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More on the Senna move to Williams
Posted By: James Allen  |  17 Jan 2012   |  3:08 pm GMT  |  126 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


Its sad to see all these “fans” spell doom for Williams F1, they have been winning races since 78/79, I think they know what they’re doing.

On the issue of “pay drivers”, not all pay drivers pay because they stink, some of them pay because the teams need the money, so, even if they were good enough to get a drive without paying they would stil have to pay to get in a car. It think Bruno will do well, now he has the expirience of having been to all tracks, and with the added bonus of been part of winter testing he will be ready, not having to shake off rust. Lets give these guys some room and see where they go before we judge them


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

I personally have witnessed Lotus, Brabham, Ligier and Tyrrell all come to the end of their race and championship winning eras and consigned to the history books.

( I’m aware that Ligier didn’t win championships, but in 1980 and 1981, they were right up there.)

In the 80’s, Lotus was on a par with Ferrari for wins and Chmapionships.

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


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

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


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


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


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


Hi James

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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Barrichello outqualified Maldonado 10 times this year and let us not forget that several races he qualified doing some experiments for the Team and not with the best set up.

When he drove for Jordan he helped retired Martin Brundle and also made more points than Irvine (an Irish driver in an Irish Team). When he moved to Stewart he drove ahead of all his team mates and when at Ferrari he out qualified Schumacher and won races against the Ferrai protege several times even with Ross Brawn giving him a strategy to be second.

Ross Brawn also helped more Button than Barrichello at Brawn F1.

Rubens was and still is a fast driver, still faster than Maldonado, Senna, Hulkenberg etc.

We also shouldn’t forget about his experience and ability to help the team to develop the car.

Ross Brawn said once that Rubens had helped Ferrari in his first 3 months more than Irvine did in 3 years.

I know Mr. Allen that you are a huge Michael’s fan and for this reason you can not see clearly the caracter qualities and driving skills of Rubens Barrichello.

I really believe that if it wasn’t for someone like Ross Brawn, Barrichello would have the respect and reconition he deserves.


Hmmmmmm, lmao….


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


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

I, myself, am a Ferrari fan and am grateful that he was at Ferrari with the dream team during his dominant era, I’d have hated to see that at Mclaren!!!

But I was never convinced that the “Schumacher” era was actually blessed with great drivers.

I wanted to ask a question, James, about something you wrote in the book.

You mentioned that he recognised Alonso as his successor in 2002, not Kimi or JPM, and then later you write, he believed Alonso was actually better than himself.

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


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

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

Riccardo Consulini

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


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



In 2012, Williams will have :

– best-possible drivers (according to them)

– championship-winning engines

– new people to replace Sam Michael etc

– money from drivers

– added money from F1 (due to their length of service)

Seems that they’ve now put themselves in a position where they can have no valid excuses if 2012 isn’t better than 2011 ?

Good luck to them….


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

Those Brazillian reals were mighty tempting.


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

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


Yrs they still have a Senna S on the nose


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


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


Hi James

Do we know how long the contract is?


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


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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

Idle conjecture on my part.


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


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


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


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


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


oh please.


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


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


Good choice for the team.

people complain about pay drivers but in reality most of them are, Alonso brings around £80million of Santander money to Ferrari.

We should wait to see how he races before complaining.


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


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


James, I always thought Nacional was a personal sponsor to Senna, I don’t remember them ever paying for a drive. They continued sponsoring Senna when he went to Mclaren.

Surely the same arrangement that Lewis has with Reebok?


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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