2009 F1 driver rumours: Honda consider Bruno Senna and Nick Heidfeld

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Bruno Senna has been linked to Honda, who won 32 F1 races with Ayrton Senna

Fernando Alonso’s place on the grid is central to the 2009 F1 driver market: he is thought likely to stay at Renault, or switch to BMW or Honda.

New rumours have arisen suggesting Honda may have given up on acquiring Alonso’s services, but are looking at replacing Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button – or both – with Nick Heidfeld or Bruno Senna. What should we make of these rumours?

Nick Heidfeld to Honda

Rumour rating:

Honda’s Nick Fry has admitted “I’ve already spoken with Nick, and more than just saying ‘hello’.” Presumably that means he has spoken to Nick Heidfeld, rather than himself in the mirror.

The idea of Heidfeld joining Honda has an un-likeliness to it which I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe it’s the thought of him and Jenson Button teaming up in some unholy all-bearded line-up.

Seriously, Heidfeld did an excellent job at BMW last year. This year, after a shaky start, he’s consistently brought the car home (to a record-breaking extent) and is scoring points regularly. This rumour only make sense to me if BMW are bringing Alonso on board. Even then, I can’t see what Heidfeld brings to Honda that Barrichello or Button lack, or why BMW should want to drop him.

Bruno Senna to Honda

Rumour rating:

While Heidfeld to Honda doesn’t sound quite right to me, Bruno Senna and Honda make a lot of sense. His uncle Ayrton Senna had a deep and strong relationship with the Japanese concern in its F1 role as engine manufacturer (sorry to keep bringing up Ayrton in the context of Bruno but his legacy inevitably has an important bearing).

Ayrton won 32 of his 41 F1 victories with Honda while at Lotus and McLaren. He gave impetus to the development of their engine, particularly so in 1991 when a late push by the manufacturer helped him retain his championship. He was hugely popular in Japan and helped Honda develop road cars like the NSX.

Not being at the sharp end of F1 at the moment (and that’s putting it kindly), Honda can arguably afford a gamble on a rookie. Though it would be particularly galling for their test driver Mike Conway, who beat Bruno to the 2006 British F3 crown.

Bruno Senna has admitted he’s talking to teams about a race seat for next year:

We have been speaking with quite a few teams and there is great interest from a few of them. So there are a few opportunities as a race driver, a few as a test driver. But there is a lot of competition and I need to come ahead of the competition right now on the negotiations and see if I can get a race drive.

At first he was being linked with Toro Rosso via Gerhard Berger. But they seem to be leaning towards Senna’s GP2 rival Sebastien Buemi – whether on merit alone or because Buemi is a Red Bull test driver.

If Senna didn’t get a race seat for next year, his options might include testing for a year (though that doesn’t tend to involve much mileage these days) or returning to GP2. But, having been runner-up this year, he would simply have to deliver the title and with a truck-load of wins if he went back for a third season.

F1 2009 season
F1 2009 drivers and teams

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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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27 comments on “2009 F1 driver rumours: Honda consider Bruno Senna and Nick Heidfeld”

  1. As long as no one finishes before me, this is the first time I’ve gotten the first post. Sweet!

    I was a bit suprised to hear about the Heidfeld to Honda rumours- he is a very good driver, but I can’t see what he would bring to the team that would be such a huge improvement over their current lineup. My one thought is that perhaps Rubens is thinking about following DC into retirement, but he’s stated many times that he wants to race next season.

    The Senna name with Honda is a major factor, as it would make them a team to watch in soem respect, simply because tens of millions of fans worldwide will wind up watchign races and rooting for the team because of the Senna name. I thought perhaps he would do another year in GP2, but at this rate anything can happen.

  2. Barrichello needs to hang it up.

  3. and i thought honda will take alonso… kheeeekz

  4. Sebastien Buemi – whether on merit alone or because Buemi is a Red Bull test driver

    maybe Torro Rosso really like his first name?

  5. Jonesracing82
    2nd October 2008, 8:36

    i’d like to see Bruno at str or even maybe honda, as there’ll b no expectation on results!
    he could also maybe take a test drive, and race GP2 at same time!
    who knows!

