As the statement said, “The two companies will focus on private equity investments in Energy, Renewable Energy, Real Estate, Information Technology, Telecommunications, Oil, Gas and the Automotive sector. Their association gives birth to the 8th most powerful private equity investment company in South America.”

The idea is to get Brazilian investors to diversify their portfolios, so it’s very much Brazil focussed.

Clearly Bruno Senna being from such a significant Brazilian family, there must be some positive connections here, but it’s not clear at this point whether he will hold on to the seat to the end of the season or whether Grosjean will get a run once he’s clinched the GP2 title. For a driver, Senna is a very good communicator and an effective operator in social and business situations.

Long term the driver situation is fluid; Renault still has to wait on Kubica who is in rehabilitation after his rally accident. There is talk of him trying out an F1 simulator in the next month to assess the repair to his damaged bones and nerves.

This weekend marks the 50th race since Renault’s last win in F1.

Heidfeld is on the sidelines again, a position he’s become accustomed to. He had a great podium at the start of the year in Malaysia, but since then he’s not had a great run, with five further points finishes, but retiring from three of the last five races. He has been outqualified 8-3 by Vitaly Petrov and sits two points ahead of him on 34 points. Renault are 14 points behind Mercedes in the constructors championship and 31 points ahead of Sauber, so Mercedes are probably the most relieved by today’s news as it makes it less likely that they will be caught for fourth place with Petrov and Senna in the Renault, even though Schumacher sits below the Renault drivers in the table currently.

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By his own admission Senna is going to find it difficult to match Petrov or Heidfeld so the decision to replace Nick can only be down to money and the need to please sponsors, rather than obtaining maximum points for the team.

It’s sad to see Nick forced to take legal action against the team to try and secure his position.

Clearly any financial settlement offered wasn’t enough to keep him is sunglasses !


Clearly a financial move when you replace the driver leading in the points. Its also clear that Renault have not kept pace with development…the year started off good but neither driver has done much since. That is no fault of Heidfelds, he sure cant do much when the car explodes can he? If they think Senna or Grosjean will become the “team leader” Boullier keeps spouting of about…they have another thing coming.

I agree that Nick has had his chances, and if he was going to win he most likely would have. But this is another case of bad luck on his part… money wins every time. To go legal to fight to stay where your clearly not wanted… hmmm… why?

Personally I think the person most in need for replacement at Renault is Boullier.


I wonder how long Renault ( and I mean the french car manufacturer) will give permission to these Genii business people to use their name.

Heidfeld is said to go to court and from experience that’s publicity they won’t be eager to get.


So who will be the driver that will develop the Renault car?

Since they’re not happy with Nick.


James (or anyone else!),

On the subject of Genii (idiots, methinks, but each to his own opinion), any news as to what’s gone on regarding the Sutil bottling incident/accusation in China?


Quick Nick to replace Massa at Ferrari. Get one win, then retire to endurance racing (Which he will be fantistic at).



Good article with interesting insight into the commercial forces behind decision making.

I find it interesting to compare the “2 Lotus” teams and looking at your recent articles it really stands out which one is moving forward, with positive PR, articles and generally favourable responses, . . .

. . . and which one isnt.


Possibly, but it’s performance on track that counts so that’s what they all need to focus on


Senna may prove me wrong, but it is an almost universal tendency that pay drivers do not bring enough money to outweigh their own shortcomings as drivers.

They are drafted in to correct a cash-flow problem that was initialised by prior poor results and poor development. Their supply of cash allows the team to drag out their inevitable decline, but seldom does it arrest the slide.

I feel sorry for Nick. Not in the sense that he is being deprived; he has been afforded the opportunity of driving more races than most F1 drivers and for that he can be thankful and reflect on a full career.

However, it has to be stated that this guy is the most under-appreciated/under-rated driver on the grid. He is castigated for ‘not being flash’, while quietly out-pointing far more illustrious competition (Raikkonen, Massa, Kubica).

Renault are a far cry from the championship winning teams of 2005 and 2006, and this decision doesn’t elevate my opinion of them. Good luck Bruno, you don’t deserve a seat in a good team. Oh look, you haven’t got one.


F1 team is a business. It sells addvertising area. It’s product is worth the popularity and fame they got.

There are two ways to get fame:

1. Winning.

2. Celebrity driver

Celebrity in sports means usually interest of driver’s nation spectators.

So in Renault:

1. Kubica brought scores.

2. Petrov brought Russians.

With Heidfeld not scoring and not bringing Germans (too many better German drivers here) – he was useless.

Better use Senna bringing Brazilians (even if not scoring), than fund Heidfeld driving for fun.


I think Nick deserved better team than the Genii managed Renault. Bruno better prove his worth with this car against Vitaly.

Last years success was due to Kubica’s Driving + Genii not tinkering with management.

This year after Genii tinkered with the management of the team, I suspect even if Kubica would have had the success that they had with last years team.

