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GP Week : Issue 6
The media were all over me from my very first race, and I was all over the circuit. – BRUNO SENNA on living with the name “T HE name put a lot of pressure in the beginning because people thought I was just another name. It got me a little bit upset. But now I don’t care. The results speak for themselves. The surname doesn’t drive the car. I do.” Strong words and a bold statement from a man with a hell of a lot to live up to. But such was the confidence and unabashed self-assuredness of Bruno Senna when first we met over 18 months ago. Out of all of the “names,” for some reason, I expected Bruno to have the biggest ego, to be the most arrogant. Perhaps, given that Ayrton Senna was my idol, I simply assumed that anyone continuing Senna name would be surrounded by hangers-on and regardless of talent would spend more time basking in the reflective glory of the legend than he would with his engineers. That he would attempt to get by on his surname alone... The man I have come to know is none of these things. Sitting on the GP2 pitwall in Malaysia, Bruno Senna, now a little older and wiser, reflects back on that ultimate question of pressure. “There isn’t any, really,” he smiles. “But I think in the beginning there was. It was tough because everyone was pointing at me and thinking the only reason I was having results was because of my name. People are used to looking at drivers at their best, but with me it was completely the opposite. “The media were all over me from my very first race … and I was all over the circuit, sliding off. But people take time to learn and I’ve had to do that in the public eye. That made me stronger because I’ve always had to cope with this pressure, and so it’s working for me now because if I make a mistake or if there is a pile of pressure, it makes no difference because the pressure has always been there.” It’s pretty easy to forget that for all of the plaudits and all of the media attention, Bruno Senna will, in 2008, be taking part in only his fourth full season of competition. While most of his rivals were racing karts from the age of six, Bruno’s childhood was spent away from motorsport. The death of his Uncle in 1994 meant motorsport was strictly off topic for his mother Viviane (Ayrton’s sister). But Bruno, whom Ayrton had once referred to in an interview as having more potential for greatness than himself, loved racing so much that he would wake up in the middle of the night and watch F1 races with the volume turned down to almost nothing. He grew up a normal life, not a racing life. But when he kept returning home with bruised ribs following yet another afternoon karting with his friends, his mother knew she could no longer hold him back from his destiny. She picked up the phone to Gerhard Berger. A few weeks later Bruno had tested Formula BMW and Formula Renault, and the rest, they will say, is history. Still, that lack of experience can be telling. He is still, in essence, going through the motions that his rivals followed in karting, discovering his limits, making his mistakes … but given his sudden rise to prominence, in the most public of arenas. “Unfortunately that’s true,” he acknowledges. “I make mistakes that other people have made in the past and won’t make here [in GP2], but these mistakes are becoming more and more rare, I’m making less and less mistakes. But I learn with them and I try not to make them more than once. “Everybody makes mistakes, no matter how experienced they are. Everybody is driving at the limit, and if you can keep yourself together better than the others then you’re going to end up with the result.” “I’m always racing against more experienced people and many times they know stuff that you don’t, so sometimes you end up losing because of that – not because they are quicker or more talented than you, but I think it’s a good lesson.” Bruno had a tough GP2 season in 2007, brought about by a car that was ill-developed throughout the season. Bruno’s problems were similar F1 insight >> 33