The history of the Senna family in top-flight motorsport hit another halcyon high at the opening round of the FIA World Endurance Championship this past weekend, as former Williams F1 driver and Aston Martin Racing newcomer Bruno Senna found himself on the top step of the podium after an eventful weekend. The Brazilian has clearly been able to find himself in a competitive team, as well as a very competitive championship following his exit from the Grove-based outfit after just one full season in F1.
Bruno joined the Aston Martin outfit just at the turn of the season, and it seems to have paid dividends, as along with teammates Darren Turner and Stefan Mücke, he has played his part in helping Aston Martin Racing to get off to the best start possible for the season ahead with a well deserved victory. We caught up with him just after the podium celebrations at the Six Hours of Silverstone, and he was kind enough to spend a few minutes of his time with us that evening, exclusively speaking to theCheckeredFlag.co.uk.
He was really happy that it was the possible start to the season, especially with the late entry to the team earlier this year, which was a better than the result they suffered at Sebring. The 29-year-old and the team suffered a bit of bad luck stateside, but the performance was clearly apparent from the onset: “It’s a great way to start the championship in first place. We knew that the team was strong and doing well, so it was a great opportunity for me to come straight into a potentially winning team with the championship.”
He then went on explain how the strategy came into play for the team, which had to battle its way through technical issues during practice sessions, but came out strong in the end: “We pushed hard and had to try and build a gap. This was as well as taking a few risks with the strategy, as when we did that it paid off massively. We managed to get a big gap when the rain came down, as we decided to take the risk of staying on slick tyres. Now we can look forward to the rest of the championship, especially as Le Mans is an amazing event, as everyone wants to win it so bad, meaning the competition is going to get a lot stronger.”
Senna has had previous experience in 2009 in sportscar racing, having driven with ORECA, but driving the Aston Martin GT3 V12 Vantage was an eye-opener in many respects. This meant going from a car that has a set-up that is heavily influenced through the use of aerodynamics to one that is more relevant from a production-based vehicle, but it still doesn’t stop race drivers going full throttle every chance they get whilst learning all the time: “It’s a heavy car with low downforce, where everything moves and has a different feel, but you know, we are racing drivers and we push the cars to the limit and you have to know how to drive a car as fast as possible, so the biggest challenge for me is understanding the traffic, dealing with other cars and longer races. “
The duration of the races will also bring another skill to Bruno’s already vast repertoire, as he will have to acclimatize to stints in the car, but with this new challenge, it brings other factors that the drivers have to cope with as well. However, the team will be able to help him make the best of his new start in the WEC: “For me, the longest I normally do is a round two hours in F1, apart from the Le Mans 24 Hours I previously participated in, but there is a strong psychological effect on a long race, so you need to be able to relax. I’m learning a lot and I have great teammates to teach me as well.”
Being able to multi task on track is a skill that Bruno has been able to learn as part of his career development from a young age, especially with a video showing him play a computer game and riding a bike in situ at the same time, as well as being in a feature with the Michael Johnson Performance Centre last year on Sky Sports F1 HD with former teammate Pastor Maldonado. He explains just how brainpower can be truly used, when it comes to a racing situation: “It’s very important when you get to Formula One to be able to drive using part of your brain, but having a lot of brain capacity left to do everything else, such as strategy, tyre management and the racing itself.”
However, he goes on to explain that when a race driver enters a new environment and category, it takes a while to adjust, as getting used to so many different factors that a driver needs to master quickly: “So if you are using 100% of your brain just for driving, then you’re going to struggle to be successful. So here I’m using more brainpower for the driving, as I’m still not completely comfortable with the car yet, but it still allows me to think about the racing, so I can still be aware of everything around me, so I can stay out of trouble. Luckily, today, I only had one close call with a prototype, which may have been driven by an amateur, but you learn every race that you do and after that, you start to then feel a bit safer.”
No matter the category of racing, regulations allow some scope for development, especially with the GTE Pro class having not that much in the way of how teams can manoeuver their way around like it is sometimes seen in F1, but there are developments coming as the team looks to build on its success at the upcoming 6 Hours of Spa in just a few weeks.
Bruno says that the hard work has only just begun and that the race is always on to be the best, with all trying to outdo one another: “Everybody is pushing hard, developments come through and you never know what is happening with the other guys. Everyone, for sure, is going to try and get more performance out of their cars, but starting like this is always good, as you want to show everybody that you are strong and I think we have put our foot down, but now we need to keep on pushing.”
On a lighter note, the weekend also saw Darren celebrate his birthday with the team that evening after a hard weekend of racing, with the win also coming as a welcomed motivational boost for all, as they look ahead to getting ahead of the field in the race to win the GTE Pro title this year in the second season of the World Endurance Championship. Will we see if fellow F1 driver alumni member Kamui Kobayashi will be able to compete with the Brazilian in his Ferrari 458? It all depends on how the teams push forward, as Bruno said, as no one knows what could happen next time out, as is very much the case in racing.
We’d like to thank Bruno for taking the time out his busy schedule to talk to us here at TCF, and look forward to seeing how he does in his new “office” when the 6 Hours Of Spa gets underway…