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How good is Bruno Senna?

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Andrew Benson | 08:57 UK time, Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Bruno Senna describes sealing a drive at Williams in 2012 as "the start of my Formula 1 career for real". It is a date that could have come three years previously, had events turned out slightly differently.

In the winter of 2008-9, the nephew of the Formula 1 legend Ayrton Senna was on the verge of being signed by the Honda team after impressing in a test alongside Jenson Button.

But then Honda pulled out of F1, team principal Ross Brawn was forced to spend the winter desperately trying to save the team, and when he did so at the 11th hour, he thought it better, given the circumstances, to stick with the experience of Rubens Barrichello rather than the promise he had seen in the younger Brazilian.

Now the wheel has turned full circle, and it is Senna who has deprived Barrichello of a seat in F1. But it has been a long time coming.

Bruno Senna posing with a Williams logo

Bruno Senna drove for HRT in 2010 and spent most of 2011 as a reserve for Renault. Photo: Getty

While Button went on to win the world title for the reconstituted Brawn team in 2009, Senna was left to scrape around for a drive in sportscars, biding his time before another chance in F1 came up, before landing a drive with the nascent HRT outfit in 2010.

The dream turned into a nightmare as the team limped through their maiden season, and for Senna it was a relief to leave, even if it again meant he did not have a full-time grand prix drive.

He spent most of 2011 as a reserve driver for Renault, doing very little driving, before being drafted in to replace the sacked veteran Nick Heidfeld for the final eight races of the year.

The fractured nature of his brief F1 career so far reflects that of his rise up the junior formulae and means it is very difficult to assess the quality of a driver on whom, realistically, a post-restructure Williams will depend to revive their failing fortunes, given the erratic form shown by his team-mate Pastor Maldonado in his debut season last year.

Senna's path to the Williams seat was eased by a substantial sponsorship package from Brazil, a situation that will inevitably see him labelled in some quarters as a 'pay-driver'.

This is quite a stigma in F1 - it traditionally means the driver needed to bring money to make him attractive to team, the implication being that his talent on its own was not enough.

Both he and Williams were at pains to emphasise on Tuesday that they had put their new driver through a rigorous assessment programme before signing him up - and that any talk of money had followed only once they had established to their satisfaction that he was good enough.

"We had an extensive driver-evaluation programme with a handful of drivers," said chief engineer Mark Gillan, "and we made the final decision based on raw pace, consistency, tyre management, technical feedback and mental capacity - and most importantly the potential impact they would have on the team.

"In all those areas it was very clear that Bruno has not had a lot of experience in single-seater racing, but has consistently shown improvement and real talent."

Of course, Gillan would say that - Williams chief executive Adam Parr spent a long time last year trying to convince the world that Maldonado was not a 'pay-driver', despite the sponsorship deal with Venezeula's national oil company that accompanied him to the team.

Maldonado has talent - he out-qualified team-mate Barrichello at Monaco last year, for example - but it is fair to say that he would not be in an F1 car without that help.

Senna is a different case.

Ayrton Senna once said of Bruno: "If you think I'm good, wait until you see my nephew." That, though, was when Bruno was cutting his teeth in karts in Brazil as a child. The great man's death brought Bruno's fledgling career to a shuddering halt at the age of 10.

His family forbade him from racing, and it was not until 10 years later - very late for a man to start a career in single-seater racing cars - that Bruno was able to take it up again.

It has meant a career on fast-forward, and the necessity to soak up vast amounts of information and experience much quicker than his rivals.

Ayrton Senna

Ayrton Senna once said of Bruno: "If you think I'm good, wait until you see my nephew." Photo: AP

Inevitably, that has led to mistakes, but there have also been flashes of real talent, even if it has remained difficult to form a conclusive judgement.

At HRT, the car was awful, the team struggling just to survive and his team-mate Karun Chandhok was then an unknown quantity.

At Renault last year, the qualifying scores between Senna and team-mate Vitaly Petrov - who had not only been in the car all year, but was also in his second season in F1 - were four apiece.

But of the four races where Senna was on top, two of them were the Belgian and Japanese Grands Prix, held at Spa-Francorchamps and Suzuka, two of the three toughest tests for a driver in the world, the other being Monaco. At Spa, on his debut for the team, Senna qualified a brilliant seventh, directly in front of double world champion Fernando Alonso's Ferrari, no less.

With a young driver, especially an inexperienced one, the key is always to look for the highs. The bad points, the crashes, the occasional clumsiness, can be ironed out. But without inherent pace, a driver is going nowhere.

They know a decent driver when they see one at Renault, who have been renamed Lotus for 2012. Trackside operations director Alan Permane has worked with Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and Robert Kubica and he says his impressions of Senna were largely positive.

"I don't think there's any doubt about his pace," Permane says. "What lets him down - and he knows it - is his consistency. But he didn't get a chance to show it. He had eight races with us but a lot of them were compromised by car problems."

Permane admits that it is difficult to be sure exactly how quick Senna is because Petrov is not exactly a proven top-level benchmark.

"Bruno was at least as quick as - if not quicker than - Vitaly," Permane says. "It's difficult to say whether he's going to be an Alonso/Kubica/Schumacher character, but some drivers take a long time to come along.

"Look at Jenson Button - when he drove for us, Giancarlo Fisichella destroyed him, and Fisi would be the first guy to admit he's not a mega. He was a very good number two. But now Jenson's fantastic. Can Senna do that? Only time will tell.

"He's very confident, very relaxed, almost performs better under pressure. The cars these days are trickier to drive (than they used to be) for someone who jumps in cold. And I think he did a brilliant job to do that.

"There's definitely something there. He definitely can be there on merit."

Backed by a budget or not, then, Senna more than deserves a chance to show what he can do.


  • Comment number 1.

    Nice word for the day Andy: 'nascent' :-)

  • Comment number 2.

    talentwise better than webber and massa who dont deserve their respective seats..

  • Comment number 3.

