Williams should give Senna his fair share of track time

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Bruno Senna, Williams, Melbourne, 2012Williams will give their test driver Valtteri Bottas his second run in an F1 race weekend during practice for the Chinese Grand Prix tomorrow.

As in-season testing has been largely banned since 2009, this is the best way for teams to give up-and-coming drivers valuable seat time in a current car.

The unfortunate down-side to this arrangement is that one of the teams’ regular race drivers must give up their car for 90 minutes of the four hours’ practice they get at a race.

Previously teams have tended to rotate which of their drivers has to give up their seat, to make sure neither is unfairly disadvantaged.

Force India did so with Paul di Resta in 2010, with Nico Hulkenberg and with Jules Bianchi this year. Renault and Lotus also operated similar arrangements last year.

But Williams have decided not to split the time evenly between their two drivers when running Bottas. Instead, Bruno Senna will have to give up his car every time Bottas is given a run. Pastor Maldonado will not have to give up his car as much as once.

With Bottas set to appear at every non-street race, Senna stands to miss out on over a dozen practice sessions this year – a significant amount of time which will leave him playing catch-up to his team mate almost every weekend.

This unfair and unsporting arrangement reflects poorly on one of the sport’s most historic teams.

It’s true that it’s not always possible for teams to give their drivers exactly equal treatment. For example, when there is only one example of a new part available.

But this is different: as their rivals have demonstrated, there is no reason why Williams shouldn’t be able to swap which of their drivers has to give their seat up.

Valtteri Bottas, Williams, Sepang, 2012Given that, it raises further questions about whether Williams are prioritising drivers based on their talent or the amount of money each brings to the team.

It is especially unfortunate this should happen to Senna, who has always been playing catch-up to his peers when it comes to track time.

He spent almost a decade of his youth out of motor racing following the death of his uncle Ayrton Senna.

When the younger Senna signed with Williams he was mindful of the historic association between his uncle and the team, and was at pains to point out his family had given the move their blessing.

I wonder if they did so knowing he was going to receive such shabby, second-class treatment.

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92 comments on Williams should give Senna his fair share of track time

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  1. Tango (@tango) said on 12th April 2012, 14:41

    Bruno should mary a Williams shareholder :D

  2. timi (@timi) said on 12th April 2012, 14:42

    Williams shouldn’t have to do anything. What Williams should do, and apparently ARE doing is what is best for them.

    Clearly there is more money from Maldonado’s side of the garage, and money dictates F1, note: Bahrain.
    Pointless article if I’m being frank. Heck, it could even be a clause in Maldonado’s contract stating that he must participate in all practice sessions.

    • Tango (@tango) said on 12th April 2012, 14:47

      False rumor #1 : Williams give priority to the richest driver
      Fact : Williams has a long legacy to which “insert comment”

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 12th April 2012, 14:53

      Yes, money dictates F1 @timi, I have read that it is indeed Maldonado’s contract guaranteeing him not to have to give up his seat for the FP sessions (nor races). And Senna having agreed with giving up the seat time, as by the time he signed on Williams had already contracted Bottas to do those 15 FP sessions.

      That does not change the fact that its unfair towards the drivers and not equal treatment of the both of them.

      • timi (@timi) said on 12th April 2012, 15:02

        @bascb you’re right, but I don’t see the point of the article 2 races in to the season when it is near impossible for the senna-bottas situation to change before next season. The timing just seems very odd to me!

        and @tango it’s not a false rumour, F1 requires millions upon millions to run a team. The amount of pay drivers on the grid proves teams will show favour to a richer driver

        • BasCB (@bascb) said on 12th April 2012, 15:15

          As for timing of the article, I guess that before the season there was not much time to put up this question, given that Bruno was signed only shortly before it started for real. And the details of the Bottas deal have emerged only after that.

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 12th April 2012, 16:39

          @timi It’s a bit fatalistic to assume you can’t change something that hasn’t happened yet – after all Bottas has only done one practice session so far.

