2009 F1 driver rumours: Honda consider Bruno Senna and Nick Heidfeld

Bruno Senna has been linked to Honda, who won 32 F1 races with Ayrton Senna

Bruno Senna has been linked to Honda, who won 32 F1 races with Ayrton Senna

Fernando Alonso’s place on the grid is central to the 2009 F1 driver market: he is thought likely to stay at Renault, or switch to BMW or Honda.

New rumours have arisen suggesting Honda may have given up on acquiring Alonso’s services, but are looking at replacing Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button – or both – with Nick Heidfeld or Bruno Senna. What should we make of these rumours?

Nick Heidfeld to Honda

Rumour rating:

Honda’s Nick Fry has admitted “I’ve already spoken with Nick, and more than just saying ??hello’.” Presumably that means he has spoken to Nick Heidfeld, rather than himself in the mirror.

The idea of Heidfeld joining Honda has an un-likeliness to it which I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe it’s the thought of him and Jenson Button teaming up in some unholy all-bearded line-up.

Seriously, Heidfeld did an excellent job at BMW last year. This year, after a shaky start, he’s consistently brought the car home (to a record-breaking extent) and is scoring points regularly. This rumour only make sense to me if BMW are bringing Alonso on board. Even then, I can’t see what Heidfeld brings to Honda that Barrichello or Button lack, or why BMW should want to drop him.

Bruno Senna to Honda

Rumour rating:

While Heidfeld to Honda doesn’t sound quite right to me, Bruno Senna and Honda make a lot of sense. His uncle Ayrton Senna had a deep and strong relationship with the Japanese concern in its F1 role as engine manufacturer (sorry to keep bringing up Ayrton in the context of Bruno but his legacy inevitably has an important bearing).

Ayrton won 32 of his 41 F1 victories with Honda while at Lotus and McLaren. He gave impetus to the development of their engine, particularly so in 1991 when a late push by the manufacturer helped him retain his championship. He was hugely popular in Japan and helped Honda develop road cars like the NSX.

Not being at the sharp end of F1 at the moment (and that’s putting it kindly), Honda can arguably afford a gamble on a rookie. Though it would be particularly galling for their test driver Mike Conway, who beat Bruno to the 2006 British F3 crown.

Bruno Senna has admitted he’s talking to teams about a race seat for next year:

We have been speaking with quite a few teams and there is great interest from a few of them. So there are a few opportunities as a race driver, a few as a test driver. But there is a lot of competition and I need to come ahead of the competition right now on the negotiations and see if I can get a race drive.

At first he was being linked with Toro Rosso via Gerhard Berger. But they seem to be leaning towards Senna’s GP2 rival Sebastien Buemi – whether on merit alone or because Buemi is a Red Bull test driver.

If Senna didn’t get a race seat for next year, his options might include testing for a year (though that doesn’t tend to involve much mileage these days) or returning to GP2. But, having been runner-up this year, he would simply have to deliver the title and with a truck-load of wins if he went back for a third season.

F1 2009 season
F1 2009 drivers and teams

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27 comments on 2009 F1 driver rumours: Honda consider Bruno Senna and Nick Heidfeld

  1. schumi the greatest said on 2nd October 2008, 13:21

    i think its fair to say that no-one has set the world on fire in gp2 this season. I think senna’s got potential but i dont think he as good as alot of people are making out.

    i agree with “too good” button is over rated he hasnt done that much really and hes had plenty of chances to do it. barrichello is at the end of his career so it may be worth honda trying a rookie with heidfeld because hes very consistent.

  2. Nick Fry had lined up Conway, Rossetier for test roles, and While he ensured that Aguri is bullied out of grid by blocking Indian backers (current A1GP team holders) to get Narain Karthikeyan on grid with Sato.
    Boardroom battle had become so interesting, I had Brit Scribes confidently vowing , next season Ant Davidson will be partnering Button. All that talked has died down after Barichello’s Silverstone showing.
    Ross Brawn after his stint in the team, would have surely realised which of the “B” is better to work with.
    And given the limited testing happening in F1 these days there is no point in getting a green horn, “Super Fast” rookie next to Button, as car development will go out of window (Not that there is one such rookie available as well).
    Buttons preference of understeer means, if car is developed to Button’s liking (like it happens at Honda since Button has joined the team),Rookie will have another issue in adjusting and risk reputation getting trashed due to overshooting the car off the track (remember Sato !?)…

  3. So, thinking about next years slicks/less downforce config, I’m thinking Senna/any other GP2 driver would have an advantage over previous GP2 to F1 rookies. In fact the learning curve for current F1 drivers might be similar to that of a GP2 driver for next year, as far as the car is concerned, thus making a GP2 driver a safer choice than previously. Thoughts?

  4. Wesley said on 2nd October 2008, 23:50

    I can’t see Heidfeld going to Honda.Hopefully he can retain his seat at BMW,that is where he belongs.It is just a good pairing.

    “The idea of Heidfeld joining Honda has an un-likeliness to it which I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe it’s the thought of him and Jenson Button teaming up in some unholy all-bearded line-up.”….Keith’s monthly anti-fuzz face remark.