    He will need a better drive than Williams to prove his worth.

  • Comment number 4.

    Ferrari35, you mean he will need a better drive than last year's Williams. Who would have thought Jenson would win the WDC in that pig of a Honda he had been lumbered with for years?

  • Comment number 5.

    as much as ive wanted bruno to get the seat, i will miss seeing rubens in thew car

  • Comment number 6.

    Sad that Rubens doesnt have a drive for 2012 (yet)
    Great for Bruno, he showed good potential in GP2, and in the Renault in 2011.
    The Williams has to be better that in 2011, and remember Roseburg got podiums with it in 2009 (maybe 08), when it was not much better....
    If hes only 10% as good as Ayrton he will be around for a while, if hes 20% as good he will get a top drive in a few years, if hes 30% as good he could challenge for a title.

  • Comment number 7.

    Andrew you make the point of it being 4 all in qualifying with petrov but i would point out in japan neither petrov or senna set a time so senna finished higher purely on the number of the car and india was because petrov had a grid penalty. in japan in all the other sessions petrov was faster. plus belgium was a very unusual qualifying session. plus only in one race singapore did senna out preform petrov. i don't understand the love for senna except because he is a nice guy and related to aryton. he's not fast

  • Comment number 8.

    @2 You really think Webber doesn't deserve his seat? or Massa? I'm suprised, very surprised. Massa hasn't shown his 2008 form that much is true, but he's still a top level driver, as for Webber, i guess missing out on the WDC at the last race in 2010 because of a blown call by the team makes him overrated. Wow! just Wow!

    Anyway ....Back on subject, Senna's a quality little driver for sure, but there's no doubt in my mind he's there because he brings funding and a "name". He'll outpace Maldonado over the season but won't be in the points as regularly as Barrichello would have been (if Williams pull their fingers out and provide the car).

    About a third of the grid is in F1 because they bring in the cash, I'm sorry to say, as a massive Ayrton Senna fan, his nephew is one of them.

  • Comment number 9.

    Me being only 20 years old, I never got to see the huge talent that was Ayrton Senna (although I have seen videos of him racing) so I think it is good to see his nephew given a chance to prove himself (if the Williams car is any better than last year that is). I agree he is there more for his name & sponsorship, but I am glad to see a chance being given to a young, talented driver to prove himself.

    As for the 2012 season as a whole, I am excited to see that there are now 6 World Champions on the grid, along with others who have been very close to becoming a Champion. On the other hand, I do hope to see some more young drivers proving they have what it takes and I am especially looking forward to seeing Paul Di Resta's 2nd season.

    Can't wait for March - the suspense is killing me!

  • Comment number 10.

    He's good - but not that good.
    It is just the name that everyone is getting excited about, but realistically he has a lot to prove in a team that is in transition. Not a good combination.

  • Comment number 11.

    @8 I'd agree there Massa has most definitely not performed to his best since the accident, Ferrari have shown great patience to keep him other teams seem very quick to cast aside underperforming drivers.

    I still say part of the problem has been the lack of in season testing in the past the reserve driver would have driven hundreds of laps in season giving the team ample time to assess them.

  • Comment number 12.

    It's a very good opportunity for Bruno to prove that he has what it takes. The jury appears to be out as to whether or not he has the ability to match his uncle initial praise of him.

  • Comment number 13.

    Does anyone know if Rubens is being kept on as a reserve/test driver for Williams?

  • Comment number 14.

    What a joke! Sutil and Alguersari were much better than senna williams will choose money over talent lately much as i like the team this decision will only see them struggle to finish tenth
    1 seat left HRT who's having that then Andrew?
    2 months to go :)

  • Comment number 15.

    I may be stating the obvious here but... Does anyone else think that when Ayrton said "If you think I'm fast, wait until you see my nephew" that he was purely trying to give Bruno a little helping hand should he want to become a racing driver at any category or possibly even looking for a sponsorship deal then. I don't know when Ayrton actually said that comment but maybe I'm just being sceptical.

  • Comment number 16.

    People were excited about the name in 2009, but not any more. It will now only have any marketable value if the team are any good, which unfortunately they are not looking in any danger of being in the foreseeable future.
    The sponsorship deal Maldonado would have needed to bring to the table to secure him a race drive (he'd have to be paying more for a drive than most, I'm sure we'd all agree) would most probably reduce the need for Senna to be a pay driver.
    I agree that Senna hasn't completely proven his racing credentials to the fans yet, but that doesn't mean he hasn't got what it takes. The team has too much history and knowledge to be playing such silly games.

  • Comment number 17.

    I quite like Senna, but i would still class him as a pay driver. But Williams are stuggling and a few extra £m kicking about will probably get better results than a proven driver.
    Personally i would have loved Senna to go to Caterham (nee Lotus) - for both his money and his talent

  • Comment number 18.

    @ 15

    Speaking as a Bruno fan (and I'm going to endeavor to be fair), I dont think he would have needed Ayrton to say that just to get Bruno his foot in the door. A bit of talent and the name itself was always going to be enough, so I believe that when Ayrton said that (and he said it when Bruno was 10), he was being genuine.

    Think about it this way, when your name is Senna, and you bring some talent and some money with you, you dont really need much more than that. He was being genuine.

    The only thing that worries me is that people wont take into account the staggering amount of time he's lost out on in his development. He's already at a handicap to start with, and if I know cynics like I know cynics (because I am one myself sometimes) they will not be taking that into account when it comes time to beat Senna with the "your not good enough and your only in F1 because of your name" brush, and that time will come at some point, I have no doubt about that.

    I also have no doubt that Bruno will be single minded enough to ignore it.

  • Comment number 19.

    Look forward to your comments on #7 ref qualifying numbers. I´m not about to check it, but if poster is correct, I think we should have heard it from you first!

    This is a gamble for both parties, though less for Senna than for Williams, who had options. If anyone thinks Williams can´t fail to build a better car than last year, they don´t know about Cooper or Brabham. Nothing is forever, except decline or Ferrari, perhaps.