  6. I agree with you Keith about Conway, He is a much better driver than Senna. He was unfortunate to be in a team like Trident and even though he managed to win a race in Monaco!B.Senna was in a superior car he blew away his chances to win the title and eventually lost by an ex-f1 driver with a worse car(just look where Pantano’s teamate is in the table)
    But , Honda will be very unfair if they ‘fire’ Button .He is avery good and experienced driver ,who stayed loyal to his team in the most difficult moments.
    As for Barrichelo, the best ,I think would be to step aside on his own with no pressure like D.Coulthard

    My ideal line -up for Honda would be Button-Conway.I understand that two british drivers is out of the question ,but with no sponsors to put pressure for their own driver(Santander–>Alonso, BMW–>German driver etc) and considering the strong position of Honda in UK car market it’s not impossible.

    Also T.Sato really is a good option for Honda -economically for sure, about his talent I can’t be sure ,he is out of F1 for a long time.

  7. Despite the fact that both Button and Barrichello are very capable and experienced drivers, it might be a good thing for Honda to drop both of them. If not for 2009, then maybe so for 2010.

    Having 2 new drivers brings fresh faces and new ideas. A new generation, if you will. That could be what Honda needs. And bringing in an experienced new man like Heidfeld (or Sato, or Davidson, for that matter) together with a rookie like Senna or Conway, could prove to be a smart move.

    Should Honda do so, we will likely have seen the last of Barrichello, but of Button, too. I mean, who would want Mr. Contract Breaker after all his shenanigans with Williams?

    1. Mouse_Nightshirt
      21st October 2009, 18:51

      Most teams, now that he’s world champion really.

      I know I’m being cheeky by replying a year after the original post ;)

  8. at ‘eddie irvine’
    Honda wont hire Sato, if they thought he was any good they woudlnt have sacked him in the 1st place

  9. I still think Button should have been in the number 23 McLaren this season.

    I’d like to see Senna in Rubens’ Honda next year. It would be ever so poetic, seeing as Barrichello was Ayrton’s protage, and died only 3 races into Ruben’s F1 career. Seems fitting for Bruno to take over from him at the other end.

  10. Senna must serve another season in GP2 , prove himself by WINNING the title , THEN he will be ready for an F1 drive. Considering how much the thought of the Senna name back on the F1 grid appeals to millions of fans worldwide , it would be inappropriate if he got into F1 and turned out into anything of a mediocre driver or less. Best he never get into F1 under such conditions. So Honda I think need to at least change one driver , unfortunately but logically has to be Rubens . Who to replace him ? Michael Schumacher , of course …… just kidding ! What about Pantano ?

  11. @ ajokay

    Barrichello was Ayrton’s protage, and died only 3 races into Ruben’s F1 career. Seems fitting for Bruno to take over from him at the other end.

    Eh, Rubens debuted in 1993, so had 18 races under his belt come San Marino ’94.

  12. The faster we can get Senna in F1 the better. He will almost certainly rise to the challenge, I really don’t see him having a season like Piquet has done for Renault. If he does then so be it, it’s preferable to the alternative.

    Another year in GP2 would be a total waste of his time, exclude a new driver from coming into GP2, and potentially damage Senna’s F1 chances further if he ended up having another non-championship winning season there.

  13. @ Lustigson

    Eh, Rubens debuted in 1993, so had 18 races under his belt come San Marino ‘94.

    He did? My bad, i thought he started with Jordan in ’94.

  14. Nick Fry made a reference to the “Senna” Name and Senna Genes in that story. And it seems so true None of the posters have thought implications of second part.

    Nick Heidfeld – We have interesting situation if Nick moves to Honda and Alonso stays put at Renault. Who would be second BMW driver?

    Ron Dennis in new millenium has been a major PR failure, but he made valid point last year and even this year. There is nothing on Current GP2 that makes you stand up and take notice.

    With all due respects Bruno shouldn’t be hired on basis of his marketeability. As much as I don’t like Hamilton attitude wise, there is no denying that he has raised the bar for the rookies. Vettels showing has increased the team owners expectation. And Bruno simply doesn’t meet those needs. Unless he comes with Stunner of a GP2 season,displaying speed, consistency and results, I wouldn’t hire him as a team owner.