          Of course there may be contracts and agreements in place but these sort of things get renegotiated all the time in Formula 1.

          • timi (@timi) said on 12th April 2012, 16:43

            @keithcollantine You’re right it is fatalistic to assume you can’t change something which hasn’t happened yet, which is exactly why i chose my words very carefully.. “near impossible”.

            I personally just don’t see it happening, but I may well be wrong, only time will tell.

        • Tango (@tango) said on 12th April 2012, 17:28

          @timi : I was poking fun at Williams by referring to the exchange between Lotus and Sniff Petrol

      • JCost (@jcost) said on 12th April 2012, 16:32

        +1.

        Yes. The fact it is , doesn’t mean it should be.

        However, seems that Pastor needs more practice than Bruno…

    • Luiz Fernando said on 12th April 2012, 16:05

      For sure there is such clause, as well as there´s a clause in Senna´s contract stating that Williams can name any other guy to drive the car in FP1… It´s been clear right from the start, folks. I´m writing from Brazil and the media here has always said so, as well as Bruno himself in many interviews right after closing the deal. Bottas is the real deal and he should be driving alongside Rubens this year if money had been no object.

    • Shimks (@shimks) said on 12th April 2012, 23:03

      The article is not pointless. Keith probably has a very good image among F1 insiders and F1F is well read, so an article like this one could be a nudge in the right direction. Why do you think Keith keeps posting against Bahrain?

      Kudos to you, Keith.

  3. Mike said on 12th April 2012, 14:48

    maybe he just does not pay enough not to share friday practice with bottas. just a thought

  4. Stormbreak (@stormbreak) said on 12th April 2012, 14:48

    It is unfair but I’m presuming it was written in Bruno’s contract that he would have to sacrifice his sessions. So it’s fair in that sense as he has agreed to it. Senna is clearly only here for 1 season before being turfed out for Bottas. Williams must see Maldonado as a long term driver, so they would much rather he learns as much as he can rather than the driver who will be out next year.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 12th April 2012, 14:55

      not that Senna had much choice in that, either agree with giving up the FP session or letting the race drive go altogether, I guess.

    • Optimaximal (@optimaximal) said on 12th April 2012, 19:45

      I doubt Williams see either driver as a long term prospect. Neither can they afford to argue the terms of the contract lest the money be whipped from underneath them.

      I guess the proof will be in the pudding – if Senna consistently outperforms Maldonaldo yet is given the short stick at every opportunity because he’s not the predominant bankroller, he’ll leave.

    • mantresx said on 13th April 2012, 5:42

      I don´t think many people know this but a lot of information about PDVSA sponsorship with Williams has surfaced in Venezuela, the contract has been out there on the internet for months now even the invoice! which was for 29 mill euros I think. Anyway, the contract does say that there has to be a venezuelan in EVERY session on each race weekend (not necessarily Pastor) and I think the contract is for 5 years so get used to it, if you don´t believe me search for it, it’s in spanish though…

      • Skett (@skett) said on 13th April 2012, 17:37

        It begs the question as to what Williams would do if Maldonado is injured. They’d have to find another Venezuelan with a super license of be in breach of contract?

  5. Guilherme (@guilherme) said on 12th April 2012, 14:49

    Unfortunately it just gives credit to the view that Senna is just warming Bottas’ seat. I’d be really surprised if he’s still with Williams next year.

  6. Luigi Carneiro said on 12th April 2012, 15:02

    Agree with Keith. It makes no sense why not split it equal.
    But i believe Bruno who is a complainer, just take it as an extra challenge to the many he faces.
    The unfair part of it is while the third driver will not be working race set up, the lap times are not realistic. Then Bruno gets in the car in session 2 and has to work towards race program and most likely will go slower then Bottas. Then the comparisson is made. But Senna would be fine. It might be great to be a Senna, but the guy lost his uncle and his dad withing 12 months of each other. So missing a session would be ok for him.