    If Williams do better than last year, Senna could look good. But lets be honest, he´s paying for the seat and the team didn´t say "no", so he´s a pay driver. They both protest too much! Senna might suprise on a few occasions, he might go on to become a fixture for a few years, but the really, really good ones have it from the first time they get in an F1 car, whatever background they have.

  • Comment number 20.

    Fact: Bruno Senna won races in the British F3 championship in 2006, then finished second to Geogio Pantano in GP2 in 2008. Pantano had been competing at that level for about seven years. If Honda hadn't pulled out at the end of '09, we would have found out how good Bruno is ong before now.

  • Comment number 21.

    "Qualifying scores between Senna and Petrov were four apiece" - A fact maybe, but lets look at the circumstances:

    Japan - Neither Senna or Petrov set a time in Q3. Senna qualified above above not through talent.

    India - Petrov had a grid penalty

    So to answer your question of "How good is Bruno Senna?" - Barely as good as Petrov, nowhere near as good as Rubens...Williams have basically got 2 pay drivers this season.

  • Comment number 22.

    Simple fact is, if his name was Bruno Smith he wouldn't be in the car. Anybody want to argue with that?

    Thought not ;-)

  • Comment number 23.

    I am personally delighted that Senna got the seat at Williams. Although last year the team had its worst ever season, I do not think we can say that their lack of points was a result of the car's performance alone. I think last season showed just how important it is to have a talented driver line-up. Contrary to the statements within the team, claiming that Pastor Maldonado is not a 'pay driver', Frank Williams has always been ruthless if the drivers fail to perform, (look at his refusal to renew David Coulthard's contract after a tame 1995 performance from the Scot). Therefore, the immediate decision to maintain Maldonado's position within the team despite his lacklustre debut season proves to us that the finance and sponsorship that he is providing is keeping him in the driving partnership.
    Although some may argue that he has shown flashes of talent, such as his impressive performance in Monte Carlo this season, I will ask you this. Based on pure driving expertise, which two of these drivers would you select? Barrichello, Maldonado, Senna or the now unemployed Adrian Sutil?

    I personally think that Barrichello's failure to perform shows that his illustrious career has hit a rather sudden yet solemn end. We've seen him punch well above his weight in inadequate cars before (Jordan, Stewart, Honda), yet his inability to master the car and the tyres this year turned into total inconsistency, with him failing to reach the second qualifying session on various occasions.

    While we obviously have to reserve a substantial amount of credit for rookie Paul Di Resta, Adrian Sutil's performance in the second half of the season was truly inspirational. Perhaps the first half was intimidated by his affairs out of the paddock, as well as by the attention of Scotland's new hot prospect, yet Sutil's recovery showed viewers and Team Directors that he has sheer pace and talent, while showing how much he has matured over the last few seasons.

    I am not resentful towards Force India for selecting Nico Hulkenberg for the second drivers' slot, as I was it was terribly unfair how he lost his seat at Williams, after getting their first pole position in about six years. However, it is apparent to me and other Formula One observers that Pastor Maldonado is simply blocking true prospects to make an impact. Hulkenberg's progress will have been significantly affected by the loss of his post last season and this year we are robbed of seeing any further development in Sutil.

    With teams in the midfield like Williams, Force India and Renault being so integral for the development of young drivers, it is disappointing to see teams buckling to financial pressure and in turn depriving someone with more natural talent and potential of an opportunity. How would things be now if financial gain had played such a huge role twenty years ago? We may not have seen Michael Schumacher make his break in the Jordan, nor Raikkonen or Massa at Sauber. In 2012, we will witness the most competitive line-up in F1 history; boasting six World Champions. It will be disappointing to see teams forsake the thrill of Formula One for financially directed decisions.

    I will conclude by saying that I agree with Williams' decision to employ Bruno Senna, as selecting Rubens Barrichello would not only be a decision providing more nostalgia than results, but it would hinder the progress of his much younger countryman. Pastor Maldonado has become the entity of everything that is wrong with team decisions in Formula One, as his presence in the team firstly alienated Nico Hulkenberg (who has fortunately managed to bounce back into the frame), and now Adrian Sutil, who will struggle to get his foot back in the driving door.

  • Comment number 24.

    I'm a big Rubens fan, and can understand the merits of having an experienced driver beside Maldanado, but for me Senna is also a good choice. I think a lot of you will be surprised by how good he is this year (depending on the car), judging by many of the comments. Clearly he is not being selected purely on merit, but then not many are outside the top 4 teams.

    You can pick over the bones of the qualifying finishes between him and Petrov in the 8 races, but many seem to be overlooking the fact that Petrov had already had a year and a half in the car. To come in and then immediately qualify ahead of him at Spa - in fact head of Alonso - proves his quality IMO. See also his good record in GP2.

  • Comment number 25.

    I think he shows promise.

    For how good he is, well, just for multi-tasking and co-ordination he gets top marks. I ride a bike and the concentration required to train on roller is high.... but to do it whilst playing a Playstation and Call of Duty!!!! Check it out:

  • Comment number 26.

    In this cold money driven world we live , in the chances osf RB keepng his seat were IMHO slim at best , unless the fabled middle esatern sponsorship happened ( what happened their ? ) .

    So if it takes 2 pay drivers to keep the only real 2 Privateer " team alive so be it .

    The day Williams goes bust or sells out to a manufacturer will be a sad day indeed .

    And before anyone says about the shares , it is the COMPANY that has been floated not the team .

  • Comment number 27.

    What's the fuss about? The nephew of a once great driver joins a once great team. Big deal!
    Will consistently finish nearer last than first.

  • Comment number 28.

    enjoy the money Frank that's all you'll have along with a great surname !!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 29.

    Williams deserve to return to the F1 top positions and I guess that Bruno Senna can better guarantee the result: he is young, motivated and he is a talent. Barrichello has never demonstrated, even not in the Top Teams, to be an extraordinary driver and now should have lost motivation ... good luck Bruno!

