JEREZ, Spain: Bruno Senna’s grandparents have never attended any of his races and, as he prepares for a new start in Formula One with Williams, he does not expect them to do so now.
The Brazilian says his family is completely supportive as he treads in the footsteps of his late uncle Ayrton but the 28 year old also recognizes that the pain of the past will always be there.
Ayrton, perhaps the greatest of all grand prix drivers and certainly one of the most charismatic, died in a Williams at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix in a crash that threw both nation and sport into mourning. He had won his three titles with McLaren and that tragic weekend was only his third race for the 1993 champions.
“I hope it is going to be a great, nice chapter,” Bruno, affable and enthusiastic, told Reuters at the Jerez circuit where Thursday a Senna will step into a Williams as a Formula One race driver for the first time since 1994. “The beginning of history to be honest.
“Many people ask me about how my family felt about my coming to Williams and everything. Everybody is super happy. my grandfather [Ayrton’s father], everybody because everybody has been working so hard for this to happen.
“They know that the team is a strong team with a good pedigree ... hopefully we will back on top form together,” he said.
Williams offers a chance for Bruno to show he deserves to be in Formula One on merit and not just for the name and sponsorship he brings.
Although he entered Formula One in 2010 with struggling HRT and then started eight races for Renault last year, Thursday will be the first time he has taken part in a preseason test since he was a GP2 driver in 2008.
Senna once told reporters that “If you think I’m fast, just wait until you see my nephew Bruno” but the world is still waiting for the evidence.
“It’s no pressure,” grinned Bruno when reminded of the words that will always follow him. “Of course, Ayrton regarded me very highly in go-karts but being quick is not everything that a real race driver needs.
“A race driver needs to be quick, to be intelligent, to have good relationships and be in the right place at the right time. There are a lot of factors that would create a successful race driver.
“We are trying to put them all together and I think this is the start of the right conditions for me.”
As a youngster, Ayrton’s death stalled Bruno’s career and it took him 10 years to get back on track. In many respects, he is still catching up.
“I’ve been around [in F1] for two years but not really racing for two years. I’ve been racing for eight races and everything else was just kind of participating,” he said.
“The times when I had the same opportunity as the other guys [to test], and 2008 is a great example of that, I was there. Competitive every race weekend, I had one or two bad race weekends but everybody does, and fought for the championship.
“That’s my aim again. To have the same chances as the other guys and then sit in the car and be competitive, beat the other guys that I am competing against,” he said.
Bruno and Pastor Maldonado make up the least experienced Williams lineup in years, with the Venezuelan making his debut only last year.
Williams are also getting used to a new Renault engine and changes in the technical department.
“I like this kind of pressure. the pressure I have to be competitive and not the ‘Oh, I can’t do anything wrong today because I might not be in the car tomorrow’ kind,” said Bruno. “I know I can be very competitive, I’ve proven it in the past and even recently in the Renault car. I can be quick.
“This is all pretty straightforward to me. The difficult thing is to prove to everybody that I can be consistent and that I can win races. I have done that in GP2 ... so I think this is the perfect opportunity to show what I am made of,” he said.
“It’s a normal year and that’s what I have been looking for the last three years,” Bruno added.
If all goes well, his family will be delighted. From a distance.
“My grandfather won’t get into a plane to come to Europe. My grandma came to visit me a few times but she didn’t quite make it to the races. I am not sure if she wants to come to a race. Even my mum doesn’t particularly enjoy it,” said Bruno.