Despite claiming recently that his F1 prospects looked more promising than a year ago [HERE
], Bruno Senna again looks set to have to settle for a reserve role to start 2012.
The Brazilian had hoped to annex the second Lotus Renault GP seat alongside Kimi Raikkonen, but lost out to GP2 Series champion Romain Grosjean, whose F1 return was confirmed late last week. With only Williams and former employer HRT appearing to have vacancies for next season, Senna's choices were somewhat limited, although the Grove team would offer an emotional link to his family's previous F1 involvement.
confirms that the 28-year old remains 'an outside bet' for a race seat in 2012, LRGP boss Eric Boullier suggests that he could again form part of the Enstone line-up. Senna was one of several potential reserve drivers on the team's books at the start of 2011, and was eventually promoted to a race seat when the team lost patience with Nick Heidfeld, who had been drafted in from the cold when lead driver Robert Kubica was injured in a rally accident.
Senna made his LRGP debut at Spa, and twice made it through to the top ten qualifying shoot-out ahead of team-mate Vitaly Petrov, but neither that or the Brazilian backing that apparently saw him promoted over Heidfeld was good enough to keep him onboard for 2012. Boullier, however, has said that a return to his former role has been offered to Senna on the basis of his performances this season, while the Brazilian has hinted that he would accept such a position provided it came with guaranteed outings in Friday free practice.
“We have two racers, we will see about a third driver later on,” Boullier told French newspaper Le Nouvel Observateur
, “This is an opportunity for Bruno if he does not find a seat elsewhere, as he is someone who is very good on the technical side. We would consider the role for Fridays as well.”
Should Senna opt to return to LRGP, it could close another door on Marussia Virgin outcast Jerome d'Ambrosio, who was last week tipped as a contender for the reserve role. The Belgian does not have access to huge financial backing - otherwise he could have seen off Charles Pic's challenge to his seat at MVR - but is managed by the Boullier-led Gravity group. However, d'Ambrosio insists that he continues to talk with those teams still having seats to fill for 2012, and is still chasing a race role.
“For me, nothing has really changed since Brazil,” he told Belgium's La Derniere Heure
newspaper, “Not even the signing of Romain Grosjean with Lotus-Renault, as that had never really been an option for me. One way or another, I will be in F1 in 2012 - and a reserve role is not the priority at the moment.”
According to the report, Caterham, HRT and Williams were all being targeted by Gravity, although the former could depend largely on what happens with Jarno Trulli and Daniel Ricciardo, with many quarter suggesting that the Australian could be parachuted into the team by Red Bull. d'Ambrosio has also been mentioned as a possibility for the reserve role at Hingham, but Gravity's Benjamin Mignot only underlined the company's determination to keep it's client on the grid.
“At this stage, we are still in discussions with three of the five teams that have seats for 2012,” Mignot confirmed, “To tell the truth, we have been able to raise so far a very reasonable amount for a very consistent driver — but, to develop a car, it's not just about money.
“I get calls daily but it [the driver market] is not going to move before the holidays. Even if it doesn't work out, there are third driver positions where you can even drive on the Fridays at grands prix,” added Mignot
d'Ambrosio could face opposition for the Williams seat not just from Senna, but also Adrian Sutil and current incumbent Rubens Barrichello, while his route to a return with HRT could be blocked by the likes of Tonio Liuzzi and another GP2 graduate-in-waiting, Giedo van der Garde, who has backing that could prove tempting to either team.