  • Comment number 30.

    i love a relativly pointless topic, Bruno getting a seat, can generate so much intereset, and the BBC still want to drop F1 coverage.... It astonashing...

    Now on topic ... I still think Sutil should have got a drive, but Senna is good. Senna is better that Buemi and Algersuari, how are both better than Ricciardo. To get a drive you either need to be amazingly Popular (Alonso/Hamilton), ridiculously good (Vettel/Hamilton), a Legend (MSC/Alonso) or a Red Bull sponsored driver (Vettel/Webber/Ricciardo), or lucky (Petrov/Senna/Di Resta)

  • Comment number 31.

    Two of 2011's top 10 in the driver's standings are looking without a drive (ignoring the Petrov replacing Trulli rumours which occasionally get a passing mention) and the guy who finished 11th raced for little over half of the season! I wouldn't be so quick to criticise Maldonaldo in isolation as many have done - the rest of the field have been inconsistent, with points often grabbed by virtue of saving tyres by dropping out in Q1.

    Renault were superb early on but couldn't keep up the development. When the car's relative performance dropped off, Heidfeld was unceremoniously dumped in favour of Senna's sponsorship money. Senna came into the Renault mid-season having had no testing and limited practice running - so he did a great job to be running close to Petrov. He didn't exactly overwhelm him though. Petrov was downtrodden in 2010 in the same way every Renault no.2 driver has been since Alonso. He showed his talent early in the season in a decent car then had little more to work with, so I think people have been rather unfair to him. Particularly his own team!

    Sutil was "best of the rest" out of the midfield teams and I find it bizarre that Force India want to run two drivers with limited experience in favour of a guy who's helped bring them from the back of the grid. Perhaps his impending court case has been a factor? After a shaky start he drove superbly - often better than the Mercedes drivers - yet he's been cast aside. It would be a real shame if we never see him in a competitive car.

    Ultimately I think Red Bull's junior team is doing more damage to driver progression. Toro Rosso need to be replaced by a "proper team" which is doing more than recruiting drivers simply because Reb Bull sponsor them. We see drivers putting in strong performances and being booted in favour of returning drivers (Schumacher, Raikkonen), pay drivers and guys in the Red Bull junior programme.

  • Comment number 32.

    At last that talentless oaf Barrichello has had enforced retirement. Always described as 'the most experienced man in F1' by the commentators, purely because he has had the most number of starts, and there are no other highlights to pick up on... Which presumably means he has had the most number of 'not wins'. Schumacher always has and always will put him to shame.

  • Comment number 33.

    Even after all the comments about Bruno's experince or lack of it, the fact is that nobody can predict what is going to happen. In fact comparisson can`t be done between Ayrton and Bruno, as the first is still the legend of this sport even after Michael Schumacher won his 7 WC, I venture to say tha it's unanimous around the world that Ayrton was the best F-1 Pilot of all times. But on the other hand after his 25 years old Bruno is just start his F-1 carreer.

  • Comment number 34.

    So this is Bruno's chance to spend a full season developing his trade in a (hopefully at least) mid table team. He has to comfortably out perform Maldonado in qualifying and races and show flashes of brilliance alongside regular results. This, then, can be his springboard to becoming a respected 'shoe in' F1 driver rather than being a 'last chance saloon' driver.

    His qualifying at Spa and Suzuka speaks to ability to produce speed under pressure....focusing on replicating this more regularly and building on F1 race craft could be his ticket to consolidating his position in F1.

    I believe he can do this and it will be exciting to see it all unfold this season!

  • Comment number 35.

    I predict he will rank alongside the likes of Jos Verstappen in the annals of F1 'greats'!

  • Comment number 36.

    Williams are utterly mad. They kick out the most experienced driver in F1 history for Brazilian cash? Didn't they learn with the other guy in the other driver's seat? Barrichello was generally considered to still have most of his talent and there are far better options if they really must replace him. Did his frustration at the team for a lack of progress really have a part in this? I hope not, as that would be rather stupid - but then this kinda thing has happened many a time before with this team.

    And Senna's skill? Single-lap pace is all he has - this article seems to have forgotten what actually happened in the race at Spa, and there was the incident at Brazil too. Colin Kolles emphatically did not want Senna to drive for HRT for another year, cash or not. It's not surprising how Senna didn't figure much in previous F1 years for teams looking for new talent, but when F1 has a little less cash around...

    The part about Button is ridiculous - it's already known that most likely it was distractions off the track that made for a bad stint at Renault, and it's also known that he impressed at Williams on his debut year. And I don't get this recent criticism of Petrov - the guy did the best he could at a team who seemed to think that grinding their drivers underfoot is the best solution for a lack of car development.

    In any case; there is a large pool of drivers in F1 from which to draw the right one for your team (Algesuari is possibly a good choice; when threatened with the sack mid-year he then immediately upped his pace and showed up Buemi), but that's irrelevant in this case - because congrats Williams, you just sacked the most experienced driver ever, who has lost maybe the merest layer of his skill despite his age, and most certainly none of his enthusiasm for the sport. Instead you now have an unknown, and that Venezualan guy who did nothing for you.

    All that pay-cash will not save you.

  • Comment number 37.

    Jos Verstappen is such a legend, like Winklehock, Diniz and many other true legends .......


  • Comment number 38.

    I am sure Bruno Senna will be faster than Maldonado in the Williams, and therefore deserves his chance in F1. However, as someone already pointed out, he will have to go to a top team to prove his championship credentials. This is unlikely, as he appears to drive like a 20 year old rookie, with some respectable talent, but makes silly mistakes along the way. That's not enough to be a top driver, and he is already 28! Add to the fact that his raw pace is not ALL that quick- fine he beat Petrov- but would he be able to beat the likes of Sutil, Rosberg, Hulkenberg, Alguersuari- all very talented drivers- on raw pace? Hmm.... as much as this piece tries to convince me otherwise..... I think not.

