As expected after weeks of mounting speculation, the Williams F1 team has confirmed it has secured the services of Bruno Senna for the 2012 season. The young Brazilian follows in the footsteps of his late uncle Ayrton, who joined the team 18 years ago, only to be killed in his third outing for the team. The announcement also spells the end of Rubens Barrichello’s lengthy career in Formula 1.
With a wealth of teams – Toro Rosso, Lotus Renault GP, Force India, HRT, Virgin Racing – dropping one of both of their 2011 drivers, Williams had a wealth of talent to pick from came to selecting the driver to partner the unimpressive Pastor Maldonado for the 2012 season. At the end of the day, the team selected Senna for the role.
“I feel very privileged that Williams has selected me as one of their race drivers,” Senna is quoted as saying in the team’s press release.
“The team has a great heritage and I hope I can help write a good chapter in their history. The evaluation process has been intense and methodical but the time I have spent in the factory has demonstrated that the team has great people and all the resources needed to achieve better things this season.
“I am very proud to be Brazilian and more motivated than ever to demonstrate what I can do. Ever since I first sat in a go-kart I never wanted to do anything else.”
“The circumstances of Bruno’s two seasons in Formula 1 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,” added team founder Sir 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. Now we are looking forward to seeing that talent in our race car.”
Given the connections to a host of sponsors (no doubt, in part, to his surname, and rumoured to be worth some $16 million a year), it’s a smart commercial decision for the Grove team, which is believed to be struggling financially – a rumoured tie-up with millions in sponsorship from the Middle East has yet to be announced – and in need of crucial funds to aid its expansion and development.
But one can’t help feel – and there will be many critics of this announcement who will support this view – that this is a short-sighted approach from Williams.
The team had made it clear that it needed an experienced driver in its second seat. Barrichello’s 19 years of F1 experience is second-to-none, but evidently the team felt that its time with him had run its course.
But on the back of the outfit’s appalling 2011 season – where it amassed just 5 points all year and finished ninth in the Constructors’ Championship standings – one can definitely get the feeling that it was more drawn to Bruno’s backing than necessarily finding the best driver for the role.
Lovely fellow as he is – and our two interviews that we’ve enjoyed with him to-date are testament to this – one can’t help but feel that he still has to prove that he has what it takes to be a top-line F1 driver. His bit-seasons with HRT and Lotus Renault GP have been inconclusive at best.
The 2012 F1 grid has one remaining vacancy, that being at HRT, whose position looks decidedly wobbly amidst rumours that it is miles behind on getting its 2012 budget and chassis together.
Despite Vitantonio Liuzzi holding a seemingly valid contract for the 2012 and 2013 seasons at the team, it appears all but certain that the outfit will pick a well-heeled rookie driver to partner Pedro de la Rosa.
[Images via Williams F1 Media; The Cahier Archive]