These owners need to learn a lot than anybody else in the team. with their current approach the Renault F1 team as we know is heading for disaster. no doubts.


The team principal of this team is a joke in my opinion and not a very honest person, if he think Senna will do anything better that Heidfeld in the last races of the season, he is dreaming. Be honest with the fans, the team need money and Senna brings money. I hope Kubica takes notes about the way his team works.

Renault is not better than HRT, that’s for sure.


A couple of observations from me.

Firstly, having watched Classic F1 on BBC red button last night (kiss goodbye to that next year, but that’s another topic…) I saw Nick finish 3rd at Interlagos 2001 in the Sauber. I think that was the year he was partnered with Kimi, and it was between the two of them as to who then went to McLaren. Would things have been different if Nick had got that drive rather than Kimi?

Also, isn’t this situation symptomatic of the testing ban? There is simply no way for young drivers to get decent F1 experience now. Some simulator work, a couple of Friday practices then if they’re lucky they get their chance, but then seemingly only given a few races to prove their worth.

I don’t really blame the teams in this regard. They need drivers that perform quickly but also consistently, and there is a greater risk of lack of consistency with a new driver. So the teams become risk-averse regarding drivers, and may be tempted to stick with someone who is a tenth slower but more reliable.

In which case, they should have kept Nick. But against this of course, is the financial imperative which forces the team’s hand, and results in Senna replacing Nick for sponsor exposure. Bit of a sad day for Renault (I will not call then Lotus!), as I think it confirms their status as a team seeking dollars above most things.


While it may be true that Heidfeld would *probably* bring in more points than any replacement, there is the chance that Senna/Grosjean will actually shine. From a strategic perspective that makes sense – it’s unlikely with the current car/drivers they will catch Merc or be caught by Sauber. Changing drivers *may* get them ahead of Merc, and even if it doesn’t they’ll be no worse off because it’s highly unlikely that that they will get caught by the chasing pack.


I always love how Heidfeld can split F1 fans into those who look at a driver objectively and those who jump onto the bandwagon and say he’s rubbish. This is the man that overall beat Kubica…

Given that his fans include those such as Patrick Head and Nigel Roebuck, I expect Renault will miss him, but given a 31 point lead they’ve got nothing to lose so its probably the logical decision financially. With the rules staying fairly similar next year, I think his lack of feedback will hurt them long term.

Rather than DTM, I’d say he’d be the ideal candidate for permanent driver steward. He pulled off many cracking moves, and held others back (Hamilton in Malaysia) without just pushing them to the outside of the circuit as now seems acceptable.

James, has enough time lapsed for you to be able to comment on how the 2010 HRT’s were in different spec’s?


James, your thoughts on Heidfeld’s prospects? Could he fit into the reckoning for Rubens’ seat at Williams given he had an apparently mutually satisfactory time there back in the day?

When you look back on it, Heidfeld’s F1 career involved a series of comebacks, didn’t it – at Sauber from Prost, at Jordan from unemployment, at Williams as a ‘potential top driver’, last season at Sauber and most recently at Renault. I dare say he’s earned a packet in that time and could slot easily into a DTM seat, but its sad that a respectable and generally well-regarded driver has been treated this way. As others have said, Renault should just fess up and admit Senna brings (the hope of) more cash.


I think he’ll struggle to get back in now. We need to see how many races Senna has (maybe the whole season, maybe sharing seat with Grosjean).


NOT so quick Nick has had many opportunities to push and work through issues….instead of keeping his head down all the time he should engage and look like he wants to be there.

IMO he is done in F1


Grojean has just been quoted as saying that speculation led by this that his Formula 1 career has been speed up is ‘quite funny’


Also Bruno has said that the intention is that he will do the rest of the year, but only two races (spa and monza) are confirmed given ‘legal issues’. (same site, different article)


Why is it that, in all the commentary about this deplorable situation (yes I am a Nick Heidfeld fan, someone who believe that he could win the WDC in a good car) there is little or no discussion about Genii’s (I don’t like calling them LRGP as that is little more than a marketing exercise to try and link the team to bigger/better names) development of the car? As the season has gone on and other teams have slowly improved their performance this car seems to be going backwards.
Despite that apparent lack of development Eric Boullier spends his time criticising his drivers. [mod]
As a final point I don’t see any reason to think that Robert Kubica would have performed any better in this car. And seeing the situation he must be concerned that, if he is fit to return, he will be stuck in a dog of a car/team next year.


I am indifferent to the actual driver swap. Drivers come and go and Heidfeld hasn’t been outstanding. As others have mentioned, it would be good to see some of the rookies get a fair go.

However I am a little peeved at the dishonesty of Renault. They should just out-rightly admit that their justification comes down to the sponsorship Senna brings, rather than bad mouthing Heidfeld. Williams openly admitted that they chose Manaldo over the Hulkenburg, because of the sponsorship.


