Senna aims for qualifying gain in ‘first real F1 season’


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Bruno Senna heads into this weekend’s British Grand Prix after a frustrating race in Valencia.

A collision with Kamui Kobayashi dealt a double blow to his chances as it damaged his car and he was hit with a penalty for the collision.

It wasn’t the first time this year Senna found himself running a long first stint in an attempt to gain places, leading to a tangle with another car on fresher tyres. Much the same happened with Michael Schumacher in Spain.

“Qualifying has become a bit of a speciality”

Bruno Senna, Williams, Valencia, 2012F1 Fanatic spoke to the Williams driver ahead of this weekend’s race. He explained the thinking behind the strategy: “Our car permits us sometimes to run longer on the tyres. That normally allows you to gain positions on the track.”

But, he admitted, “it is also because of not qualifying so well. Sometimes we need to jump a lot of positions and take more risks.

“If you’re in front you want to do the safest strategy. But I’ve been struggling a bit in qualifying. In the race normally I’ve been strong, so we’ve been having to push a little on that side of things.”

Senna admitted he’s still getting to grips with how the current generation of tyres have to be treated on a single, flying lap: “Qualifying has become a bit of a speciality with the Pirelli tyres.

“Last year everybody was learning, it was everybody’s first time with these tyres. I qualified pretty well three times last year in random conditions.

“This year everybody knows the tyres better so on the tracks I haven’t been to it’s more difficult to qualify perfectly.

“To be very fair it’s been a tough challenge, Pastor [Maldonado’s] been doing a great job as well. We’re getting there, trying to get the most out of the set-up of the car, but also trying to get the most out of myself in qualifying situations, pushing hard.”

Qualifying poorly has led to him running longer first stints. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t,” says Senna. When it doesn’t “you get someone very frustrated behind trying to overtake”.

While Senna went out in the tangle with Schumacher in Spain, Maldonado was on his way to victory. Senna said he can learn a lot from his team mate: “Pastor is very quick, very consistently quick as well.

“I think [he’s] a great reference to have right now because I need a good team mate now to learn as quickly as possible, even though sometimes it’s tough because you’re a step behind and have to make up for lost time.

“It’s still very good to have Pastor as my team mate. I’m learning a lot with his telemetry and his data and catching up.”

“This is my first real season in F1”

Bruno Senna, HRT, Bahrain, 2010Surprisingly, this weekend’s race will be Senna’s first in an F1 car at Silverstone. During his maiden season with HRT he missed the British round as the team put Sakon Yamamoto in the car:

“I think people have the concept that I have been in Formula One for three seasons, and I haven’t. This is my first real season in Formula One. Last year, of course, I had a few good races but 2010 was more fighting to survive than anything else.

“And definitely it’s going to be a big challenge driving at Silverstone. Last time I drove there was 2008. Saying that, I had a pretty good race there last time so I’m looking forward to it.”

He adds he’s “really hoping that we can give the team a good home race.” but admits the field is very close at the moment:

“I think the car is very competitive on high downforce tracks,” Senna said. “We’ve been devloping more and more but for sure it’s not going to be easy for anyone.

“We’re going to see a lot of cars being competitive for the weekend. And I think there are quite a few people who are as competitive as us.

“So it is a lottery in terms of who’s going to win. But we know that we can be strong so we’re going to push very hard.

“We’ve been pushing very hard from the beginning of the season on the low-speed aero performance. It sounds very contradictory, but you spend most time of the lap in low-speed corners so we’ve been focusing on that a lot and it’s been working very well.

“So that’s why we’ve had a nice jump in the corners. But also the car has to be good in high-speed and the new upgrade package has a bit of focus on that.”

Williams are unusual in that reserve driver Valtteri Bottas only ever drivers Senna’s car – not Maldonado’s. So do both cars get the same upgrades at the same time?

“We try to give both drivers the same opportunity,” Senna explained. “So normally whenever a car races something the other one has the same chance.

“But there’s also incidents and sometimes limited number of parts. So because sometimes you’re racing hard and you break parts and you have to use another spec of parts. I think normally when they develop they’re thinking for both cars.”