  • Comment number 39.

    @22. I disagree, if his name was Bruno Smith he would have 10 more years racing experience, and be a more consistent & quicker driver. Not sure he'd be better than his Uncle, but I'm pretty sure he'd be in a F1 car.

    How his Uncle died and the subsequent ban he had, was more detrimental to his career than his surname helped.

  • Comment number 40.

    Let's all give the guy a break, shall we? His promising career was put on hold when his uncle, the greatest driver ever according to some, lost his life 18 years ago. Some years later, Bruno realised there was something missing from HIS life and resumed his racing ambition, winning in F3 and GP2. Having impressed the Honda F1 team at the end of 2008, he had to wait another year before grasping a chance with HRT, where he could have actually gone nearly as quick in a decent GP2 car! He made the best of his chance with Lotus/Renault/Benetton/Toleman/whatever they're called today, and he will make the best of his new opportunity with Williams. Perhaps the fact that he has experience of the Renault engine helped sway the team to opt for him, and of course his sponsorship helped - Williams have just lost their title sponsor, so let's all stop being so pious about it.

    Good luck for the coming season Bruno!

  • Comment number 41.

    Im only 18 so i never got to see Ayrton race but i have seen footage. on his famous quote about his nephew one cant help but wonder 'what if', had Bruno been allowed to race when his uncle passed. However if he can pick up the pieces at 20 years of age and still get into F1 then there's no reason as to why he shouldn't be there in 2012, he's obviously shown enough as to get there in the first place so lets see what he can do?

    On the subject of Rubens its clear his time was over, he should have said goodbye properly in Brazil, hes nearly 40 and his career has slowly been going off the boil since his Ferrari days anyway, it would have been nice to see him compete in his 20th season but F1 is a business at the end of the day and Rubens should have seen this coming.

    Arguably Sutil, Petrov and Alguersuari are the biggest losers this year. Sutil finally showed us what he can do, bar a shaky start. Its not too long ago he was chucking it in the walls. Alguersuari kicked Buemi's arse with some fantastic drives (Canada) and Petrov was always a racer, unfortunately they've been cast into the wilderness due to egoistic come backs (De La Rosa/Raikkonen/Schumacher) and pay drivers (Guess?). Petrov will always be remembered for his flying end to the Malaysian GP.

    I dont rate Maldonado at all. Apart from Monaco which was sublime, he has proven nothing apart from the fact his cash supplies his seat. Bruno needs to show him up and prove to Williams why they were wrong in hiring the Venezuelan in the first place.

    Good luck Bruno...the spotlights on you.

  • Comment number 42.

    Petrov is absolutely awful, as is Alguersuari, De la Rosa is miles better than both. Senna is a talent, undoubtedly, but his consistency (and the car) remains to be seen. Hamilton is too distracted to be a great, and Button is a smooth operator, but the only world class drivers today are Alonso, to a lesser extent Vettel and, in the past, Schumacher. Let's hope Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren are evenly matched next year. That should give us Alonso as champ, Vettel or Button as 2 and Hamilton as 4.

  • Comment number 43.

    Lets hope Williams will bring a better, (it will be beteer, worse is imposible), car to the grit than last year's. I am confident that Bruno will get the upperhand on Maldonado, he wiped the floor with Petrov last year, all in perspective that he did not drive for half the season. Williams is a team that belongs next to RBR, Ferrari and McLaren. Come on guys, show your force.

  • Comment number 44.


    I see your point but i believe no F1 driver is awful otherwise they wouldn't be there. Petrov was merely average on occasions but Alguersuari put that car in places it had no right to be in... that's the mark of a good driver. Lets hope Bruno does the latter rather than the former, or Rubens retirement was an early one....

  • Comment number 45.

    I meant relatively, clearly. I don't rate Jaime.

  • Comment number 46.

    Sometimes I wonder if the commenters on this blog actually watch the F1 races, or just look at the results afterwards. Senna, despite taking 10 years out from motorsport has been able to win races in the classes below, and join the Renault F1 team with no real driving for half of the season and perform on par with Petrov, often better. Senna shows promise, but I invite you to judge him at will after the 2012 season is over.

    Maldonado has been better than all of you make him out to be, he won the GP2 Championhip, did he need money to do that? Maybe he bribed the other drivers to go slower with his wads of cash from Venuzuela? Barichello is not a particularly special driver, a nice guy sure but Maldonado is as fast as him if not faster at this stage in Rueben's career and deserves the drive more. Hopefully his car doesn't fail so much this year as I want to see if he really has potential or if he'll only be around for a few years.

    I don't understand how these drivers are so awful in your opinions but Di Resta is a superstar because he got his first chance in F1 with a team whose car wasn't patheticly slow and hugging the back of the grid all season. In my opinion, Sutil and Alguesuaeri both deserve another F1 drive, but there are other drivers that I would throw off the grid before Senna and Maldonado. De La Rosa, Jarno Trulli- Tell me these drivers are doing something for the sport right now apart from hindering the future of other talented drivers. Don't rat out the pay drivers when there is dead weight already on the grid.

  • Comment number 47.

    Senna's been hired for his cash.

    Adam Parr has taken Williams to almost closure, and as sponsors desert the once great team and their AVE rating plummets due to loss of exposure, it seems only a matter of time ... Unless they dump Parr, pronto!

  • Comment number 48.

    I remember watching Senna while he was in GP2 and he certainly the fastest out there. He lost the title mainly because of car failures and lost a big score in Turkey due to a dog destroying his car. He's a talented driver but his attempts to get into F1 have always hit the buffers with Honda folding, HRT creating a mobile chicane and having no time to learn the Renault which moved backwards down the grid rather than forwards.

    Just like Vettel, Alonso and Raikkonen, he needs a full season in a vaguely competitive car to show what he can actually do. He's done it in the feeder formulas but this will be the last chance he gets. He's got a good one as he's gone to a team that isn't dominated by one driver, the mistake Piquet jnr made going to an Alonso dominated renault.

