Bruno can’t wait for first race with the team his uncle was driving for when he died.
Bruno Senna was a 10-year-old when he first met Sir Frank Williams but this weekend the Brazilian will drive for the 69-year-old’s Formula One team at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
Senna was playing in the Interlagos paddock during the build-up to the 1994 Brazilian Grand Prix as his famous uncle Ayrton prepared for his first race with the British manufacturer. Nearly two decades have not dampened the memory. Bruno recalls: “I remember meeting Frank very clearly. I was only 10 and we didn’t talk too much as I didn’t really have much English.”
Five weeks after meeting the owner for the first time, Ayrton was dead, following an accident at the wheel of a Williams at the San Marino Grand Prix.
As Bruno discovered on his first visit to the team’s headquarters in Grove, Oxfordshire, there are others aside from the owner who were working for the team at the time of the tragedy and are still involved.
“I grew up watching Ayrton racing in Formula One, sometimes racing for Williams,” he says. “Unfortunately it was a short time but, judging by the people at the factory, he obviously became part of the team.
“It’s great to know the respect here at Williams for him and there are so many guys in the factory with stories to tell about Ayrton while he was at the team and they’ve told me about their experiences. I’m hopeful they can have some other experiences with me.”
The idea of the Senna name being back at Williams is mouth watering for the team and F1 fans alike and the outfit would dearly love to replicate the results of their heyday.
Williams, though, are some way shy of their former glories and last won a grand prix at Brazil in 2004, courtesy of Juan Pablo Montoya.
Last year they endured a torrid time finishing ninth in the constructors’ championship with five points.
Their newest driver, who will team up with Pastor Maldonado in Melbourne after replacing Rubens Barrichello, is confident of a return to their former glories.
“The Williams name brings with it a great responsibility and it would be great to put the team back where they belong,” says Senna.
His positivity is admirable but any climb up F1’s pecking order will have to be a slow and steady one, although winter testing suggests that Williams will be more competitive than during their annus horribilis of 2011.
For Senna, it is a third team in as many seasons and the unsettled nature of his time in the sport makes him seem more like a rookie than a driver approaching his third season.
“It’s important in motor racing to feel settled but I’ve never had that,” he says. “The only back-to-back season I’ve had was with a team in 2005-06 [in British F1 with Raikkonen Robertson Racing]. Hopefully I can be here a bit longer.”
His first F1 season was at Hispania, much of which was spent being lapped by virtually the rest of the grid, and last year he began the season as Renault’s reserve driver, taking over Nick Heidfeld’s car at the midway point.
Senna says: “With HRT, everything was chaotic and it was difficult to belong. At Renault, I started to drive halfway through the season. That’s a difficult position to do things in.
“To be able to do a full winter with a team and the engineers makes a big difference. I really feel that I belong here. It’s my first proper chance to do well, to have the same chances as the other drivers.”
Former F1 driver Alexander Wurz has been brought in as a mentor to the Williams drivers, which could be a sign the team don’t entirely trust their line-up.
Senna, who has a one-year deal, disagrees: “It makes me really proud that the team have given me this responsibility and I’ll make sure to pick Alex’s brains. I want to do what I can to be competitive and successful.”
How competitive and how successful is another matter. He has not had a quality car to see whether he is capable of emulating his uncle’s feats, although he has ambitions to do so.
“You never aim just to be in F1,” he says. “I’m here to win and hopefully I’ll get the chance to do that in the future.”
source: © thisislondon.co.uk