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

  1. TED BELL said on 12th April 2012, 17:06

    Giving race weekend time to a third driver is nonsense. Why delute your regular drivers efforts? The testing ban is a flawed concept and should be altered. The third driver obviously needs seat time but not at the expense of regular drivers. Few third drivers ever see any race time during a season anyway.

    Can’t imagine the Beatles having Ringo just play for them in practice. When they decided Pete Best was out, they went full time with Ringo and that worked out OK for them.

    Better results come from maximizing individual efforts. Pick the best driver and give his chance….give him the 100% he deserves and let the results fall where they may. If he is not good enough then get another drummer.

  2. xeroxpt (@) said on 12th April 2012, 17:27

    I think Williams shouldnt give bottas so many sessions, Senna is clearly struggling to get to the pace of Maldonado, Senna is new to the team, not F1, they should support Senna to make sure Williams gets the best results possible, Williams cant spoil the opportunity of wining races again.

  3. MW (@) said on 12th April 2012, 17:38

    There’s examples of similar situations in other sports (soccer, rugby, basketball, whatever..) players enter with contracts dictating how much they’ll play among other things.
    And they’ll have to sit on the bench while young upcoming players are trialed and players who negotiated better terms get preferential treatment.

    My point is that this is sport, this is a non issue.

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 12th April 2012, 17:51

      While I do agree with you about players in other sports riding the pine at times, I think car racing is different in that there is no substitute for seat time when so much depends on a driver gelling with a team and a car and having input into optimum setups etc etc.

      A soccer, rugby, and basketball player may suffer to some extent from limited play against the best in the league in games that count, but nothing prevents them from training and practicing in a virtual unlimited fashion while they wait in the wings. Sometimes they are sent down to the lower rung of leagues while scouts watch them as to their potential to be brought back up to the majors, so they are actually playing all the time.

      F1 drivers only get training at driving in F1 when they have the car under their butt.

      • MW (@) said on 12th April 2012, 18:00

        I’m not convinced @robbie for 2 reasons;

        1. Gelling with the team is vital in other Team sports, playing with other players is no substitute.
        2. Drivers can use extremely realistic simulators to hone their skills in an F1 car

        I don’t think the difference is that great and this type of behavior is accepted in other sports.

        • Robbie (@robbie) said on 12th April 2012, 18:27

          Ok, fair comment…I still say simulators have little to do with setting up and gelling with the actual team and car that they will be working with, let alone racing in anger, and the very fact that such sophisticated equipment and access to it is necessary for F1 drivers to do their sport vs. needing a good pair of shoes to me makes a huge difference. And I do take your point about gelling with a team in other sports too, which is why I said “A soccer, rugby, and basketball player may suffer to some extent from limited play against the best in the league in games that count” but at least these guys/gals can play scrimmages, partake in practices, and play in leagues one notch down to keep their skills honed on a daily basis. Nobody is scouting F1 drivers based on how they do in simulators. F1 drivers have very limited opportunities over a relatively very small number of days throughout a year to do their thing.

          I think that while this type of behaviour is accepted in other sports as you say, it is also ‘accepted’ in F1, seeing as how it is the reality of the likes of Senna, but most here think there must be a better way and it points to the state of the ‘league’ called F1, which has had to change in a global economic downturn that sees teams needing pay drivers due to lack of sponsor money. I don’t think the sports you are talking about are having to make too many concessions when it comes to their top athletes, in spite of budget caps, and they aren’t having to put pay players who’s practice times are limited out on the field/court to compete for the big cup.

  4. alexf1man (@alexf1man) said on 12th April 2012, 18:14

    Bruno needs more time in the car, especially given that this is his third race at Williams (Ayrton had three at Williams before his death, due to his crash in the third at San Marino). We certainly don’t want a repeat of THAT.

  5. axe154 (@axe154) said on 12th April 2012, 20:34

    All Williams are doing is giving the less skilled driver more track time. Senna will adjust to the Williams and probably be blowing Pastor out of the water by mid season, why make the guy fronting more of the bills look like even more of a joke if you don’t have to. Good call Frank

  6. John H (@john-h) said on 12th April 2012, 21:20

    If we’re still not going to have any in season testing then I think it would be interesting if FP1 was only for drivers not competing in the championship.

    Drivers having less time to set up the car over the weekend might actually be quite interesting.

  7. Lothario said on 12th April 2012, 21:40

    I find Williams’ arrangement absolutley ridiculous! I must point out that I am a fan of Senna and a Pastor hater, but I think if any team favoured one driver over the other, they would find themselves losing fans. I must say that I lost respect for Force India last season as they seemed to give the Hulk more tracktime in PDR’s car when he was a rookie, and trying to get up to speed with life in the single seaters after being in DTM for a while, plus when he was doing Fridays, Paul alternated with Adrian and Tonio’s cars, so why couldn’t Nico go into Adrian’s car for the first few races, (I should confirm that I am aware Nico drove Adrian’s cars in the later races). I do hope that Force India don’t do the same with Nico and Paul this year with Bianchi.

  8. The Last Pope (@the-last-pope) said on 12th April 2012, 21:40

    Well a positive side for Bruno is when he beats Maldonado, like he did in Malasia, us all knowing Maldonado had more time in the car (plus possibly preferencial treatment) and still got beaten makes him look bad and Senna a lot better.

    I wonder, How high up the points table or how big the difference between Senna and Maldonado’s points has to be before Willams decide this approch could not go on. The Williams car already is very good (massive inprovement on last year) What if Williams bring out an upgrade that puts them challenging for podiums? Would Senna still have to give up his first practice sessions?

    Anybody know the highest race result for a driver who has had to give up their seat in FP1?

