One To Watch: Bruno Senna

One To Watch

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Bruno Senna lies second in the GP2 standings and has been linked to a 2009 F1 drive

Bruno Senna is one of the names being linked with the vacant seat at Toro Rosso next year as current driver Sebastian Vettel moves up to the Red Bull team.

Relatives of past champions reaching F1 themselves is nothing new – from Nelson Piquet Jnr today, to Damon Hill in the 1990s and even earlier. But, as successfulas Nelson Piquet Snr, Graham Hill and the rest were, the Senna name has a unique resonance.

Could it be about to return to Formula 1 in 2009? Here’s how Bruno Senna has forged a path towards F1.

Bruno Senna began karting when he was five, around six years before his uncle perished in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. But according to Bruno although Ayrton would observe his karting he tended not to interfere, and left Bruno to learn on his own.

Bruno was 11 when Ayrton was killed and his family understandably ended his racing career on the spot: it was non-negotiable. From 1994 until 2003 he ceased racing altogether.

He returned to karting aged 20 and found it tough – lacking the race-honed toughness of his competiutors he broke ribs on a regular basis on the rough tracks.

But as he reached his 21st birthday his determination to compete became clear to his family. At the end of 2004 he made his first race starts with Carlin in the British Formula BMW championship. In six appearances he scored a best finish of sixth.

That paved the way for a full season of Formula Three in Britain in 2005 – the same championship his uncle had won 22 years earlier. Racing for Double R (the team run by Kimi Raikkonen and Steve Robertson) he got on the podium three times and ended the year tenth overall. The following year he was third, and secured a place in GP2 for 2007.

Senna joined Arden for his first GP2 season and won his third race in the category. But after scoring four times in the first six races he hit a slump and only posted three more points finishes over the rest of the year. He ended the year eighth in the championship and second best rookie behind Kazuki Nakajima.

Over the winter of 2007/08 Senna raced in the inaugural GP2 Asia series for iSport, the team who had just won the GP2 title with Timo Glock. He finished the ten-round series fifth but the result rather masked the quality of his driving. He lost one potential win to a questionable stewards’ call and another when his team fluffed a pit stop.

The bad luck followed him into the GP2 series proper. In the fourth race of the year, at Istanbul, he hit a dog which had gotten loose on the track, and was fortunate not to suffer injury.

Senna has scored two wins so far this year – both of which invoked strong memories of his uncle’s victories in F1. He won at Monaco, where Ayrton scored a record six F1 victories, and in heavy rain at Silverstone, just as Ayrton did 20 years earlier.

He is second in the championship, 15 points behind Giorgio Pantano with eight rounds to go. But we should keep in mind the gulf in experience between the two. Pantano has over 100 starts at GP2/F3000 level to his name plus most of a year in F1. Senna’s Formula BMW, Formula Three and GP2 starts combined are short of 100.

According to Jo Ramirez, who spent many years working with Ayrton, Bruno’s talent was highly regarded by his uncle: “Ayrton always used to say, ‘You think I’m good, you watch this guy.'”

The younger Senna has a lot of making up for lost time to do in his racing career. But he could well have the talent to back up his late uncle’s high praise. With Toro Rosso boss Gerhard Berger (Ayrton’s team mate from 1990-92) taking a keen interest in Bruno’s career, he looks a strong candidate for a F1 seat in 2009.

Read more about Bruno Senna: Bruno Senna biography

Follow Bruno Senna in GP2 on Maximum Motorsport

Bruno Senna in his iSport GP2 car

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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21 comments on “One To Watch: Bruno Senna”

  1. While I’m not suggesting he is without some speed, there is nothing in his junior career to mark him out as a F1 front runner.Let’s see how he finishes the season,a 2nd year in GP2 is make or break.

    Look at the results of Hamilton & Rosbergs ART teammate Premat. He was able to mix it with the best of 05/06 & never got past a test for Renault.

    If Senna does get a Torro Rosso seat I’m guessing that bringing in some funding will be part of the selection decision.

  2. Some are quick to judge that he hasn’t lit the world alight with his junior career – but considering that he stopped racing completely for 9 years, he’s doing very well. And considering his age, sticking to the series he was in until he won the championship he probably would have stagnated.

    Here’s to hoping that he gets a drive in 2009.

  3. Bruno sounds a bit like Adrian Sutil – very useful to have around in tough circumstances, but nothing exceptional in conventional track and condition combinations. To a lower-ranking team like Toro Rosso, he could be a good choice (and it helps that Gerhard Berger is his mentor), but he’ll need to develop considerably before he becomes F1 championship material.

