Williams signs Bruno Senna for 2012
Bruno Senna will line-up alongside Pastor Maldonado at Williams F1 in 2012, the Grove-based team confirmed on Tuesday.
The announcement comes after months of speculation over the seat, which was one of the last available for the forthcoming season. Adrian Sutil, Rubens Barrichello and Senna were all linked to the drive.
Senna, the nephew of three-time champion Ayrton, made his grand prix debut with Hispania in 2010. He moved to become Lotus Renault GP reserve driver in 2011, contesting the final eight races when Nick Heidfeld was released.
"I feel very privileged that Williams has selected me as one of their race drivers,” Senna said.
"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. Hopefully we can bring back some memories and create some great new ones too.”
The announcement leaves Barrichello facing his first absence from Formula 1 in 20 years. Sutil too looks short of options, with just one seat – at HRT – officially still available on the 2012 grid.
Williams’ decision will face inevitable scrutiny over the coming days, not least because it now falls to Senna and Maldonado – two relatively inexperienced drivers – to try and return the team to the front.
So how does Senna compare to Sutil and Barrichello – and have Williams made the correct decision? Utilising the Castrol EDGE Rankings data, we take a look at how Senna stacks up.
With Barrichello, Senna and Sutil all at different teams in 2011 a straight comparison is difficult to achieve. As is often the case in F1, the best comparison is therefore with each of their respective team-mates.
Senna, despite not contesting the opening 11 races of the season, outscored Vitaly Petrov in the Castrol EDGE Rankings over the races he did compete in – although it was extremely close, with the Russian accumulating 99 per cent of Senna’s total.
Still, it was an impressive feat for a man with no experience on the new Pirelli rubber, or indeed much knowledge of Renault’s R31. He also matched Petrov in qualifying (4-4 head-to-head), but did have a poorer record in the races.
Senna's feats gave him 3,569 Rankings points over the final eight races.
Barrichello, in contrast, enjoyed a distinct advantage over Maldonado in the Rankings, the Venezuelan scoring 82 per cent of Barrichello’s total.
Barrichello was also ahead in qualifying – the head-to-head finished 10-9 in his favour – and again in the races, which he bettered Maldonado by 13-6.
Over the final eight races - the same period as Senna was given - he scored 3.636 points, giving him a slight edge.
Sutil, up against Paul di Resta at Force India, also enjoyed a favourable record in 2011.
Di Resta trailed Sutil in the Rankings, accruing 96 per cent of his total. He also trailed in the head-to-head statistics, with Sutil taking a 10-9 lead in qualifying and a lead of 11-8 in the races.
Sutil also boasts the highest Rankings total over the final eight races, scoring 4,594 points.
The raw statistics therefore suggest that Senna has got a lot to prove. His is the poorest record of the three drivers, although the fact he came in half-way through the season is a huge mitigation – as is the fact that Sutil and Barrichello, both veterans, were up against rookies.
There is however another comparison we can make: Senna has competed against Maldonado before, racing against him in GP2 in both 2007 and 2008. Both drivers were at different teams, and in each year finished as their respective squad’s top scorer.
Additionally, in both years Senna outscored Maldonado – by nine points in the first year and four in the second.
There is evidence, therefore, to suggest he can beat Maldonado - a job he will be required to do at Williams.
The jury therefore remains out on Senna, for whom 2012 could prove decisive. At 28 he is not the youngest driver on the grid, but he has beaten what – or who – has been put before him in the past and he deserves his chance.