  7. Robbie (@robbie) said on 12th April 2012, 15:17

    @Keith…I agree that this is unfortunate, unfair, unsporting, and shabby…all those words you used. The only ‘good’ news here is that at least Senna ‘only’ has to give up 90 minutes out of 4 hours of practice time, but your points are well taken. I think this speaks to the unfortunate circumstances right now that F1 is in with their limited testing and many teams’ financial need for pay to play drivers, forcing this type of thing to occur. There’s GOT to be a better way. A compromise between economic reality and common sense.

    I also question whether pay to play drivers are worth the money they bring…what good are a relative handful of millions if it is going to be squandered by not having the best drivers possible to a) keep the car between the ditches and as high up on the grid as possible on Saturday and Sunday (which would bring money and exposure to the team through being more attractive to sponsors) b) help develop the car (which would do the same as the first point) and c) ensure that in the pinnacle of racing we are seeing the pinnacle of drivers.

    The money a pay driver brings might help them this year to survive the everyday costs of running a team, but the general quality of drivers who can only get a ride because of the money they have, ensures that this is only short term band-aid thinking that won’t further a team in terms of progress up the grid.

    • Optimaximal (@optimaximal) said on 12th April 2012, 19:48

      I believe this is where Williams thought they were last year – Maldonaldo was there to bring in pennies whilst Barrichello was the old guard with a proven record able to fight for points.

      It’s a shame the terrible car scuppered that one.

  8. andae23 (@andae23) said on 12th April 2012, 15:31

    Sometimes I feel like F1 is more of a business than a sport. This clearly comes down to money: not only this issue, but also other political stuff that is happening right now (for instance Bahrain). Formula 1 should be about which constructor can build the best car and which driver can drive his car the quickest. I really hope F1 stops wandering off to Formula 1 Inc. and starts being a sport again. Then we will see more sportive behavior at Williams for example.

    • Ilanin said on 12th April 2012, 17:24

      I am not sure why you are under the illusion that F1 is about anything other than money. F1 isn’t the pinnacle of motorsport because it has the best drivers or the most creative engineers, although it does have both of those things – it’s because it has the most money.

      • andae23 (@andae23) said on 13th April 2012, 7:04

        That’s the entire point: why does everything has to do with money? That’s just sad.

      • xjr15jaaag (@xjr15jaaag) said on 25th November 2012, 14:18

        I sort of disagree with the theory of F1 drivers being the best drivers in the world; rally drivers are arguably better, as they drive on a large variety of surfaces, and this theory is proved by the amount of them that win the ROC.
        F1 drivers are the finest circuit racers in the world, but rally drivers are more adaptable and arguably more complete.

  9. The Limit said on 12th April 2012, 15:37

    It certainly isn’t a vote of confidence by Williams on Bruno Senna, but if Williams doubted Senna’s talent why hire him for 2012? If Bottas is the next ‘big thing’ Williams have unearthed, then he should have been paired with Maldonado instead of Senna in the first place!
    There are those that do doubt Bruno Senna’s true worth, and who claim he is only in the sport because of his late uncle Aryton. However, we have seen some promise from this young man and he by no means the worst driver on the grid at this moment in time.

    • McLarenFanJamm (@mclarenfanjamm) said on 12th April 2012, 15:57

      but if Williams doubted Senna’s talent why hire him for 2012?

      I think it’s been covered a few times already, but it could be about the amount of money he brings to the team? If he had not agreed to giving up his track time, no doubt Williams would have moved to Sutil (prior to his court case) due to all the sponsorship he had from Medion. Failing that, as you suggest, Bottas might have even gotten the race seat and another GP2 graduate been given the FP1 track time. But given that Bottas probably brings less money with him, he would have been at least the third choice. Were Williams in a better financial position, then they could have looked at bringing in Bottas immediately, or Alguesuari, for example.

