Jan.18 (Reuters) The late Ayrton Senna’s parents and sister were said to be ‘ecstatic’ on Tuesday after Williams announced that the triple Formula One world champion’s nephew Bruno would be racing for them this season.
The older Senna died in a Williams when he crashed at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, the last driver fatality in the sport and an accident that triggered a raft of safety improvements.
Bruno Senna told reporters, however, that there was no family concern about him racing for the former world champions.
“Everybody is ecstatic,” he said in a conference call.
“I spoke to my grandparents before even I spoke to my mother yesterday when I got the news and my grandmother was so happy, my grandfather had a great laugh.
“Everybody knows that we have been fighting so hard for a real chance in F1 and everybody is thrilled for the fact that Williams has given me that opportunity,” added the 28-year-old Brazilian.
“In the family everybody is smiling, everybody has worked very hard for it. It’s very much a family business in our case and we have a great unity and everyone is super-happy about it.”
Senna will partner Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado in an inexperienced line-up that boasts just three points between them.
Maldonado made his debut last season while Senna spent a year without points at HRT in 2010 before starting eight races with Renault in 2011.
Williams are fighting back from their worst season, finishing ninth overall with five points, and there was inevitably speculation that Senna’s appointment was related to financial backing.
“We started talking to Williams about a potential drive in Japan (last October),” said Senna. “It was a very tentative first contact because we were still with Renault GP.
“They have been putting me through my paces on all sorts of testing…and initially they wouldn’t even talk about any type of sponsorship. They just wanted to assess me before anything else.
“The only way they would ever give me this chance was if they were comfortable with my performance,” added the Sao Paulo native.
“They are confident enough that I can deliver for them and that’s the only reason why they are opening up the opportunity for me to be driving here.”
Senna said an aero test of the car was scheduled for the first week of February, before official testing started in Spain, and the numbers already looked promising with regular top-10 finishes the target.
Mark Gillan, Williams’s chief operations engineer, said the decision to sign Senna was based on “the raw pace of the driver, consistency, tyre management, technical feedback, fitness and mental capacity.
“I think in all those areas, it was very clear that Bruno has had not a lot of experience in single-seat racing but has consistently shown improvement and real talent.”
He said the team had considered Adrian Sutil, the experienced German driver discarded by Force India who faces a trial in Germany next month for an alleged assault, but had decided Senna was “the best way forward”.