Another Senna on the track

Another Senna on the track

Bruno, nephew of the great Ayrton, is all set to blaze away in the coming season

Another Senna on the track

gearing up: Bruno Senna brings with him the weight of expectations thanks to his illustrious uncle. Reuters

With a surname like his, it goes with the territory.

Even if he would rather be more anonymous, enjoying the thrill of driving without media attention, the 26-year-old Brazilian has no qualms about following in the footsteps of his late uncle Ayrton.

"I've always had the weight of expectation and demand and pressure on me," he told Reuters in an interview after returning from a formal presentation in Spain by his new Campos Meta team.

"From my first race I have always had TV crews, people giving their opinions about my driving when I had no experience whatsoever, comparing me to three times world champion Ayrton when I was in my first year in Formula Three.

"It's always been like this. It's not fair necessarily, but it's the way that the world is.
"I know that it will become much stronger in Formula One because I'll be much more exposed to everybody's opinions," added the Sao Paulo driver.

"I have to believe in myself, I have to set feasible and reasonable goals. I have had to learn how to do that and now I am pretty confident I can do it."

Senna was 10-years-old the day Ayrton, idolised worldwide as one of the greatest racers ever, died in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix at Italy's Imola racetrack -- a tragedy that remains Formula One's last driver fatality.  Millions mourned his passing then and do so still.

The tragedy, and the late champion's iconic stature, are part of Bruno Senna's magnetism for the media but he had a passion for speed already before that May afternoon.

"I was watching the race at home," recalled Bruno, who had raced Ayrton in go-karts on their own track. "I was only 10 and in my head he (Ayrton) was going to just get up, walk out of the car and shrug it off.

"Things obviously didn't turn out that way and the phone started ringing, my mum goes here and there and we see the whole situation is more serious.

"It was a sad moment, because I was losing someone from my family and my reference in my career, but in terms of my love for cars and motor racing it didn't change me," he added. "If I could have continued, I probably would have."

Bruno's father, who was married to Ayrton's sister Viviane, died in a motorcycle crash the following year and family opposition stalled the youngster's racing ambitions.

It took him a decade to get back on track but when he did it was with older sister Bianca as his manager and with the support of his mother.

"Especially in the beginning, there was a lot of resistance from my family. My mother didn't really believe it was very serious, my grandfather was completely against it," he said. "So it was a bit of a difficult start. Now everybody is kind of pretty much doing the same thing with the same objective and it's working pretty well."

Senna started out with British Formula BMW, and in 2005 moved on to Formula Three. By 2007 he was in Formula One's GP2 support series, finishing overall runner-up in 2008.  He had some big crashes along the way, notably in Formula Three when he rolled at Snetterton at around 240kph but emerged unscathed to the relief of his anxious mother.

"I think she suffered a little bit, especially at the beginning when she didn't know exactly how things were," he said. "It was very tough for her to see me taking risks as a race car driver.

"But at the same time, even though it was probably not the ideal way of seeing it, having some big crashes in Formula Three helped her see that the sport has evolved a lot and that even though it is still a risky sport, she can be confident that the odds of something bad happening to me are much lower."

Close to securing a drive with Honda at the end of 2008, before the Japanese manufacturer pulled out, Senna spent 2009 in sportscars before finally securing a race seat with one of Formula One's new crop of teams. He said: "This is the beginning of the dream coming true and I think it's going to be very tough, I need to put a lot of effort into it to make it happen, but it's worth the penalties."

The Brazilian will not receive a salary from Campos but neither will he pay to race. If all goes to plan, he will bring sponsors to the team and be paid by his own personal backers.

The Dallara-designed car should be ready for testing by February with the first race scheduled for Bahrain in March. "I am very excited about it, really excited," said Senna "Every time I drive (a racing car) it gets better because when you first start and you don't have the experience you are always wary of flying off the road because you are thinking about this or about that," he said.  "The more automatic it becomes the more pleasurable it becomes. And the faster the car the more pleasure it becomes as well. When you take Eau Rouge corner (at Spa) flat out at 300kph you really feel — well, this is what I really want to do."