    • xjr15jaaag (@xjr15jaaag) said on 12th April 2012, 18:02

      I think, bizzarely, that it could mean the opposite: they have masses of confidence in him, so he doesn’t need all of those sessions. But I agree with you as well.
      just thought to post a different take on precedings

  10. THOMF1S said on 12th April 2012, 15:46

    It is a crying shame that Bruno has to give up his car so often, it must be hard, especially since he hasn’t been given a 100%, give it your all, fully prepared season in anything since GP2. I am adamant that he is a damn fine racer, and deserves to be on the grid, and doesn’t deserve all the knock backs he has taken over the years

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 12th April 2012, 16:01

      Yeah…to your point, his true potential is not being realized as we aren’t getting to see the 100% backed driver, but something less. There HAS to be a better way.

      Example, I would think it would be a good investment, not something to be considered an added cost, to have the teams be allowed a couple of in-season test sessions a year by staying on at a few venues past the race weekend (they’re already there anyway) where their two main every-Sunday drivers are not to attend, and use those as both for testing new components, setups, or what have you…anything they want to…but with their young hopefuls and/or their pay drivers… thus leaving the more important pre-race practice sessions for the main guys.

    • Eleanore (@leucocrystal) said on 13th April 2012, 2:32

      I’m right there with you on this one. I’d love to see him get a truly full and proper season in F1, but it seems every year there’s one thing or another standing in his way.

      That said, if there’s one thing Bruno has gotten used to over his years in F1, it’s working his way through (many) challenges. He also generally seems to respond well to pressure. It could end up being a great motivator for him, or at least that’s what I’m hoping! That’s certainly how it appeared in Malaysia; he was clearly not too pleased to have to correct Martin Brundle in interview re: Williams NOT swapping Bottas between the two cars (which Brundle assumed they’d be doing, as it’s the most obvious, and fair, choice to make), then turned around and got his best F1 finish.

  11. Luiz Fernando said on 12th April 2012, 16:01

    At least here in Brazil it was VERY clear right from the start that those were the terms of his agreement Williams. No reason to complain now… Bruno knew right from the start that Bottas would drive the car on fridays.

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 12th April 2012, 16:08

      Yeah ok…fair enough…and maybe Bruno is not complaining. But Keith is. And I take his point. It speaks more to the state of F1 in my view as it does to the unfairness of it, even if Senna is resigned to it and has gone in eyes wide open to his contract. Senna may have known and agreed to this all along but he still gets curtailed in potential come the end of the day.

      • THOMF1S said on 12th April 2012, 16:13

        I fully agree with the in season 3rd driver test sessions, its rather insane that they don’t have any in season testing, bar the crowbarred(?) in session in a few weeks.

        I guess Bruno is just going to have to accept the odds seemingly are always against him, and show us all what he can really do!

      • Luiz Fernando said on 12th April 2012, 18:08

        It speaks volumes, indeed… Bruno is there because of OGX, Gillette and Embratel. Bottas is there because he is pretty damn good. The whole process of hiring Bruno was absurd, IMHO. The guy was here speaking out loud to the press: see, I´ve been tested and I´ve passed, I´m not a pay driver! Come on… If you have to hire Rob Walker to say whether the kid can drive or not, what do you make of it? No need to wonder, Keith. They always knew…

  12. McLarenFanJamm (@mclarenfanjamm) said on 12th April 2012, 16:14

    Bottas is a (very) promising young driver who needs track time in a F1 car. Williams have offered him that. Maldonado as the (default) lead driver within the team has probably been offered something that stops him from having to give up his track time on a race weekend, a clause in his contract at a guess. Senna, for whatever reason, has not been offered this grace by the team. Ultimately, Williams have to do what they decide is best for them as a team. It’s not just about individual drivers.

    Obviously you could argue that, as the more experienced driver having been at the team for a season already, Maldonado should be the one to give up his FP1 sessions to maximise Senna’s tracktime. However, Maldonado would not see it this way and I would bet that his reaction would be rather negative and nobody at Williams would want a situation like that.