    I'm going to reserve judgement on him until at least halfway through the season. Have to say though that he's not the only one on a last chance, I can't see Grosjean staying long unless he improves on his last attempt at F1 for the same team.

  • Comment number 49.

    Di Resta is another very VERY overrated driver. De la Rosa is a tried and tested professional who has had to go through his career in fits and starts. Nico Hülkenberg should never have been left on the sidelines. Di Resta might be a good, never great, driver, with time but not just yet, There is a time for everything, and pensioning off the better guys is not the way forward. Hamilton is good, but it is clear he got some really privileged treatment in his career. Had anyone else received the same treatment/had the same luck and had a modicum of talent, they would probably be a world champion too at this stage.

  • Comment number 50.

    Someone complained about my post because I said everyone is far too harsh on Maldonado (and Senna according to this blog) and you should give them both a chance.


    Haters gonna hate!

  • Comment number 51.

    I think both Senna and Petrov have talent. Whether or not that talent will be realised in a Williams this year depends more on the car.
    In a good machine they can qualify well and with maturity gain points, but if the car is rubbish it will be a big step back in their careers. Williams should be a good place to progress tho....

  • Comment number 52.

    F1 has always been about money as is all sport the difference is in F1 you can pay as well as being paid. Senna is a good driver he showed that a few times last year, not sure he is brilliant we will have to wait and see.
    Williams are a shadow of their former selves and I am not sure they will be much better in 2012, when was the last time they won a race I can’t remember the year (2000?) but it was Montoya driving.
    That said money is not everything and there are plenty of times in the past when a team with massive budget who have had a dog of a car that didn’t win and other times a smaller budget team had been near or at the front, Jordan, Stewart and of course Williams. I hope they get back to this in 2012 and we can see what a Senna in Williams can really do. As for 6 champions on the grid there are two reasons that this has never happened before, drivers are staying longer (1 in 3 killed in the sixties and around 1 in 5 in the seventies) and Schumacher is no longer dominant so the Championship is being spread out a bit more. I hope someone can give Vettle a proper run for his money this year, you can’t help but admire him and Redbull they were brilliant last year.

  • Comment number 53.

    I think I agree with #2 @standupforthechampions... Webber does not deserve to be in the fastest car on the grid, based on his performance this year; winning one race (due to his team mate having major gearbox issues) is not good enough. Lewis Hamilton, who was the subject of criticism at every opportunity, won three races, in a car that was sometimes ~1sec off the pace in qualifying. However, everyone has a bad year, and Webber may well return next year. I'd still rather see Nico Rosberg in that Red Bull seat though (not Sebastian Buemi, who reckons he can have Webber's seat in 2013).

    And as for Massa... Was his best finish 5th position? I don't think there's a team on the grid that has such a large difference in talent between their two drivers. 'Gulf' might be a better term to describe the difference. Some say Felipe hasn't been the same his accident, but it could be argued that he hasn't been the same since missing out on the WDC in 2008. Maybe it broke him psychologically... Massa should not be in a Ferrari any longer - there are some drivers on the grid who are clearly faster than he, including the likes of Kobayashi, Senna, Barrichello, Di Resta and Sutil.

  • Comment number 54.

    There are a lot of great drivers in the field; Raikonen, Alonso, Hamilton, Button, MSC... THere are a lot of solid drivers in the field; Webber, Roseburg, Massa.... There is just not room for all the talent. These new drivers with money could be the next Ayrton or Prost, and get the seat beacuse they can back this potential up with money, which every team (except Red Bull and Ferrari) really need. Bruno has potential and money, the fact he is 28 doesnt mean a lot... Ayrton was 31 when he became a double world champion, Prost was well into his 30's, MSC is in his 40's and is still competitive, Rubens was still competitive in his late 30's.
    Next season there will be 6 champions with 14 WDC between them, 7 minus MSC. In 1992 there were 7 WDC between 2 drivers (ayrton and prost).
    Good luck to bruno

    No to sky

  • Comment number 55.

    @47, totally agree, Williams need to dump Parr get themselves back to the front of the midfield and regain respect as a small team punching above their finances where sponsors improve their confidence of the team to go with them.

    @49 If so how come di Resta beat Vettel then when they were teammates and how he can adapt and do so well in DTM cars and how he beat Sutil as a complete newbie in so many qually sessions in 2011!

    @32 Rubens has been entertaining and a far better racer than you describe, Schu was much better but remember Austria (01?) where Rubens blew him away then had to park his car on the last lap to let Schu win, at one of the first races of that season!

    Williams are almost in as bad a mess as of 2011 as the BBC are with their pathetic deal for the 2012 Formula Half season.

    No to the disgraceful BBCSky dealings
    Yes to my lnb on existing sat dish showing free F1 via RTL TV with 5Live James Allen

  • Comment number 56.

    he has raw pace forget the money, he got that renault which lets face it was awful in the second half of the year, to 7th at spa in his debut in the car. If you wana test a drivers class look how many times he out performs his machinery. Vettel did it in the torro rosso, hamilton did it as a rookie and that piece of junk maclaren had when kovalinen was with them, he was plodding around out the points while hamilton was gettin fourths & fiths. Bruno needs a consistan year now his seat is concreate and that 'kid' will fly!

  • Comment number 57.

    With the new Williams car, I would have given the seat to Rubens for another year and see how he did before deciding on replacing him. He had some atrocious times last year with the car, not his driving. Let's not forget, this is the man who, if it wasn't for a burst tyre in 2009 at Sao Paolo, could have been the Champion that year.

  • Comment number 58.

    @ 54 1992 there were 7 WDC between 2 drivers (ayrton and prost).

    Sorry to be pedantic, but in 92 there were only six titles between Senna and Prost as Prost hadn't yet won his fourth (93). There were seven Championships on the grid after Hungary '92 onwards, after Nige clinched his. For the final few races in 1993 after Prost had clinched the title that year your stat is true!