    Senna name can get him seat, but not the success. And it would be a let down if Bruno ends up another Ralf Schumacher.

    Second Part if Nick Heidfeld is indeed poached by Honda, he would be good choice to Build the Honda team and take it to next level. But should it be Button or Barichello to make exit is open for debate. Button may have Brit backers, but to be honest, he too has not been a big revelation, doesn’t even get benefit of doubt like Webber, who is always at wrong place at wrong time. At least with Webber you can see him getting a unrealiable car in 5th-6th position only to find car failing before race end.Thus keeping his reputation in Market as “Good driver, get more out than possible from his car, but just unlucky” . Nobody in all honesty can say those things about Button.
    So Nick and either of Button or Barichello would be good choice.
    But given the fact that Honda has become a British team with all Key team management roles taken by Brits, I suspect Rubens will have to leave, and given that the person who was instrumental in luring Rubens to Honda has been marginalized and forced out of team by Nick Fry, I am sure Rubens will get the axe.

    Returning to BMW – One reason why Alonso shouldn’t go there is, with all respect for capabilities of Dr Theissen. He is equally a control freak as Ron Dennis and Alonso, who likes that his views being taken overboard appreciated, and given “credit” won’t find that happen at BMW, like it didn’t happen at McLaren. So its good for him to stick with Renault and they definitely have potential to work together to return to their glory days


  15. Conway is a crap. He can stay for 10 years at GP2 that will not win the championship!

    Just give to Senna all Conway years of experience.. than you can tell me who is the best.

    Senna doen´t need that. He oversubscribed twice!

  16. schumi the greatest
    2nd October 2008, 13:21

    i think its fair to say that no-one has set the world on fire in gp2 this season. I think senna’s got potential but i dont think he as good as alot of people are making out.

    i agree with “too good” button is over rated he hasnt done that much really and hes had plenty of chances to do it. barrichello is at the end of his career so it may be worth honda trying a rookie with heidfeld because hes very consistent.

  17. Nick Fry had lined up Conway, Rossetier for test roles, and While he ensured that Aguri is bullied out of grid by blocking Indian backers (current A1GP team holders) to get Narain Karthikeyan on grid with Sato.
    Boardroom battle had become so interesting, I had Brit Scribes confidently vowing , next season Ant Davidson will be partnering Button. All that talked has died down after Barichello’s Silverstone showing.
    Ross Brawn after his stint in the team, would have surely realised which of the “B” is better to work with.
    And given the limited testing happening in F1 these days there is no point in getting a green horn, “Super Fast” rookie next to Button, as car development will go out of window (Not that there is one such rookie available as well).
    Buttons preference of understeer means, if car is developed to Button’s liking (like it happens at Honda since Button has joined the team),Rookie will have another issue in adjusting and risk reputation getting trashed due to overshooting the car off the track (remember Sato !?)…

  18. So, thinking about next years slicks/less downforce config, I’m thinking Senna/any other GP2 driver would have an advantage over previous GP2 to F1 rookies. In fact the learning curve for current F1 drivers might be similar to that of a GP2 driver for next year, as far as the car is concerned, thus making a GP2 driver a safer choice than previously. Thoughts?

  19. I can’t see Heidfeld going to Honda.Hopefully he can retain his seat at BMW,that is where he belongs.It is just a good pairing.

    “The idea of Heidfeld joining Honda has an un-likeliness to it which I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe it’s the thought of him and Jenson Button teaming up in some unholy all-bearded line-up.”….Keith’s monthly anti-fuzz face remark.

    Ha,ha,haaaa….what is it with you and beards Keith?Were you attacked by a werewolf when you were a child?

  20. What about the Bourdais to Renault rumours? I’ve thought this would be a good idea for a long time. He’s French which is a good thing for Renault, he clearly isn’t happy at Torro Rosso and it’s obvious they are developing the car around Vettel and not him. Most people have written this guy off but you don’t win Champ Car 4 times in a row without having talent. I realise the US series are not the same standard as European series, but even so, FOUR times.

  21. Diseaed rat – I’ve not seen any rumours about that. Bourdais tested for Renault years ago but didn’t get the gig because he wouldn’t agree to be managed by Briatore. With Briatore still there and Renault expected to run Alonso and di Grassi next year, I can’t see a way in for Bourdais.