2012 British Grand Prix

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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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    37 comments on “Senna aims for qualifying gain in ‘first real F1 season’”

    1. I wish he’d give less of the excuses and convey more of a ‘I’m going to beat my team-mate and sort out my average driving’ attitude. Maybe I’m wrong, but Senna for me doesn’t seem like he has that fire in his belly that all great racers need. Sure, people have taken a little disliking to Maldonado (myself included), but at least his aggressive attitude means he gives it his all on the track which sometimes I’m not sure Senna really does.

      Whatever he does, Bottas has been impressive so he had better learn about these tyres sooner rather than later.

      1. He has a laid back personality and doesn’t talk like an idiot. Is that really such a bad thing?

        Do some research on his career and see if you still think he has no fire in his belly.

        I agree Bottas will have his seat next year no matter what unless Pastor starts crashing even more and or his big sponsorship stops.

        1. You make a good point @snowman. I’m aware of his career but I’m talking about now, and now is what really matters for Bruno if he’s going to keep his seat for next year.

          I guess it just frustrates me as I really want him to do well (he is one of the good guys), but too often I get the impression he isn’t giving 110% every race now that he’s made it to F1. That’s just the impression I get, it may not be the reality.

      2. Senna doesnt know himself really his speech reveals how confuse he is he doenst give answers to the questions he is given he rather answer those questions no one asked him, i guess he just feels really pressured and strangely enough he feels he is being misunderstood, i dont know im not Bruno Lalli Senna, he just seems as confuse as my idea of him, ultimately facts tell the story, he was slower than Chandok, but someone gave him another shot then he was faster than Vitaly, which earned him another shot, now he is slower than Maldonado, so he is going to get a third shot for his 4th F1 season? I dont believe in God but… In God we trust right, God almighty God all rich may help him again.

    2. I’d forgotten he hadn’t driven an F1 car at Silverstone yet! Granted, he did win here back in ’08, but the layout was slightly different then. Assuming he loses FP1 yet again this weekend (he’s only got two left for the entire rest of the season, and I’m pretty sure this isn’t one of those), I really do hope to see a good weekend from him. I still think the qualifying setup Williams opted for on his car last race was odd (more focus on race setup than quali setup, which struck me as strange for a track like Valencia where overtaking is usually so challenging), but Silverstone is their home track so maybe they’ll have some better ideas there.

      From what I’ve noticed, Bruno seems a bit better overall than Maldonado at keeping the life in his tires longer, but then it also seems as if there have been a few instances of Williams keeping him out probably a lap or two longer than they should. Easily noted in hindsight, of course, but I’m also hoping they’ve learned from that and might be just a bit more conservative about when to pit him.

      I’m aware I’m pretty much in the minority these days, being a fan of his, but oh well. Still crossing everything that he’ll have a luckier weekend than in the past and can continue to learn. I’d ask if anyone has any solid guesses as to what the weather might be like this weekend, but from what I’ve seen so far (sunny now, but rain definitely forecast?), no one really seems to know! I guess we’ll soon see!

    3. If you look at how badly Jenson Button and Mark Webber were effected by lack of running in FP in Canada I think it does help to inform some of Senna’s qualifying deficiences when compared to Maldonado. He has to be at a disadvantage every time he gives up his car on Friday for Bottas. Over a race distance he has been more than a match for Maldonado and, if you exclude Maldonado’s win in Spain, has scored more points more often. This is his first “real” crack at F1 but he is still being disadvantaged by not getting track time on Fridays.

      He will no doubt be dropped next season in favour of Bottas, but I think it is a shame because if you dig a little deeper into his performances, he’s not actually been doing that badly. He is an easy guy to pick on because of the famous surname and the fact that he does bring a budget to Williams, but he is a very capable driver.

      1. Agreed. I find it interesting how people seem to be much more willing to give Grosjean a second chance, though not at all surprising. And he didn’t start in F1 with a car that couldn’t finish half the races.

        I’m actually kind of hoping for rain on Sunday, as Bruno does tend to do very well in the wet.