    Back on topic I hope Senna can prove to everyone that he is not in F1 just for his name. Many people said the same about Damon Hill and he ended up making the most of his opportunity and winning a WDC, so let's give Bruno a chance.

  • Comment number 59.

    @58- Superha83
    What are you on about? What about Nelson Piquet Snr, do his titles count for nothing?

    Bruno has a season to prove his worth and then I'll make judgements about his performance in a Williams. However, his previous perfromances wouldn't have made me think he was a better candidate than some of the other drivers for the seat.

    I'm afraid Rubens is past it and needs to move on. Nearly 20 years in the sport is long enough and he has had success. Shame he couldn't step up in 2009 when he had his best chance. Also did his experience really help Williams in the last two years.

    Sutil comes with negative press at the minute. However I did find it strange that Force India replaced him with Hulkenberg considering Sutil outperformed Di Resta last year. So Sutil would've been worth a shot.

    Although a driver without a seat who impressed me most last year was Algesuari. Can't believe Red Bull released him from Toro Rosso. If had had've got the Williams seat I won't have been surprised.

    Yet Senna comes with marketing and backing. Something Williams definitely need given their financial situtaion. But here's hoping Williams produce a solid enough car that allows Senna to show what he is capable of.

  • Comment number 60.

    @58- Superha83
    Ignore my previous comment I got confused. I should've fully understood the comments before asking what you meant. I understand now.

  • Comment number 61.

    Wiliams had a spell of bad years behind them but they can return quickly and i think faster than McLaren did in the early 90's. Williams is a smaller and therefore more agile team, look at McLaren early 90's, 92 they began to fall back rapidly behind Williams who were on the edge of puperiority. 93 with te customers Ford engine McLaren could only win e few races trough the cheer brilliance of Ayrton Senna but the car wasn't realy up to it. 94 they changed to Peugeot engines and they were nowewhere realy while Williams lost out to Benetton who used unpermitted technology on at least one of their car's, source; Alain Prost, Ron dennis, Rolan De Bruinserade, Jos Verstappen and their own teamboss Flavio Briatore. Even the FIA released a report at the end of the seasons 94 and 95 there was trction control on one car but they couldn't pinpoint it and they took no action against it. Briatore explaind in the German magazine that they could switch the thing on and off via remote as soon as the car entered or left the pits. It was difficult to detect by the race control so they walked free. Williams on the other hand came back strong verry rapidly, proof two world crowns, Hill, Villeneuve, and one title stolen, Adelaide the colision scandal Schumacher - Hill. I see Willams, now with the Reault engine making a quick comeback, if not this year than next as the egine rules change to small turbo engines of witch Renault has te best experiënce of the current engine supliers. Renault and Honda dominated with that tipe of engine, Ferrari, i'm sorry to say, just could hang on and Cosworth was nowhere. Mercedes driven team's will strugle the most from 2013 on for at least a couple of years. They have no experiënce whatsoever with small turbo engines. It's no wonder that the rumours grow stronger and stronger that McLaren is talking to Honda for their new engine suplier. Where there is smoke there is a fire. Let's wait and see but i predict a serious step up for the Williams team and Maldonado and Senna will have to prove their worth to a fexible team like Williams.

  • Comment number 62.

    @60 Joe Blogs
    I'm wrong anyway, because I forgot Prost was taking a sabbatical in 1992!! So the only titles on the grid were Senna's three, up until Hungary anyway. Piquet retired at the end of 1991. At the start of 1991, before Prost had been fired by Ferrari there were 8 titles on the grid, between Senna, Prost and Piquet, which I think was the most at any point until Schumacher came out of retirement in 2010. If anyone wants to double check that and prove me wrong then feel free, but it's not paricularly relevant to the topic... :)

  • Comment number 63.

    My bad, i got the year wrong, but my point is that the current number of champions and championships has been at similar levels in the past

  • Comment number 64.

    @62 Superha83

    You were closer than I was. Although you new post appears accurate. :-)

    Also, inaddition to my earlier comments about Bruno. I will be very interested to see how Williams adapt this year. Not having Patrick Head will be strange I'm sure and I don't know Adam Parr will work as a replacement - but again I will hold full judgement until I see more. But having Renault back as engine suppliers should be a huge shot in the arm for them. The Cosworth engine didn't seem to be doing them any favours. So maybe with the changes to the regs for this year Williams can show an improvement and score points. Chances are though points will be hard to come by if Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault finish the races.

  • Comment number 65.

    Great to see Bruno get the seat.Sad to see Ruben's go,but surely he has had his day.It would be a shame to see Williams have another bad season,so hope Bruno can help bring something good to the team.

  • Comment number 66.

    Would liked to have seen Rubens still in a car for his 20th season, at least he still showed the passion and drive to be in F1 - I can certainly think of several drivers who are not deserving of there 2012 seats - Massa, Trulli and Hamilton instantly spring to mind. What a shame the testing ban is keeping drivers in jobs at the expense of new talent.

  • Comment number 67.

    Bruno has got great potential but I would of liked to have seen Barrichello's 20th season in Formula One but then again hes had his time and needs to move over for the new generation in Formula. Williams are going through rough times at the moment if you look back at where they were in the old days when they dominated some seasons and the period when Adrian Newey designed their car. But they have already taken steps to improve by changing to a Renault Engine. The Renault Engine is by no means the fastest but probaly a step from the Cosworth ones. I of thought they would of wanted a least one of their drivers for 2012 to have experience like Barrichello. I know he is well past his best and unlikely to do anything amazing but he is reliable, experienced and is good at bringing the car home in one piece. But the competition for Williams is high what with McLaren, Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes and co, and my guess is that they'll have another dud season but with Bruno at the wheel maybe they will get the odd good finish. I can't wait to see what Senna will be like in the years to come when he will probaly be driving in a top rate team.

  • Comment number 68.