    Perhaps they only see Senna as a stop-gap solution whilst they try to generate funds from elsewhere (based on performance and race results, a “hey, look, we’re not actually dead and buried” message) and are ready to drop him next season in favour of a Maldonado/Bottas line-up.

    Or, perhaps they believe Senna is a more gifted driver so doesn’t need as much track time as the less impressive Maldonado and they’re actually looking at dropping Maldonado next season in favour of a Senna/Bottas line-up.

    Who knows!?

    Overall, I liked the article but yes, timing is perhaps a little late. It is unfair that they’re not splitting the track time between their two drivers. But, as I said, it’s about what’s best for the team. Senna, whilst I don’t particularly rate him as a world-beating driver (still better than Maldonado), will most likely over-come this challenge though. He has shown on occasion that, despite being 10 years behind his peers in terms of development, he can still match them.

  13. mayhemfunkster said on 12th April 2012, 16:30

    I suspect Maldonado has a contract saying he is in the car for all sessions. Perhaps he is in Bruno’s car because they had chance to put it in his contract?

  14. infy (@infy) said on 12th April 2012, 16:31

    I dont see the problem with it. Drivers are nothing but employees. They are no more entitled to anything than the engineer next to them.

    • phildick (@phildick) said on 12th April 2012, 23:35

      Yeah, @infy, you’re partly right, but depriving Senna of track time means that his performances will probably be worse than they could be – which in effect means less points and less money for Williams at year’s end. Of course that is probably offset by money from Maldonado and Bottas, but a possible lower place in the championship damages the team’s image and sponsorship value, too. And it may also affect their market value – after all they went public, didn’t they?
      Williams team probably treat this year as a transitional period from the disastrous 2011 season. But if their hopes and calculations go wrong (we should also include the threat of halting Maldonado’s backing due to uncertain political situation in Venezuela) the team’s future will look bleak.
      And let’s hope that sudden and unexpected departure of Adam Parr wasn’t an ominous sign of things to come.

      • infy (@infy) said on 13th April 2012, 9:59

        It swings both ways. By not giving Bottas track time they will really hurt themselves if one of their main drivers cannot race for what ever reason. It seems like a safe and sensible plan once you take that into consideration.

    • Kelly (@kelly) said on 12th April 2012, 23:52

      I don’t believe that the drivers are employees. I think most of them have some sort of service contract with the teams. As in the team pays the drivers company rather than the driver directly. What they are entitled to could be vastly different, and that’s what we are seeing here.

  15. smifaye (@smifaye) said on 12th April 2012, 17:01

    I’m glad to see such an outspoken article in a time where people are very afraid to say what they actually feel and sit on the fence. I can’t agree more Keith that it is such a shame that a team like Williams with a great past should treat Senna like this.

    I really think that Senna is a talented driver and deserves a good opportunity which Williams seemed to provide. I just hope that they change their mind and give Bruno a fair chance

    • Ilanin said on 12th April 2012, 17:29

      One of the absolute constants in Williams history is that the team has never regarded drivers as anything beyond interchangable parts. Even world champions (Mansell, Hill) have been discarded if the team believed they were not a good use of resources or that more talented options were available. Appealing to Williams’ past as a motivator to treat a driver properly seems like a strange approach.

      • HoHum (@hohum) said on 13th April 2012, 3:23

        @Ilanin, exactly so, treating drivers shabbilly is the Williams way and the reason I didn’t mourn their trouncing by Ferrari and further decline into the back end of the midfield, now they have a promising car I hope Frank retires and more enlightened leadership can once more make them a winning team, with the emphasis on team.

        • Optimaximal (@optimaximal) said on 13th April 2012, 9:53

          Frank Williams made this decision back in the 80’s when Alan Jones left for greener pastures out of the blue following his success at the team.

          It hurt Frank (& Patrick) so they made the conscious decision to never form emotional attachments to drivers – he views them as mercenaries after personal glory (which is pretty much correct) and treats them as such. This is pretty open, so I guess drivers don’t join Williams expecting anything but.

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