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Bottas gets his chance as Williams drop Senna for 2013
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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Bruno Senna is not a good pilot.


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.


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?.


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.


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?

Warren Groenewald

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.


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….


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?


No I didn’t!

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


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


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.


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.



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.


Just posted on it


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


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.


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 ?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


Hopefully will be Bruno Senna.


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


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.


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…


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


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


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)…


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…


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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