F1 » Bruno Senna
Anyone carrying such a symbolic surname as Bruno Senna naturally carries a weight of expectation, but the Brazilian is determined to prove himself in F1 despite constant comprison with his famous uncle.
Senna Jr first came to light when Ayrton made an off-hand remark that, if anyone though he was special, they ought to see his nephew. Footage of them karting together confirmed that the younger Brazilian knew how to handle a racing machine, but the tragic events of Imola 1994 appeared to put an end to any ambitions of following his uncle up the motorsport ladder.
It was fully ten years before Bruno resurfaced but, having been presented at the San Marino GP with a version of the black-and-gold JPS Lotus 98T that Ayrton had driven early in his F1 career, he turned out in a handful of Formula BMW events later in the year, his appetite clearly whetted once again.
While the six points he scored in as many rounds were nothing to shout about, Senna wasted little time in progressing his career, joining the Raikkonen Robertson Racing squad to graduate to F3 for 2005. Again, early results were patchy but, as his experience grew, so did his performances, eventually yielding three podium finishes in the second half of the year, leaving Senna tenth overall with 75 points.
He remained in F3 with RRR the following year, but started the campaign with two victories in three races on a one-off outing with Team BRM at the Australian GP in Melbourne. That success and the benefit of continuity in the UK clearly boosted his confidence and he claimed victory in both races at the season-opening Oulton Park event. He added another win next time out at Donington Park, and triumphed again at both Mondello Park and Mugello as he remained in contention for the title, but saw his efforts to claim the title hampered by a massive crash at Snetterton, in which he cartwheeled down the back straight, narrowly missing the underside of a bridge. Senna eventually finished the year in third place overall.
A couple of guest outings in the German and Supercup Porsche series yielded little, and failed to deflect Senna from his course up the single-seater ladder, the Brazilian stepping up again for 2007, this time to GP2.
Having joined former champion Arden International, he finished fourth on debut in Bahrain and then claimed his first victory third time out in Barcelona. That win, which was somewhat unexpected and owed a lot to a safety car and flawed pit-stop strategy for eventual champion Timo Glock - was as good as it got for Senna in 2007, as he finished eighth overall with just a couple more podium appearances.
He moved to Glock's iSport International team the following year, and started strongly with a couple of second places in the GP2 Asia Series, results that he then replicated when the main series kicked off in Spain. An historic victory in Monaco and another at Silverstone followed as Senna marked himself out as a rival to Racing Engineering's Giorgio Pantano but, following three third places in a row through Germany and Hungary, his results tailed off and he had to settle for second overall. Again, he survived a frightening incident mid-season, this time when a stray dog ran across the nose of his Dallara in Turkey. Senna escaped unhurt, but with with deranged suspension. The dog was not so fortunate.....
Senna also sampled an F1 car for the first time that same season, getting behind the wheel of a works Honda during a November test session in Barcelona. Although the team was impressed enough to consider him a candidate for a race seat, the upheaval of Honda's sudden exit and the Ross Brawn-led resurrection of the team eventually sw the Brazilian passed over in favour of more experienced countryman Rubens Barrichello, who had been a protege of his uncle's.
Senna could then only sit and watch as Barrichello and team-mate Jenson Button dominated the first half of the season, eventually claiming eight race wins between them as the Briton headed a 1-2 in the championship standings... Having waited to see what his F1 future held, Senna was unable to return to GP2 in a front-running seat and, despite testing promisingly for Mercedes in the DTM, opted for a handful of sportscar outings with ORECA in the Le Mans Series, including taking the Senna name to the La Sarthe for the 24 Hours.
His eyes remained firmly on F1, however, and, at the end of the year, Senna was delighted to announce that he had agreed terms with the new team being put together by former driver Adrian Campos. Even then, however, nothing appeared certain, as Campos Meta ran into problems and had to be rescued by shareholder Jose Ramon Carabante. The renamed Hispania Racing operation was to be headed up by former Midland/Spyker team boss Colin Kolles, whose first statement was the further funding was needed, placing Senna's position in jeopardy.
Persistence paid off, however, and Senna duly formed half of the line-up alongside former iSport team-mate Karun Chandhok, although the pair only got their hands on the first Hispania car at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix!
As expected, the season did not amount to much, with the Dallara-built car hardly changing through the year, despite the variety of courses on which it ran. Senna was forced to sit out the British GP after an internal disagreement, but returned for the rest of the year, posting a best result of 14th in the incident-filled Korean GP. Without a point to his name, he was classified 23rd overall, but ahead of both Virgin Racing drivers.
Despite his dogged displays, the Brazilian's prospects looked slim for 2011, with Kolles insisting that there was no role for him at the once-again renamed HRT outfit. With no other race seats forthcoming, Senna was forced to sit and watch the first half of the season, but joined the Lotus Renault team as one of its plethora of reserves in the hope that he may either get Friday practice outings or be in line for promotion should anything happen to one of the confirmed race drivers.
Despite being behind the likes of Romain Grosjean in the supposed pecking order, Senna's move paid off when, during the summer break, the team tired of Nick Heidfeld - who had been hired as substitute for the injured Robert Kubica - and promoted Senna in his place from the Belgian Grand Prix.
The Brazilian defied his lack of experience with the R30 by qualifying eighth for the Spa race, but blotted his copybook by misjudging his braking into the opening hairpin and harpooning several rivals, although he escaped to finish 13th. Better was to come next time out, as he secured his first F1 points with ninth place at Monza, but the fading Lotus Renault challenge failed to yield another top ten position in the remaining six races, leaving Senna 18th in the standings.
Worse was to come when, despite being linked to a seat at Enstone for 2012, the team decided on a fresh start, hiring Kimi Raikkonen to replace the Brazilian and erstwhile team-mate Vitaly Petrov. The pair were then rumoured to be in competition for various vacant seats, but Senna was most closely linked to the opening at Williams, the team in which his famous uncle's career ended so tragically.
Despite competition from Adrian Sutil and, ironically, Barrichello, Senna was eventually announced as team-mate to Pastor Maldonado, creating a relatively inexperienced line-up, but perhaps a better-funded one than the other options offered.
A year on from the famous yellow, green and blue helmet reappearing in a black-and-gold Lotus Renault, Senna thus turned out in a blue-and-white Williams, but the season always had the feeling of being a stop-gap for both parties.
With Valtteri Bottas waiting in the wings, and being handed the Brazilian’s car for no fewer than 15 of the season’s 20 opening free practice sessions, the writing appeared to be on the wall, even though Senna managed to record more scoring finishes with less track time than team-mate Pastor Maldonado. In all, the Brazilian finished in the top ten ten times, but his best result of sixth – from round two in Malaysia – fell a long way short of Maldonado’s win in Barcelona, which makes it more telling that the pair were split by just one spot and 14 points in the final reckoning.
With Bottas confirmed for 2013, Senna will once again have to cast around for another drive, He has been linked to both Force India and Caterham but, even though he brings sponsorship dollars, his future remains frustratingly uncertain.