Adrian Newey Jnr

Its a shame for the engineers in the team. Their engine is decent and they were one of the orginal teams for the exhaust system and engine tuning combination. Plus they had a promising driver in Kubica Therefore I had high hopes for them. But I believe that the losses of senior staff over the past ~6months has finally started to bite in the last few races. Are Renault the next Williams?


This confirms to me that Renault have given up on this year’s car and the race for 4th in the championship and are merely going to play trial and error with drivers and probarly parts on what is clearly a very under developed car. Shame as the car was quick in testing and the first few races but Renault’s techincal development has been woeful and frankly shameful. Just because your no 1 driver is sitting it out does not mean you half heartly race which at times I felt they have done this year.

Feel bad for Heidfeld a racer by sleath who climbs up the field without being noticed and therefore without being rewarded by comments and rewards. His qualifying has been disapointing and therefore races have been a struggle at times but the facts do show he has out scored his teammate.


“Renault’s techincal development has been woeful and frankly shameful.”

I would say barely noticeable would be more accurate.

The word development implies improvement but all they’ve done is waste Carbon Fibre making bits and bobs that don’t work and promptly marched towards the back as a result.


They’ve brought plenty of things to races. But they’ve lost ground to the teams around them, particularly Force India


It is interesting to see now, after half of the season, how much input drivers give to the teams.

Ferrari has been very good at developing the car thanks to Alonso, McLaren more or less the same in 2 different directions with Hamilton and Button.

If we look at the performance of the Renault car at the beginning of the season, it wasn’t far as it is now, therefore the drivers did not give the right feedback to develop the performance of the car.

Renault in recent years has been very proactive and efficient to bring updates, last season they had a new front wing each race!!!

But I think with Heidfeld and Petrov did not have the drivers to steer the development in the right direction.

It appears to me that Kubica on the other hand, had the capability and feel to the car to give to the Renault team the right input to extract more and more perforamce from the car.

But I don’t think Senna or Grosjean will be able to develop the car, time will tell


I think this will be good for Bruno, we will know what hes capable of as well. As much as some people would like to see Nick stay, its useless, he wont do much better than this in that car. Its a good time for Renault to test some of the talent available to them…


It must be a mistake for LRGP to go to 2 pay drivers, lets see them flounder even more now…


Money once again prevails and another Formula 1 warhorse is put to pastures.

Nick was incredibly consistent and one of the most exciting racers out there – Doubters should seek out footage of his overtaking – I will miss him on the grid and hope that Renault wither – Kubica is not coming back next year – If he does I reckon he’ll hurt himself.

Nick has stayed around in the game for a long time doing a solid and tenacious job but unfortunately never wound up with the best cards in his hand – In the modern day transition from baby cot straight to race winning car there’s no place for him in this sport anymore.

Christopher Snowdon

Nick has been consistent in not being very fast I’m afraid, the phrase Quick Nick is a thing of the past (and to be honest, I don’t think he’s ever merited that name). Like it or not he has had platforms to make an impression, ok not win championships, but certainly to be competitive.

I like this move by Lotus/Renault, but I would ratehr see Kimi in the car!!


LRGP, startn 2 wander how long they will last now. Once they lose the Renault name and possibly engines (if they dont pay up on time), then only a matter of time untill Lotus jump ship.

That and hiring low paid newbies or heavily sponsored nobodies and its only a matter of time before it all falls apart.

Sadly for RK, missing out on a year of F1 especially with these new tyres is bad enough without having 2 recover from his injuries and drive for a team thats only ever going 2 go backwards.

Christopher Snowdon

I’m sure we can all agree it’ll be great seeing the senna helmet in a black and gold Lotus Renault, and you just know the majority of weekend tv coverage (and media weekend pictures) will be showing this, great coverage for a team who’s last public image was Nicks renault exploding. And on the point, James in your opinion, is this more than a media publicity stunt?

Either way it was something that had to be done, and I for one am delighted and wish him the best of luck. Don’t worry about Nick, he’s rich enough, and will find a drive in other series. He’s had his chance(s) in F1.


Senna is obviously bringing more money in than Heidfeld can.

Christopher Snowdon

Senna in a Black and Gold Renault car is the medias dream, he’ll get good tv coverage and good media coverage. Nick would not bring this!!! Only time he got TV viewing in Hungry was when his car exploded!!!


True. I’m exptecing a feature on most if not all tv stations in each country.

cue archival footage…

cue trailer for Senna

cue clip of him driving renault

cue clip of senna driving renault

cue clip of senna drivng down straight at a track

cue clip of other senna driving down the same straight at that track as if one merges into the other and then back and then back again a few times flickering then a black screen then flicks back a few more times and then becomes Bruno Senna with Ayrton Senna half faded in in the background saying something…

cue presenters misquoting Ayrton’s comment about Bruno being fast…

then mention Bruno hasn’t had that many years to prepare and then interview with Bruno wearing team sponsors…

Money money money..

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