18 years after Senna’s death, legend’s nephew Bruno earns emotional Williams drive
Bruno Senna will follow in the footsteps of his late uncle and triple world champion Ayrton and race for Williams this season.
Williams, who have carried Senna’s name on all their cars ever since that fateful May afternoon at Imola when the Brazilian died in one of the Formula One team’s cars at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, revealed the 28-year-old will partner Pastor Maldonado during the 2012 season.
Senna, who made his F1 debut with the struggling HRT team in 2010 and competed in the last eight races for Renault last year as a stand-in, will start testing with Williams at Spain’s Jerez circuit on February 9.
He replaces 39-year-old compatriot Rubens Barrichello, a family friend who made his race debut in 1993 with Ayrton as his mentor, whose Formula One career now appears to be over after 19 seasons, 11 race wins and more starts than any other driver.
‘It will be very interesting to drive for a team that my uncle has driven for, particularly as quite a few of the people here actually worked with Ayrton,’ said Senna, whose mother Viviane was Ayrton’s older sister, in a statement.
‘Hopefully we can bring back some memories and create some great new ones too.
‘I also want to get some good results in return for the support my country has given me to help get me to this position today.
‘I am very proud to be Brazilian and more motivated than ever to demonstrate what I can do.’
No financial details were given but Senna is expected to bring a significant Brazilian sponsor with him to a team currently searching for a new title backer after the departure of telecommunications giant AT&T.
Senna, who raced karts with Ayrton on the family farm and also features in the recent award-winning documentary about his uncle’s life and death, wears a blue cap with the branding of Brazilian telecoms company Embratel, his personal sponsor.
The ever-smiling Brazilian made several visits to the team’s Grove factory before and after Christmas with Williams, who endured their worst ever season last year, trying him out in their simulator and putting him through his paces in the gym.
‘The circumstances of Bruno’s two seasons in Formula One have not given him an ideal opportunity to deliver consistently so it was essential that we spent as much time with him as possible to understand and evaluate him as a driver,’ said team principal Frank Williams.
‘We have done this both on track and in our simulator and he has proven quick, technically insightful and above all capable of learning and applying his learning quickly and consistently,’ he added.
‘Now we are looking forward to seeing that talent in our race car.’
Senna’s appointment leaves just one declared vacancy, alongside Spanish veteran Pedro de la Rosa at HRT.
It also means Brazil will have two drivers on the grid next season, with Ferrari’s Felipe Massa the other one.
Once-dominant Williams scored just five points last season, finishing ninth of the 12 teams, but will have a Renault engine this year as well as a reorganised technical team under former McLaren man Mike Coughlan.
‘I’m really happy to be a part of a team with such a fantastic heritage,’ said Senna, whose new team have fallen on tough times since the last of their seven drivers’ championships in 1997.
‘I am very proud that Williams has chosen me to race in what will be an important year for them. Everyone is extremely motivated for 2012 and it is great to be part of that motivation.
‘It is true that they didn’t have the best season last year, but it is clear that the team is on a new path and everyone is pulling together to ensure that this year is a better one.
‘I really hope that I can demonstrate what I can do.’