Bearing a legendary surname has benefited Lotus Renault reserve driver Bruno Senna in many ways, but it also hindered the Brazilian during the initial years of his racing career.
The 27-year-old is the nephew of the late three-time Formula One champion Ayrton Senna, one of the sport’s most brilliant and highly respected drivers.
“Because of the surname, I faced pressure from the start,” he said. “With time, it became better, and it’s actually great to have the name, as it has helped me massively with sponsorship to fund my career. Still, you’ll get to a stage where the only thing that matters is performance.”
Indeed, Senna remembers his car racing debut in mid-2004 very well, as there was a television crew from the biggest Brazilian broadcaster following his every move.
“My first race was quite a disaster and I went off in the first corner,” he said. There was this pressure on myself that no one else had in their first race. Normally, people start racing, start winning and then get the attention. I started with the attention, which was always there.
“I ended up putting bigger pressure on myself and I was very harsh on myself. Fortunately, I’ve learnt to cope with it. I’ve come to understand that there are limits and there’s only so much that you can achieve.”
Senna was supposed to get his big F1 break in 2009, when he was reportedly chosen to race alongside Jenson Button for the now-defunct Honda Racing team.
With Honda withdrawing from the sport that year, Ross Brawn ended up buying the team and renaming them Brawn GP. Brawn picked Rubens Barrichello instead of Senna as there was little time left for tests, making it necessary to have an experienced driver on the team.
Senna finally made it into the sport last year when he became a driver with new team Hispania Racing. He switched this year to Lotus Renault, where he serves as a test and reserve driver.
“F1 is the most competitive series (of motorsport) you can be in,” he said. “Just look at the difference between the cars: you are fighting by the thousandth of a second. The pressure in F1 is enormous and you have to perform every time.
“There is always someone watching you and if you want a career in F1, you have to be always better than your teammate, be faster than what people think you can be.
“That’s never easy.”