    4. I like Senna and Maldonado, each for completely different reasons. Maldonado has completely outshone Senna so far this year, even if it has been sometimes for the wrong reasons. I’ve found myself a little disappointed with Senna so far this year – but on a good day, he’s good. Just needs to be more often, and like he said, learn to qualify above 15th.

    5. OmarR-Pepper (@)
      5th July 2012, 17:18

      You compare Senna and Maldonado and I would say that Senna , despite his need to improve, is even slightly better than Maldonado. Don’t get me wrong. I know Maldonado has won a race and that his qualifying is almost always better than Bruno’s. But what’s the point of starting fourth if you crash your car in the last laps TWICE? Do you remember Australia right? And now Valencia. And don’t forget Maldonado is prone to get nuts very easily (remember his other incident with Lewis in qualifying last year). Brunno is more mind centered, and he can talk to much and do little, but see the drivers’ results and who’s bringing the points lately (few points but at least) is Bruno.

      1. To be honest, as stupid as Maldonado has been at times, I think he is better, since I would prefer a fast but error prone driver over a slow but less error prone. They have both had their fair share of incidents (Maldonado having a few more), but it’s Maldonado that gets more out of the car by far.

        1. @david-a Ordinarily I’d go along with that – you always expect it’s easier to make a fast but erratic driver calm down, than it is to help one who’s not got that crucial final half-a-tenth of pace to find it.

          But some of Maldonado’s driving has been so hot-headed and careless you have to wonder what it’s going to take for him to get his act together. The incidents with Hamilton last year and Perez this year were especially bad and I do not think the stewards have been firm enough with him.

          Frank Williams was praising him to the skies at the FOTA Forum the other day. That’s all well and good, and deserved for the pace he’s shown. But equally he needs to be on the receiving end of some sharp words behind closed doors about his on-track conduct.

          1. Agreed. Look at Williams’ position in the constructors; Force India is now a single point behind them. Were Maldonado less reckless, that would probably be a much healthier gap (and potentially Sauber wouldn’t be ahead of them). Throwing away points is never a good choice, but in a season this tight it’s less so than ever.

          2. I think that is a big downside on Pastor Maldonado as well. He really is fast, and when he keeps it together, he seems to be a driver who can mix it at the front.

            But after his temper having gotten the better of him that often, it would make me reluctant to sign him on in any big team, even despite him bringing the money to pay for repairs with him.

        2. Senna admits he’s still playing catch-up with the tyres (his comments about qualifying remind me a bit of Perez), while Maldonado thinks he’s got the hang of the tyres now (this was in Peter Windsor’s “Flying Lap” interview with him, also at the FOTA forum I believe).

          It’s Senna’s first F1 race at Silverstone, and he’d benefit from as much practice on the tyres as he can get. So it would seem particularly unfair to put Bottas in the car tomorrow. Any news on who’s driving the number 19 Williams in first practice?

          1. Eleanore (@leucocrystal)
            6th July 2012, 8:23

            Bottas will be in the car for FP1 (just saw a Tweet confirming as much from Williams F1), which doesn’t surprise me. Senna only has two more FP1s left to his name for the entire rest of the season, so he’s going to have to choose (if he even gets to) wisely.

            Granted, with the forecast looking the way it does, FP1 may be incredibly wet, so either way he may not have gotten much running done.

      2. is even slightly better than Maldonado

        Maldonado is crazy, but there is no way Senna is better than him. If Senna was slightly slower I’d understand your point, but he’s way off Maldonado. Maldonado can challenge for the top three whist Senna can’t even get into the top ten. I’m pretty sure Maldonado won’t throw away every big result he challenges for, so by the end the season Maldonado could be miles ahead of Senna in the championship.

    6. Some of my favourite remarks regarding this man include:

      – He’s been given enough chances and had enough time in an F1 car. (Of course!)
      – He’s not his uncle. (Genius, right?)
      – He’s being beaten my Maldonado. (Any guesses as to why?)
      – He keeps crashing. (Again, no idea why that could be…)

      No, these aren’t comedians, these are views shared by the increasing number of experts that keep popping up in unexpected places.

      OK, I’ve had my fun. But seriously, give the guy a break. He may not be the next new World Champion, but how can anyone genuinely know one way or the other until he’s given a chance?