  22. I remember Bourdais said he didn’t feel he belonged there a few years ago and as you say Briatore is still there and may be a barrier. However, a bunch of rumour surfaced yesterday, although they may well be just that, rather than having any truth to them.

  23. Apparently the rumour originates from the French radio station RMC who reported that Bourdais is still in with a chance of racing for Renault in 2009. Quite a few of the F1 sites have covered it yesterday, I’m sure you’ve seen it.

  24. The Heidfeld thing only makes sense if Alonso moves to BMW, still if that happens pretty much every team without both drivers confirmed would want Heidfeld and either Renault or Toro Rosso would be much better bets for him than Honda (who really wants to drive for Honda after the last two seasons?).

    The Senna thing makes more sense. One should add that Petrobras, the brazilian oil company that tried to push any Brazilian driver available to Williams during their 10 years stint there, is moving to Honda and they would much prefer Senna to Barrichello (who has a rather negative image here in Brazil).

    Barrichello is the more likely driver to be dropped if such a thing happens, but Button ain´t safe either. Nearly retired Barrichello is having a much better season than him and Honda may have started to lose patience with him.

  25. If Alonso does move to BMW i don’t think it would work at all. Just look at Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso last year there was absoloute chaos between them, Don’t you think it would be the same with Kubica and Alonso. Unless BMW puts Kubica out of the picture and focuses everything on Alonso which i doubt will happen any time soon.

    Rubens Barichello and Jenson Button are a very well suited pair for the Honda team. I also remember reading that Ross Brawn will be retaining them for 2009 so I’m somewhat unsure on that situation.

    Isn’t there meant to be 12 teams in F1. Prodrive was meant to be in this years F1, so with Super Aguri that would have been 12. Well if there is 12 Teams next year who do you think will be driving there?

    In my opinion they should just retain most of the drivers on this years grid with the exception of Nelson Piquet. The only Son of a World Championship Winner to Win a Championship was Damon hill. Most of the Son’s of ex-f1 drivers will never be able to compare with there fathers.

    Sebastian Bourdais was much better than Vetel at the start of the season. It is only since they modified the chassis that Bourdais has struggled with it. There is no doubt that if the Chassis was right for bourdais he would have been able to maybe get some better results. Hopefully he will get a drive for next year as he is highly underestimated.

  26. @Aaron Shearer.

    We have touched on this subject many times this summer, but I don’t agree that an Alonso/Kubica partnership would be a failure. As I have said before, the Alonso and McLaren union was formed back in December, 2005, when Juan Pablo Montoya was still around. Everybody on God’s green earth knew that Raikkonen was jumping ship, so everybody assumed that Alonso would become Juan Pablo’s new team mate.
    What caught everybody by surprise was the swiftness of Montoya’s departure following the U.S Grand Prix of 2006, and subsequent move to Chip Ganassi’s NASCAR team’s 42 car.
    This opened the door, as we all know, to Ron Dennis’ golden boy Lewis Hamilton, who’s debut for McLaren came fifteen months after Alonso signed on the dotted line.
    A new team, new surroundings, and some young kid from Stevenage few had many high hopes for. David Coulthard even questioned McLaren’s judgement by even letting Hamilton race so soon into his F1 career. The rest, as they say, is history!
    With Robert Kubica, there are no secrets. Both Alonso and Kubica go way back, to their junior days racing in Italy, and enjoy a relatively good relationship. Alonso knows Kubica is fast, knows what he can do, so there are no surprises there.
    The huge factor for Alonso would be Mario Theissen. We all know that Fernando enjoys an almost father/son relationship with his boss and manager, Flavio Briatore.
    That is something that he would probably not get anywhere else outside of Renault, the security of the team and the team boss. That is what makes Fernando comfortable, and is extremely important to him.
    The main difference last year was that Ron Dennis obviously had more affection and desire for success towards Hamilton, the kind of fondness you cannot fake or replecate towards another person. Alonso learnt that lesson the hard way, whether he wants to take that risk again is another question entirely?
    One thing is for certain, when Alonso feels comfortable, with both team and race car, then everything else becomes irrelevant.

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