Bruno Senna – will he be in F1 in 2009?

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Bruno Senna has been linked with Toro Rosso, BMW and McLaren for 2009
Bruno Senna has been linked with Toro Rosso, BMW and McLaren for 2009

Bruno Senna has been linked to at least three different F1 teams for the 2009 season including Scuderia Toro Rosso, BMW and McLaren.

The latter is the team his uncle Ayrton Senna won all three of his world championships for. Will Bruno Senna be the next GP2 driver to break into F1? Will he get a full race seat or a testing role?

Bruno Senna’s race weekend at Valencia went poorly – he failed to score a single point while GP2 title rival Giorgio Pantano extended his lead. But the Brazilian driver is still being linked with Formula 1 for 2009.

Even if he doesn’t beat Pantano to the title, finishing runner-up will be a major boost for Senna’s credentials. Pantano has a huge amount of experience in the sub-F1 tier – this is his fourth year in GP2, following three in its predecessor, Formula 3000.

Here are the three different directions rumours have suggested Senna’s career path might take.

Toro Rosso

As Toro Rosso part-owner Gerhard Berger has taken an interest in the young Senna’s career (Berger having been Ayrton’s team mate from 1990-1992), Bruno has inevitably been linked with a drive at Toro Rosso in the future.

With Sebastian Vettel leaving the team for Red Bull in 2009 everything seems to fit together nicely.

But the team are looking at other drivers including Sebastien Buemi, the Red Bull test driver who has won twice in GP2 this year. Toro Rosso are part owned by Red Bull and Berger, so it could be that Buemi is Red Bull’s choice of driver and Berger wants Senna in the car.


Senna made his first appearance in car racing in the Formula BMW championship in 2004. He has been linked to a testing seat at the team for 2009.

But he played down the rumours over the Valencian Grand Prix weekend, saying:

Yeah, I’ve been hearing that story as well… oh dear. No, it’s all lies. All b*******.


Lewis Hamilton’s ethnicity made his debut for McLaren last year a source of huge public interest. But surely even that would be dwarfed by the signing of Bruno Senna – nephew of surely the most famous F1 driver ever, who won the 1988, 1990 and 1991 world championships with the team?

The chances of that happening seem remote but are worth keeping an eye on. Senna recently signed a sponsorship deal with Hilton, one of McLaren’s major sponsors. Another McLaren backer, Santander, features on his GP2 car.

Rumours have suggested he might spend a year testing with the team in 2009 before being promoted to a race seat in 2010. That would fit in with McLaren’s present driver contracts – Hamilton signed up until 2012, but Kovalainen only getting a one-year extension for 2009 a few weeks ago.

Despite the high-profile arrival of Hamilton, McLaren tend not to put rookies in their cars all that often. The last time it happened before 2007 was 1995, with Jan Magnussen, and that was a one-off substitution.

So don’t bet the farm on it just yet. But don’t underestimate the gigantic PR vale for whoever does sign up Senna.

More on Bruno Senna

More on the 2009 F1 season

Bruno Senna in an F1 car would be a magnet for potential sponsors
Bruno Senna in an F1 car would be a magnet for potential sponsors

23 comments on “Bruno Senna – will he be in F1 in 2009?”

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  1. Even if the teams aren’t totally committed to the idea, Bernie will want the Senna name adorning the grid as soon as possible.

    I hope it isn’t to the detriment of Senna’s career. He will have enough to live up to.

  2. Jonesracing82
    26th August 2008, 9:32

    correct alex, i fear the same, but i do think a STR race seat is a good thing, no expectations of results etc and that team isnt hindering Vettel at all!

  3. diseased rat
    26th August 2008, 9:56

    A Toro Rosso seat is unlikely in my view, they will be testing Sebastien Buemi at Jerez next month and have stated the have no plans to do a similar test with Senna. I’m pretty sure they’ll keep Bourdais and thus only have one spot to fill.

  4. I have to confess to not being terribly impressed by Bruno Senna. In British F3, despite making a flying start to the year and taking a big lead in the championship, he was blown away by his team mate (and eventual champion) Mike Conway. Senna’s first year of GP2 wasn’t exactly spectacular and his 2008 campaign hasn’t been particularly striking. So why is Senna standing out from the current GP2 crop and being linked with an F1 drive, let alone one with McLaren?

    I can’t help but wonder whether the quality of GP2 drivers this year is not as high as in previous years – the performances of the first three GP2 champions have set very high standards for the category, which it can’t possibly continue to deliver every year without exception. The current championship leader is Giorgio Pantano, who has raced in every year of GP2 and several in F3000. Pantano has always been there or thereabouts in terms of pace, but this is by far the closest he’s come to the GP2 crown. If Pantano wasn’t able to threaten the likes of Rosberg, Hamilton or Glock when he raced against them in similar machinery, why does he now look so good? Can he really have continued to significantly improve as a GP2 driver? Or is the current opposition simply not as strong as in previous years?

    I’m afraid I tend to favour the latter theory. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that Senna is only where he is because of his surname – he looks to be a competent, capable racing driver who can develop further with the right career choices, although he’s probably not destined to repeat his uncle’s success. However, I can’t help but think he’s able to look better than he is by a relatively weak GP2 field and that being propelled straight into F1 would be a mistake.