    I am a bit too young to be a true Senna fan (I preferred Nigel back in the day because of the moustache) but I'd like to see the Senna name in a blue and yellow Williams Renault. Hope they bring back the old colour scheme. The FW14B has got to be my favourite F1 car.

  • Comment number 69.

    Judging by Williams' performance last year & the subsequent amount of air time they received, it's fair to predict that now, with Senna behind the wheel & 50% less live broadcasting, you'll need the eyes of a hawk to spot any of Franks cars in action.

  • Comment number 70.

    Bruno Senna really has an Amazing Story with the history of his uncle Ayrton and then with his own path he has carved out in his life. His family made him put aside his dream but Gods promises are bigger than anyone. Bruno is getting the chance he finally deserves. This is his time. Congratulations Bruno! Go make your uncle Ayrton proud and win the Formula 1 Championship in 2012. Everything is possible!

  • Comment number 71.

    @70 nice to wish Bruno well, I hope he gets a good shot. Wonder just how better he would be if he wasn't, understandably, stopped racing for 10 years by his mum, Ayrtons sister. But 'Gods promises' have nothing to do with this, Ayrton was the best and he was so so unlucky that the suspension arm pierced his helmet and he didn't just have a crash like Berger 89. God has nothing to do with it and Bruno will not win the Champ in 2012.

  • Comment number 72.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 73.

    Senna has some experiance with the renault package, Williams are going to be using renault power next year, so it does make some sense. But with the changes to the car, a lot of new blood in the team, unless they really strike lucky they are going to struggle next season. Ruebens was a great ambassador for the sport, and one of the best liked and respected drivers in the sport.

  • Comment number 74.

    Everything is possible, except Bruno winning the title next year in a Williams.
    What would be a good season for him? Possibly beating the Saubers and Toro Rosso's? The odd point score here and there, the fact is he finished last year in a team higher up the grid than Williams and nothing springs to mind where he outperformed the car. However I fully expect him to beat his team mate, and he probably will be faster than Rubens, but Bruno would probably have benefitted from Rubens being in the other car as opposed to money bags Maldonado.
    The best he can hope for is being the best midfield runner, and unless Williams are going to make a massive leap forward from last year, even that looks a long way off.

  • Comment number 75.

    I think the comments here about how Senna doesn't deserve the seat are unfair. Unless you have sat next to him at Williams in the simulator, you can't possibly have a valid insight. Let's wait until the end of 2012, and THEN decide whether he's good enough. I don't know about you, but I don't work in F1, and therefore I can't give a valid reason why he should not have the drive.

  • Comment number 76.

    I think the real issue here is that it seems there is no real 'wow' factor for any of Bruno, Petrov, Ricciardo, Sutil and even Rubens. A comparison with Ayrton simply cannot be made as the league difference is staggering! Am I the only one to think that most of these guys simply do not impress us with their unbelievable raw pace, or their mastery of driving skill which is why there is simply no real drive for them. The reason we are seeing so many of the 'old boys' racing again is that they have what it takes to be something special. I for one love seeing Michael in the seat again wrestling with an uncompetitive car and bringing some life back into racing. I will only be watching Vettel, Webber, Alonso, Hamilton, Button, MSC, Raikkonen, Rosberg ...and Di Resta.

    Its excitement and real talent we want to see. Bring in the guys who are bold and daring, the guys/gals who make us want to watch F1. Then the teams will make money and not have to seek the investment from the drivers.

  • Comment number 77.

    I think the biggest problem with Bruno getting the seat will be the car it's in. If it performs like 2011, we'll all be saying "should of stuck with Rubens". If it performs like the 2010 car, we'll be saying "he's a good mid table driver". It's that beautiful British downer. We can't accept that vettel won the WDC by being the master of opening a 2 second lead in the opening lap, then holding it for the remainder of the race. It has to be because "he had the best car". Undoubtedly he did, but the best car doesn't always mean a win. Hamilton had the best car in 2008, (brace for barrage of Hamilton fans) but yet he only beat mass a by 1 point. In 2010, red bull had the best car, but not always the best strategy, silverstone spec front wing given to vetted etc. If Bruno was in a torro Rosso or force India, he would be a 8th place driver, if he was in a Ferrari, he'd be a 6th place driver. In a Williams he'll be a 10th place at a best, because the car simply can not keep up with the big 4. It's place in the 2012 season is with lotus (Renault), toro Rosso and force India. And that's only if they get this years car right.

    I don't think he has the drive on his name or money. I personally believe he deserves the place he has. He's shown he has the pace, albeit in a slow car, but the real test is if he can cope with trying to prove himself at a team that trying to regain it's position after a slippery slide down the table. In football terms, Williams are Liverpool, once upon a time they were great, now they are average. They've got themselves new management and players, stopped the slide, and building from there. I think the biggest test this year is not Bruno, but pastor. If he can't match or better Bruno this year, then serious questions should be asked.

    Sadly, Rubens should of realised at brazil this year that he would be out of the game and said a fond farewell to the fans and the sport he has given so much to over the past 20 years. Kimi will have the same problem as Schumacher and Rubens, he simply can't cut it with the 20 somethings in the sport. I'd never say their to old, but when it ones to having a wise and experienced head, it seems the lads half there age make the better decisions, when to fight, when to pass, when to pit, when to call it a day. How many times has schumi lost his front wing these past 2years in battles he didn't need to be in? Kiki will find it tough, I don't think it will be a success, yet he the one that took brunos seat. It's a very big circle this formula 1 business.

  • Comment number 78.

    Good luck to the bloke!

    Senna has talent and he has a personality that comes across well on TV. Being in F1 is so much more than just being a good driver these days and you would be stupid to think otherwise.

  • Comment number 79.

    Bruno senna is a veritable powerhouse for formula one. Anyone Who Loves the sport loves ayrton, and with Bruno coming in as williams rebuilds, I think we will see the start of a potential world champion career. God knows we brazilians need to put the Germans back in third place.


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