  4. If anything, its an interesting case study for how a 9 year gap hinders a racers development. He has lots and lots of goodwill backing up his name, should get a chance in the f1 seat.

  5. I had no idea that Bruno had not raced for 9 years. Living in the USA for so long it used to be a huge effort, before Speed channel,just to watch a race much less keep up with Bruno Senna’s career. I feel encouraged that he is doing well, not blazing trails like his uncle, and wish him well. Berger will probably give him the ride, cross his finger and get some needed funding from companies in Brazil.

  6. I’d change my name, if I was him…. How do you live up to old uncle Ayrton? Simple, you can’t!

  7. AmericanTifosi
    26th July 2008, 16:46

    I really feel for Bruno, the pressure on him to live up to his name must be huge. I hope he makes it.

  8. he is not f1 material for now. thats what i think

  9. Robert McKay
    26th July 2008, 19:56

    I think he’s more F1 material than, say, Nakajima was this time last year, and he’s made a solid start to his F1 career. I also think he’s more F1 material than most of the other folk in GP2 at the moment.

    Leaving out Pantano purely because of his immense amount of experience at this level, only Grosjean and Buemi at the moment look to me like they could go to F1 and they are further away from being ready than Bruno Senna.

    I think people look at Rosberg and Hamilton and require the next folk stepping up from GP2 to require the same level of obvious talent. Not everyone who comes up has to instantly look like the next world champion.

  10. yeah i just saw a race where his team mate chandhok showed more skill and speed and this has not been once. the bar has certainly been set higher this time round.

  11. V8 I don’t know what race that was but in GP2 Asia and GP2 Senna has been vastly more impressive than Chandhok as far as I’m concerned. Chandhok keeps throwing the thing off the track.

  12. true. i did not say that chandhok is better than senna, if i have to rephrase i should say that chandhok is stepping up his game with the recent win in hockenheim. by setting the bar higher i was referring to robert mckays comment on rosberg and hamilton

  13. When Bruno won in Monaco, the most read weekly magazine in Brazil (“Veja”) had a two-pages advert, published by Santander, praising him for putting Senna’s name on top of the podium again…

    No brazilian driver in junior formulae, not even Nelsinho, has ever had the same exposure in his home country…

    About his driving skills, for sure he’ll need to compensate the nine-year gap in his career, and the best way to do that is starting with a small team, lik Toro Rosso, with an underperforming team-mate, like Bourdais is at the moment…

  14. I was quite excited when he arrived to Macau last year for the F3 race. He however crashed on Saturday and his car was damaged so much, he could not race on Sunday. I hope he comes again and gets a chance to show his skills in the race. While not everybody who won in Macau made it big, most of the people who made it big won or had good results in tough Macau GP…

    about living up to his name – that sure will be difficult, but he does not race because his name is Senna. He races despite being from Senna family as his long hiatus shows. But look at it from Berger’s point of view. Don’t forget Toro Rosso is up for sale and should be sold ahead of 2010 season. Having Senna in the car should not hurt when looking for a buyer or investor, unless of course unless Bruno Senna performs like Yuji Ide.

  15. I have been following his career for the last year and he has shown some real glimpses of talent and I like his style. His comments most of the time show him to be level headed and I won’t be surprised if he is not too worried about having an F1 seat next year as he seems more interested in proving himself in GP2 first. I also think that an extra year in GP2 will do some good because he lacks experience compared to most of the other GP2 drivers.

  16. Robert McKay
    27th July 2008, 16:10

    “Bruno must have a albatross around his neck — comparisons with his illustrious uncle will haunt him throughout his career.”

    Agreed – any help with opening doors that the surname brings will surely be outweighed by the pressure the name puts him under when he makes it to F1.

  17. michael counsell
    27th July 2008, 17:24

    In my opinion Grosjean is more talented than Senna, having dominated the GP2 Asia series and been probably teh fastest in GP2 Europe.

  18. Its crazy how much he looks like his uncle. It will be very interesting to see him in F1. If he is anything like his uncle, he shouldn’t have a problem succeeding because they have a God given right to win :)

    i can’t wait to see Bruno in F1, hopefully alongside Kubica in BMW.

  19. I think everybody wants to see the name ‘Senna’ back on the Formula One grid. The name means so much, to so many people.
    I wish him all the best…

  20. Would be great to see the Senna name back in F1. But I think one more year in GP2 would be of great benefit to his driving skill as well as his maturity.

  21. Perhaps – but if he wins the title this year it would be odd to see him back there for a third season.

    Although I’m not a fan of the whole ‘test driver for a year’ thing I think it might actually work for Senna to spenda year as an F1 tester before doing F1, because of the unusual circumstances of him having spent so long out of racing.

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