      This is my first real season in Formula One.

      It’s funny, because it’s not. His first real season in Formula One will be when he’s getting as much track time, practice and experience as the other 23 drivers.

      1. Ya that about sums it up. It seems people just want to criticise drivers and are usually stirred on by poor journalists.

      2. Funny and depressing, but you’re right. Unfortunately, at this point (and I’m saying this as a fan of his), pigs will fly before he gets truly equal footing.

        1. The biggest shame in that is, that we are likely to never see what he really is capable of when he gets into a team, has track knowledge and can maximise what’s in the car.

          But I love these interviews when the drivers get to talk a bit more about what they do and think.

      3. @damonsmedley Disagree. I’ve read some serious assessments of his performance and the content of them is quite different to your ‘favourite remarks’. It’s just fair and well-grounded criticism. Bruno is a nice guy and deserves respect for having made it so far as he effectively started his racing career at the age of 20. But I don’t think he would still be in F1 without the reportedly large sponsorship that he brings to the team.

        I’m not a fan of the driver replacements in FP1 and I agree that Bruno’s situation is particularly unfair. But you cannot make the lack of participation in FP1 responsible for all his troubles and the inability to perform at Maldonado’s level. FP1 is not the most important part of preparing for the race, a driver normally does only around 20 laps in a FP1. After all, Senna has participated in more F1 races than Pastor and several other current drivers. In that sense, he has even more experience than them.

        To be honest, I don’t think we’re ever gonna experience Senna’s first ‘real season’ (according to your criteria) because he simply won’t be in F1 after this year anymore. Unfair? The history of F1 is full of unfairness but one has to seize the opportunities when they’re there (remember Kobayashi in the end of 2009) and I don’t think Senna has managed to do that.

        1. @Girts And as it happens, his money might buy him more time in F1 where he may or may not be able to show us he’s got what it takes. The “unfairness” might balance itself out.

          1. @damonsmedley Agreed. I actually don’t blame Senna for having sponsors (Proof: Maldonado is one of my favourite drivers), I just don’t believe that he’ll be able to prove us anything more than he already has.

            But let’s wait and see. One of the best things about F1 and this website is that I can make a lot of wise predictions and return to them later to recognize what a fool I’ve been.

        2. The main reason I have a hard time considering his debut with HRT as a real season is how horrendously awful things reportedly were behind the scenes. That car was dangerous, never had replacement parts, and was capable of actually finishing a race about half the time. Apart from getting some experience of track layouts and the basics, how much can a developing driver really learn from a situation that bad? How to limp a failing car across the finish line, if they’re lucky? (Being hated by your boss and the team shuffling around reserve drivers like crazy probably doesn’t help either, but I could rant about HRT in 2010 for days and this is not the time or place.) They may be excuses, but I’d consider them pretty valid. I’m aware I’m in the minority though, so.

    7. I think that Senna has proved earlier this year (Malesia and China expecially) that he is a very good driver.

      Remember Malaysian gran prix, where he was involved in a contact in the first lap, and then under the rain, he started to overtake, place by place, with a good 6th position at the end.
      Chinese Grand Prix, qualified almost with the same time of the team mate, in race he kept a costant pace, finishing 7 th, in front of Maldonado.
      Barcellona weekend was pretty messy, error in qualifiyng and crashed with shumacher in race, unlucky there.

      Monaco, overdove the car in qualifiyng, not the best position on the grid but he scored points.
      With a better strategy he would have been finished in top seven again.

      Canada, difficult weekend, but the car wasn’t that competitive, expecially in race, even Maldonado was way off the points.
      In Valencia he was having a very good race, with a good strategy (same of Shumacher that finished on the podium), with a good pace finally (in some sections, faster than Maldonado), but the crash and the strange (in my opinion) penalty ruined his race.
      Anywere he managed to get a point, fighting from the back.

      So i think that Senna’s championship isn’t that bad.
      He have to miss all the first practice sessions, wich isn’t that good, expecially for a driver in his first “real” season.
      The main problem is the qualifiyng, usually he is a fast driver in the single lap (remember last year when he qualified very well in Monza, Brasil, Spain) but in nowdays, tyre managament is really unpredictable and difficult to understand, so it’s easy to screw up a lap.