    Ha,ha,haaaa….what is it with you and beards Keith?Were you attacked by a werewolf when you were a child?

  5. diseased rat said on 3rd October 2008, 11:01

    What about the Bourdais to Renault rumours? I’ve thought this would be a good idea for a long time. He’s French which is a good thing for Renault, he clearly isn’t happy at Torro Rosso and it’s obvious they are developing the car around Vettel and not him. Most people have written this guy off but you don’t win Champ Car 4 times in a row without having talent. I realise the US series are not the same standard as European series, but even so, FOUR times.

  6. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 3rd October 2008, 11:11

    Diseaed rat – I’ve not seen any rumours about that. Bourdais tested for Renault years ago but didn’t get the gig because he wouldn’t agree to be managed by Briatore. With Briatore still there and Renault expected to run Alonso and di Grassi next year, I can’t see a way in for Bourdais.

  7. diseased rat said on 3rd October 2008, 11:21

    I remember Bourdais said he didn’t feel he belonged there a few years ago and as you say Briatore is still there and may be a barrier. However, a bunch of rumour surfaced yesterday, although they may well be just that, rather than having any truth to them.

  8. diseased rat said on 3rd October 2008, 12:04

    Apparently the rumour originates from the French radio station RMC who reported that Bourdais is still in with a chance of racing for Renault in 2009. Quite a few of the F1 sites have covered it yesterday, I’m sure you’ve seen it.

  9. Filipe said on 4th October 2008, 6:32

    The Heidfeld thing only makes sense if Alonso moves to BMW, still if that happens pretty much every team without both drivers confirmed would want Heidfeld and either Renault or Toro Rosso would be much better bets for him than Honda (who really wants to drive for Honda after the last two seasons?).

    The Senna thing makes more sense. One should add that Petrobras, the brazilian oil company that tried to push any Brazilian driver available to Williams during their 10 years stint there, is moving to Honda and they would much prefer Senna to Barrichello (who has a rather negative image here in Brazil).

    Barrichello is the more likely driver to be dropped if such a thing happens, but Button ain´t safe either. Nearly retired Barrichello is having a much better season than him and Honda may have started to lose patience with him.

  10. Aaron Shearer said on 5th October 2008, 22:03

    If Alonso does move to BMW i don’t think it would work at all. Just look at Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso last year there was absoloute chaos between them, Don’t you think it would be the same with Kubica and Alonso. Unless BMW puts Kubica out of the picture and focuses everything on Alonso which i doubt will happen any time soon.

    Rubens Barichello and Jenson Button are a very well suited pair for the Honda team. I also remember reading that Ross Brawn will be retaining them for 2009 so I’m somewhat unsure on that situation.

    Isn’t there meant to be 12 teams in F1. Prodrive was meant to be in this years F1, so with Super Aguri that would have been 12. Well if there is 12 Teams next year who do you think will be driving there?

    In my opinion they should just retain most of the drivers on this years grid with the exception of Nelson Piquet. The only Son of a World Championship Winner to Win a Championship was Damon hill. Most of the Son’s of ex-f1 drivers will never be able to compare with there fathers.

    Sebastian Bourdais was much better than Vetel at the start of the season. It is only since they modified the chassis that Bourdais has struggled with it. There is no doubt that if the Chassis was right for bourdais he would have been able to maybe get some better results. Hopefully he will get a drive for next year as he is highly underestimated.

  11. the limit said on 6th October 2008, 4:53

    @Aaron Shearer.

    We have touched on this subject many times this summer, but I don’t agree that an Alonso/Kubica partnership would be a failure. As I have said before, the Alonso and McLaren union was formed back in December, 2005, when Juan Pablo Montoya was still around. Everybody on God’s green earth knew that Raikkonen was jumping ship, so everybody assumed that Alonso would become Juan Pablo’s new team mate.
    What caught everybody by surprise was the swiftness of Montoya’s departure following the U.S Grand Prix of 2006, and subsequent move to Chip Ganassi’s NASCAR team’s 42 car.
    This opened the door, as we all know, to Ron Dennis’ golden boy Lewis Hamilton, who’s debut for McLaren came fifteen months after Alonso signed on the dotted line.
    A new team, new surroundings, and some young kid from Stevenage few had many high hopes for. David Coulthard even questioned McLaren’s judgement by even letting Hamilton race so soon into his F1 career. The rest, as they say, is history!
    With Robert Kubica, there are no secrets. Both Alonso and Kubica go way back, to their junior days racing in Italy, and enjoy a relatively good relationship. Alonso knows Kubica is fast, knows what he can do, so there are no surprises there.
    The huge factor for Alonso would be Mario Theissen. We all know that Fernando enjoys an almost father/son relationship with his boss and manager, Flavio Briatore.
    That is something that he would probably not get anywhere else outside of Renault, the security of the team and the team boss. That is what makes Fernando comfortable, and is extremely important to him.
    The main difference last year was that Ron Dennis obviously had more affection and desire for success towards Hamilton, the kind of fondness you cannot fake or replecate towards another person. Alonso learnt that lesson the hard way, whether he wants to take that risk again is another question entirely?
    One thing is for certain, when Alonso feels comfortable, with both team and race car, then everything else becomes irrelevant.

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