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Williams: Senna no 'pay driver'

19 January 2012

Despite comments flying around various F1 fan forums in the wake of his confirmation on Tuesday, Williams insists that it has not signed Bruno Senna purely on the basis of the sponsors he can bring to the team.

It is easy to see the Brazilian as something of a 'pay driver', having been hired by financially-strapped Hispania Racing in 2010, and snapped up, apparently on the strength of his backing, to replace Nick Heidfeld at Lotus Renault last season, but Williams insists that it looked at other variables before deciding to sign Senna ahead of both Rubens Barrichello and Adrian Sutil.

While the former GP2 Series racewinner's $10m dowery will come in handy for a team that lost title sponsor AT&T over the winter, senior operations engineer Mark Gillan claims that Senna's race performances from 2011, plus various assessments - including spells in the simulator - carried out in the past month, indicated that he was the best option for the Grove squad.

"We made the final decision based on a number of factors, ranging from the raw pace of a driver, consistency, tyre management, technical feedback, fitness, mental capacity and, most importantly, the impact the new driver would have on the team," Gillan told the media during conference call accompanying Senna's confirmation.

"In all those areas, it was very clear that Bruno, despite not a lot of experience in single-seaters, has shown improvement and real talent. All the drivers under evaluation went through the same process and, immediately, it was very able to build up a rapport with Bruno. He's a very easy person to get on with. Based on everything that was laid out, Bruno was the best way forward."

Senna's deal effectively spells the end of Barrichello's F1 career after 19 seasons, although the Brazilian veteran claimed that 'the future is open' in a Twitter message congratulating his countryman on landing the drive. While he has indicated that he may now take the year out to spend with his family, Barrichello received an invitation from Dario Franchitti to try his hand in the Indycar Series, while his name has also been mentioned in connection with various media opportunities.

Sutil, meanwhile, has more pressing concerns than securing his F1 future, with an impending court case to hear claims that he assaulted Genii Capital's Eric Lux in a Shanghai nightclub after last year's Chinese GP. The German, like Barrichello, is thought likely to shun the final vacancy, at HRT, and is rumoured to have had his budget from the Medion computer brand trimmed for 2011. It has been suggested that Sutil may also have been passed over by Williams as his management remains focused on securing a seat in a more prominent team for 2013, leading to rumours that he may take the third seat at Ferrari set to be vacated by Jules Bianchi if the Frenchman is confirmed as reserve at Sutil's former employer, Force India.


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