      That’s my opinion.

    8. * Spa not spain, sry.

    9. Congratulations on the interview, Keith.

      I think it’s a shame Senna’s not getting as much track time as his team mate, especially as Bruno is still struggling to get the best out the Pirellis, whereas Maldonado recently said he had mastered them. I didn’t watch GP2 in 2008, but I think from their time in GP2 together you cannot conclude that one is much better than the other. Now, however, it seems that Maldonado is simply in another league, but just look how Jenson (a world champion, no less, and he did do all FP1 sessions) has struggled on occasion. That’s not to say Senna must not get his act together quickly. I think if he doesn’t deliver this year, he’ll be out of Williams, and probably F1 too.

      1. I meant to mention that too, Keith; I was quite tired this morning when this was first posted, and somehow missed that this was an original interview with you! Great job.

        I’d love to see more equal treatment at Williams (though I’m not all that surprised we’re not seeing it; I’ve never been much of a fan of how Sir Frank tends to manage his drivers), especially as, as Bruno says, Pastor’s already had a full year to integrate into the team and get a handle on the tires. If it would make sense for any team out there to split lost FP1 sessions between their two drivers, it would be this one.

        I honestly think no matter what he accomplishes this season, Williams won’t keep him, and that’s disappointing. His best hope, I imagine, is making an impression on other teams who may have spots open up.

        1. But IT IS equal treatment. He signed contract with Williams knowing what it says and it says precisely that he will have to sacrifice 15 FP1 sessions. Simple as that. He signed it, therefore accepted it, so fans should do that as well.

          He could choose other team if he wanted, but I don’t think anyone was interested in him. Remember what Gerard Lopez said about his stint in Renault last year “I remember in India he was about to go to the grid in fourteenth place and he was in good spirits. I thought ‘this cannot be’. When you’re 14th in qualifying you need to be annoyed, wondering what has gone wrong,” and unofficially in Abu Dhabi “I’m tired of these ****** drivers”.

          1. @armchairexpert

            He signed contract with Williams knowing what it says and it says precisely that he will have to sacrifice 15 FP1 sessions. Simple as that. He signed it, therefore accepted it

            Do you know that to be a fact or are you just assuming?

            1. I’ve heard that thrown around a lot too, apparently it was reported on quite a bit down in Brazil, and perhaps other areas? I still maintain that, when F1 is as competitive as it is now, outside the top drivers, most of these guys don’t have much room to negotiate. When Williams is the only team not splitting practice time, whether it was in his contract or not, I still don’t consider that fair. More like contractually obligated unfairness, but to each their own.

      2. @adrianmorse @leucocrystal Thanks guys, it’s always fascinating to get the chance to do a proper one-to-one.

        1. Keith you forgot to tell us how did you make this happen, i’m sure this is common for you but personally i would love to found out how do you approach these people for interviews etc.

          1. It’s not that common, unfortunately! It was arranged at a PR event for Williams’ sponsor Randstad. Sky were also there filming a segment with David Croft and Senna on the simulator which I expect will be in their race weekend coverage.

    10. The problem is that to the casual observer, it just looks bad… Add to that the ever increasing demand for instant gratification and Bottas…
      Bruno really needs to beat Pastor in every Q and every race. Otherwise he won’t have a seat anymore at Williams or even anywhere.
      Which is a shame, Pastor got all those years in GP2 and Bruno gets no real chance to gain experience.

    11. Go ahead, Bruno. Keep arbitrarily picking which seasons count and which ones do not. I’m sure team principals will do the same when it comes to renewing your contract.

    12. I like Senna, I do. He doesn’t show us often but there are occasional flashes of brilliant racing from him but he just lacks consistency. That said, I do appreciate he lacks consistency because ultimately he lacks experience. He has as much race experience as Maldonado but it’s so fractured with different cars, tyres and teams it can’t be easy to get your head in the zone as easily as other drivers do. I sincerely hope Williams hang on to him and try to nurture a race winner in him, it’s as much their responsibility as his to develop him into the driver they need.

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