Should Renault Rethink After Senna Fails to Deliver in Spa?
Wise old heads can sometimes take a battering, but today there was a certain feeling of karma for Nick Heidfeld as his controversial replacement Bruno Senna faced a difficult opening to his Renault racing career.
With Heidfeld proceeding with a legal case against the loss of his drive, Senna had to "lead" the team in former number one Robert Kubica's continued absence.
The events that preceded this choice were complex at best. Nick Heidfeld was never going to be the comfortable leader that Kubica was and Renault was naive to think so. However, he was certainly capable of having the advantage over his inexperienced team mate Vitaly Petrov.
Whilst Heidfeld struggled in some Grand Prix the bigger picture showed he could edge his team mate in terms of points finishes and the strongest potential race pace. The only problem was where Petrov seemed improved but balanced throughout; Heidfeld appeared determined and highly able at some Grand Prix events, yet clumsy and mediocre at others.
Bruno Senna's entrance at Spa caused us to question Renault's decision, until it emerged that he had a genuinely superior one lap pace. In qualifying, he planted his car in 7th and there was a sense of wondering as to whether he could produce a superb race result. Could he go ahead and prove all of the critics wrong?
Who Should Drive?
Sadly his lack of competitive action shone through as a reckless late brake into the first corner resulted in Senna taking out Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari and gaining himself a drive-through penalty as a consequence.
Bruno stated that he had misjudged the braking zone, as he was not use to starting a race with such a heavy fuel load. For a driver use to opening in similar positions at the back of the pack you could understand the incident from a driver unfamiliar with a midfield battle.
A poor opening could have been rectified though, with the safety car brought out after Hamilton and Kobayashi's collision.
Senna had an opportunity to regain a points scoring finish if he could replicate his impressive qualifying performance. Yet he had no definitive race pace to do so and a 13th placed finish was accompanied by a fastest lap that was a full second slower than Petrov's.
In hindsight, you can't help but feel that leaving Senna the second race seat for the remainder of the season may be a punishment too harsh for Heidfeld and a backward stepping decision from the Renault team.
Heidfeld especially can be deemed unfortunate after his last exit from a race drive seemed unjust on a driver who was never poor at his time at BMW. He was not a race winner but he could perform and with the likes of Karun Chandhok gaining drives, the decision for no team to offer a seat seemed ludicrous.
Maybe Bruno just needs time to develop into the sport in a competitive team. His first season at Hispania could never be remarkable due to the team's inability to produce an effective car.
It was therefore hard to judge how well he could perform as the unpredictable reliability of the car mixed with poor handling meant that Bruno was fighting his machinery rather than showing extracting his full potential from it.
There was a feeling of disappointment that the team who gave him a birth into Formula 1 then wouldn't utilise his services further to attempt a climb up the field, instead opting for epic failure Narain Karthikeyan.
At this moment in time I feel we can put Senna's uninspired race performance down to a nervy start which hampered the rest of his race. If he had started well and kept a grasp on his top ten position then he could of improved his overall race pace and got a promising result.
Heidfeld may reclaim his position within the team in the aftermath of his legal proceedings and to be honest he would be fair to do so. There are no hard feelings between Heidfeld and Senna as they understand that these things happen in the sport.
Yet the team has been brutal on a driver simply because he cannot match up to a team mate who comprehensively beat him in their last season at BMW. They set the expectations too high.
The saving grace from all of this appears to be that we now have some idea of what Bruno Senna is about and what he is truly capable of. Maybe he just will follow in his famous uncle's footsteps and build a legacy of his very own.
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