Bruno Senna: The Blessing and Curse of His Surname
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Many drivers in Formula 1 have certain things expected of them even before they turn the wheel.
In 1994, Hideki Noda said, "People expect me to be rubbish." Everyone did indeed expect that, but Noda did very respectably considering the car he was driving.
This year, some people expected Schumacher to return and produce the same sort of results as we have seen from him before; as it turned out, he couldn't produce the same quality performances.
It's unfair for both men to be judged before they were even seen.
This year saw the debut of Bruno Senna and, of course, there was only one comparison people wanted to make: between him and his uncle, the legend, Ayrton Senna.
Bruno is very talented behind the wheel of a car, that much is obvious, but how much help does that surname give him or how much does it weigh down on him?
Well, I would like to say right here that he is worthy of a place in Formula 1. He must have some ability, because it is very rare you get someone with little talent in Formula—it can't just be the name.
If it was just the name, why have Nicolas Prost or Mathias Lauda never become Formula 1 drivers?
He finished third in the competitive British Formula 3 in 2006, and his record GP2 also shows that he has talent with him coming second in the 2008 season. In fact, most of the other motorsport categories he has been a part of on a regular basis shows that he is a consistent performer.
The idea that it's only his surname that has got him into Formula 1 lacks any credibility with me.
However, I do think that his surname has helped. For a young driver making his way through the junior categories, money is absolutely crucial. Some young drivers never have the chance to progress simply because they don't have enough money.
Sponsorship provides a large chunk of the money that young drivers can bring to the table and can help keep them in quality machinery as they develop. With the Senna name, I doubt it would have been difficult to attract sponsors not only in Brazil, but all over the world.
Ayrton Senna was a driver loved by many, particularly in Brazil, and a chance to be associated with the Senna name must be an incredibly tempting offer to any business. I am sure Bruno was never struggling to pick up sponsors.
He is also starting at the very bottom of the Formula 1 ladder, which is something I respect a lot. He came within a whisker of earning the Brawn drive with Jenson Button in 2009 but just missed out.
I am not a fan of new drivers being placed in the strongest cars straight away and much prefer to see them build themselves from the back.
It's why I like what Fernando Alonso's way, as he built his way up from Minardi and then built himself up whilst at Bennetton. When Renault came along, he was absolutely ready and beat the great Michael Schumacher.
In 2010, driving the slow and recalcitrant Hispania provides a learning experience for Senna. The Hispania was horrifically twitchy and never showed any real signs of being able to compete with any of the other new teams.
In one way it provides a tough, if lower pressure start. No one, once they saw the Hispania could have expected Bruno to be anything other than at the back.
If he had been at Brawn in 2009 in that amazing car, the pressure on Bruno would have been absolutely incredible. The combination of a winning car and the Senna name would have people expecting out of this world performances.
As a debutant, that would have been a lot to ask for. Hamilton managed to do it 2007 and full respect to him, but the pressure on Senna would have been even greater.
The main problem that Bruno will always have, though, is the comparison with his uncle.
There is no way, unless he does something absolutely incredible, that he will ever match up to Ayrton's legacy and some will always say that "he is living off the name" and "he is rubbish compared to Ayrton," etc.
Bruno could be a two or three world times world champion and people would still produce such comments.
What I hope that people do is forget the name and judge Bruno as Bruno. Don't compare him to Ayrton. His first season was solid, if unspectacular. He made a rookie error at Spain and suffered from bad reliabilty from the Hispania, but I saw nothing to say to me that he wasn't up to Formula 1 standard.
He was better than Yamamoto, fought hard with Chandok and even though he was beaten by Klien in Singapore and Brazil, he did beat Klien in Abu Dhabi. When you factor in Klien's experience edge, Bruno did okay even if at Singapore he was beaten by a large margin.
I really hope that next year he gets a drive because while I am writing this, he doesn't have a confirmed drive for 2011, and gets a drive that allows him to show what he can do.
If he is outclassed totally when in a stronger car, then his place has to be reevaluated. Until he is given a car that is quality, I feel that the people who insult Bruno are premature.
I implore any midfield team to give Bruno a chance.
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