  9. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 12th April 2012, 21:49

    I doubt Bruno cares too much at the moment, he’s the only points scorer for Williams thus far.

    On paper, yes, it looks unfair. However, it all depends on contracts. If Senna knew what he was getting into then fair enough.

    Perhaps he should take it as a compliment that the team don’t consider him to need as much practice? ;)

  10. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 12th April 2012, 23:16

    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.

    I think this is a fairly telling move from Williams – they want to give Bottas a seat, but were forced to take Senna for the money.

    • axe154 (@axe154) said on 12th April 2012, 23:22

      If anyone is forced on Williams it is Pastor, so it is probably the same reason senna has to sit, appease Pastors sponsors

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 12th April 2012, 23:43

        @axe154 – I disagree. I think Maldonado has an undeserved reputation, mostly because fans resent him for his meltdown at Spa. He frequestly out-qualified and out-raced Barrichello last year, and when he didn’t, he was still remarkably close. He is, after all, a GP2 champion, and beat the highly-rated Sergio Perez to the title. He put in an excellent drive in Australia, and while one little mistake cost him dearly, one little mistake cost Perez a lot in Malaysia – but nobody holds that against him.

        Senna, on the other hand, has a documented history of under-performing, of being out-qualified by his team-mates in poor cars, and of making frequent mistakes in the races. He might have scored six points in Malaysia, but he was involved in an early contact that knocked him down the order. It was only because of the red flag and tyre strategy that he was able to put himself in a position to score points.

        Mark my words – we’re going to see more mistakes from Senna this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is the first driver released from his seat, and good riddance to him. He’s been given far too many second chances, and I think the only reason why people endure his many mistakes is because he is a Senna. If anyone else was in his position, they’d be howling for the team to drop him.

        • Dubs said on 13th April 2012, 0:22

          hahaha… wouldn’t be easier for you to just say… I hate B.SENNA because he got a undeserved seat at Williams and Petrov is racing at back with Caterham?

          • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 13th April 2012, 0:41

            It would probably be easier to say that, but it’s not true. My dislike of Senna in the Williams has nothing to do with Petrov in the Caterham, and everything to do with the way I think Senna is over-rated and under-performing and trading (if not consciously so) on his family name. If his name was Bruno Smith, and he was the nephew of a real estate agent from Slough, most people would have called for his scalp long ago.

    • axe154 said on 14th April 2012, 2:07

      We are talking about the guy who had no racing experience till he was 21 and within 4 years was a top open wheel prospect with a ton of wins and a GP2 runner up? The same guy who made petrov look stupid last year despite almost no track time? What are you talking about getting beat by team mates at (s)H(i)RT. who cares that season was all about track time. He should have been the Renault driver all last year and he should have been retained over the already failed out Grojesson. What about his joke of a season start, why doesn’t he hit someone else… Senna will own Pastor this year, he could sit out every practice and still out pace him probably

  11. maxthecat said on 12th April 2012, 23:21

    No doubt with Pastors money not giving his car up on a Friday is part of the deal. Otherwise Williams would be giving the driver with the best results (Bruno) more time in the car.

    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 12th April 2012, 23:44

      On paper, Senna has the best results. In reality, both his races were riddled with mistakes.

      • The Last Pope (@the-last-pope) said on 13th April 2012, 2:06

        So were the people – who voted him into 3rd place in the top drivers of the Malaysian GP article – looking at a piece of paper for two hours?

        • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 13th April 2012, 3:57

          @the-last-pope – Probably. Senna made a mistake on the opening lap (again). By the end of the first lap, he was miles behind Pedro de la Rosa. Senna didn’t reclaim his position through a brilliant drive. He did what Sergio Perez did and played the strategy card so that he was in a better position when the red flag was shown. But unlike Perez, he made a massive mistake in the opening laps that cost him dearly.

          How many times do you think Frank Williams will tolerate his driver having to pit for a new front wing on the opening lap because he bent it at the first corner? He might have earned some goodwill in Malaysia, but I think the decision to cut down on his practice hours is pretty telling.

          • stayahead said on 13th April 2012, 21:48

            Actually Bruno didn’t make a mistake on the first lap.

            He was hit from behind and taken off the road by none other than his teammate! Watch the replays again…

  12. quick_Kill said on 13th April 2012, 2:44

    that is why i’m rootin’ for Bruno.. SENNA, ALL THE WAY!
    I laughed at the sight of Maldonado’s DNFs

  13. reg (@reg) said on 13th April 2012, 2:55

    Good weekend to give up track time, a Williams hasn’t finished higher than 12th at China since Webber got 8th in 2006.

  14. Hamilton (@hamiltonjp) said on 13th April 2012, 3:04

    The entire F1 is unfair.Lest´s eait and see if Maldonado can deliver best results than Senna. Well, I think it´s impossible to happen. Maldonado isn’t buying a seat. He´s buying miles. He needs a lot of them to learn how to maintain his almost good results.

  15. rabbit (@rabbit) said on 13th April 2012, 8:21

    Storm in a teacup .

    Senna knows what he’s signed !

    Sad to see Williams being bashed for every breath they take . They are preparing Bottas so that they don’t have to settle for mediocre pay drivers in the future . Wouldn’t have happened if it was Driver X and not Senna .

    Disappointed Keith .

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 13th April 2012, 8:54

      @rabbit Not once did I criticise Williams for choosing to give Bottas some seat time. Read the article again if you don’t believe me.

      My only criticism is that they’re doing it entirely at Senna’s expense, when the fair thing to do would be to do what every other team has done and split the time between their two racing drivers.

      As for “Williams being bashed for every breath they take”, I’m struggling to remember the last time I criticised them for anything, so I’ve no idea what you’re referring to there.

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