  5. And more to the point, who will be the first to call him ‘Senna-esque’……

  6. More like Hamilton-esque, if ITV’s commentary is anything to go by.

  7. @diseased rat

    What is it with Torro Rosso picking drivers called Sebastian? Vettel, Bourdais and now Buemi.
    Is it easier on their engineers do you reckon? :)

  8. Can anyone explain how the Brazilian surnames work? They always confuse me, it seems like a man uses his mothers maiden name. But that makes me wonder about Nelson Piquet.

    I think Grosjean is the most interesting driver in the field, but his results doesn’t show that yet. He and Bruno will fight it out next year imo. Neither of them are ready for a F1 drive yet, but a test role might fit them well. I don’t think Pantano can justify driving GP2 again next year after winning the title, but I also don’t think he will go to F1, will he be the first F2 champion?

    btw the b*#&&**## comment was about the Toro Rosso rumours, not BMW

  9. sorry, I mistyped my email, I wish there were an edit function :)

  10. Tengil, it just seems that way, but in reality, they use their mother’s maiden name to hide their racing activities. It just so happens that they prove to be good, they become popular, and the name sticks. This is particularly true in the case of Nelson Piquet. :)

  11. In my opinion, maybe 2009 for F1 isn’t a good thing for Bruno Senna. Going to F1 without winning anything, i doubt he can win the GP2 championship this year, and having that surname won’t be good PR for him.
    Concerning teams Toro Rosso seems more likely but Honda and Williams are also a possibility.Williams being more likely due to the Santander sponsorship.
    I do have a lot of respect for him,loosing his uncle in 94,his father in 95 both in accidents relating to racing and still feeling this way about racing!
    From the GP2 Grosjean and Buemi seem like great drivers also.
    Lets see how the remaining races turn out for him.

  12. Tengil… I believe Senna’s surname on his father’s side was a very common name. He used his mother’s to be more unique. I guess he knew he was going to be big and wanted a name he liked.

    It would be amazing if Senna were to jump into a F1 seat. He has very little experience due to his long break from racing.

  13. What about Di Grassi – he missed the first four rounds of the GP2 championship and I think he’s only 8 points or so behind Senna!

  14. Scratch that – the first 3 rounds – first 6 races. I thought he only missed the first four races – even more impressive then!

  15. When Ayrton Senna arrived in England to drive FF1600 he was called Ayrton Senna daSilva but dropped the last name to Europeanise it. Bruno was interviewed recently and said that he decided to race as Bruno Senna because people would know who he was and call him Senna anyway.

    Nelson Piquet’s real name is Sotomayor but raced under his mother’s maiden name to hide his racing activities. His son seems to have followed a similar route to Bruno Senna.

    Ayrton Senna once told his McLaren engineers that if they thought he was quick they should wait until they saw his nephew. Unfortunately a few months after Ayrton died Bruno’s father died in a motor bike accident and Bruno was banned by his mother from racing for 10 years. Given how much experience he lacks compared to the guys he is racing I am stunned that he can run at the front of a spec formula.

    I think eventually he will be a decent F1 driver but it is completely unfair to jusge him by his uncle’s standards in the same way that it was unfair to judge Jacques Villeneuve by Gilles’s standards. Bruno is Bruno and should be judged as such.

  16. My evaluation of Senna at this point is that he’s a very quick driver who definitely has skill, but he’s still quite rough around the edges. He has a tendency to get emotional and drive overly aggressively, and this leads to errors and inconsistency that he needs to correct.

    The best next step for him is a testing role. This would really give him the opportunity to calm down his driving a bit and to strengthen his technicality.

    Regarding the other Toro Rosso car, I think it’s going to Sebastien Buemi. Red Bull purchased the team with the intent of using it in their driver development program on the way to the main Red Bull team, and I have no doubt they’ll get their man in the seat, especially since his development likely will have to be hastened as I’m sure Vettel will be moving up the grid rather quickly.

  17. There is no question in my mind, and I’m sure in most of yours, that Senna will be in an F1 race seat sometime in the next few seasons- the only question is when. While it would be tempting for STR to put him on the grid for 2009, I see him evolving into the sport over the next season or so through a test driver/GP2 role, similar to what Grosjean and Buemi are doing now.

    While I think Senna’s quickiest route in would be with a smaller team such as STR, it would not suprise me to see a big team lock him up in a testing role for next season and have him groomed for a race seat in a year or two. While the pluses are obvious for Ferrari, Williams(dose anyone think he’d go there after the post-accident fallout?)and McLaren, just imagine how much BMW, Toyota and Honda would love to have the Senna name on their product. I’ve talked before on here about Alonso being a one-year PR booster for Honda if they can get him- If Brawn and company can get Bruno aboard, they’d have the promotional opportunity of a lifetime!

  18. Let’s not kid ourselves, if he gets a ride at STR, a large part of the attraction will be the sponsors he brings with him.

  19. Jonesracing82
    27th August 2008, 8:58

    Bruno may not have raced all that much but think back to another driver who made his debut in ’01 with only 23 car races to his name and he had a probationary license for the 1st 4 races to prove himself!
    his name starts with “Kimi”.
    Bruno did win at Monaco and Silverstone in the wet!
    Buemi is only 19 and hasnt done all that much in GP2 this year so if it’s too soon for anyone it’s Buemi.
    watch this space i say……

  20. Here’s a profile of Sebastien Buemi that went on the site today.

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