Senna Q&A: "Opening development in Formula E can be dangerous"

In an exclusive interview with Motorsport.com, Bruno Senna reflects on his career so far and looks forward to a busy year in sportscars and Formula E.

Senna’s career has been nothing short of a roller-coaster ride, which came to an abrupt halt when his uncle Ayrton and father Flavio Lalli both died racing in mid-90s.

But Bruno was undeterred and soon returned to the wheel, building a successful career in junior formulae.

The highlight perhaps was finishing runner-up in GP2 in 2008, in a field comprising of the likes of Romain Grosjean, Lucas di Grassi and Sebastien Buemi.

Although an opportunity to race in Formula 1 followed, he never made a big impression and was forced out of the sport after the 2012 season.

Eventually, the Brazilian had to turn to sportscar racing and the recently launched Formula E electric racing series..

First thing first, Mahindra seemed to struggle in practice at Buenos Aires ePrix but still managed to score a double points finish. How did the team turn the tables?

"The struggles we had were not speed-wise. We had a bit of bad luck and thereafter we lost a bit of time. But we knew the car was competitive enough for top six probably. So, it was unfortunate that I had a crash in qualifying which put me in the back foot.

"But still, amazing work by the team to fix the car and get the car ready before my second stint so that I could actually go out and score some points for the team, which was really nice."

How do you look back at the first season in Formula E? Do you feel the team failed to extract the maximum out of the car?

"We had a season below what we wanted to have. Unfortunately, some teams did a better job than we did, in terms of development of the car and we ended up having a really up and down season.

But we learnt a lot, the team has improved a lot from last season to this season. This year we have a more consistently strong car."

What convinced you to stay with the Indian squad for another year?

"I knew the plans of the team. A lot of the development work we have been doing was done by myself and Karun [Chandhok] for the first season and I knew what was coming for the second season. I knew the team had a good chance of improving and it did."

With easing off the rules, do you think Formula E cars will be significantly quicker in the coming years than they are now?

"It’s the beginning of the series. When you look at the beginning of other series, they had so many problems. Opening up development can be a dangerous route because you can make it too expensive and everybody goes bust.

"So, you have to be careful with how you go about that. But ultimately these cars have a lot of potential to be faster and I’m sure in a few years [they will be quicker]."

In a series where most of the parts are standard, how much time can you gain from just setup changes?

"A lot. I mean the cars are very sensitive to bumps and movements. And the tracks are super-bumpy. So, really the right setup can be the best part of a second."

How do you compare energy saving in Formula E with tyre management in Formula 1?

"It’s quite different. With energy saving, you are attacking as much as you can, especially in the corners. You are not trying to save your tyres at all. So, you are trying to be most efficient as possible.

"You are going as fast as possible on the straight but then lifting off at a certain point to carry the momentum and to not use energy and then you use brakes to try to regenerate as much energy to the motor as possible and that’s how you are most efficient.

"So, the work that you do for that is almost as important as the work you do for setting up the car."

Do you feel one of the reasons for the immediate success of the championship is that the races are held in city centres?

"I don’t think that’s necessarily the reason. For sure, it brings the championship closer to the people. It’s easier for people to know Formula E.

"But, at the same time what really makes the difference is that the racing is fantastic. You know, you have really good drivers, really high level. And then you have great racing. So, what’s not to like?"

Speaking of circuits, do you expect the design of turn 1 at Monaco to be altered?

"I’m sure it will be. That corner had a poor design and it was basically the only solution they found to race in Monaco, which is a shame. But this is racing and these things happen."

And the opening corner in London?

"Once again. When you got to new street circuits, you only end up finding out some of the problems quite late in the game. And I think it happens naturally.

"Unfortunately, in London, we had a big dangerous bump at turn 1. They manage to make it much better for the second race, but still, yeah, you don’t want that to be happening."

What’s your opinion about the Robo racing series that will be introduced as a support series from season three onwards?

"I cannot wait to be able to driven by a car on the road, not have to drive it. Sometimes, you want to drive it. But so many times you want to go wherever you want to go wherever I’m going on its own, so, I can actually work or rest.

"All the time that is spent in driving, especially in traffic, from the airport and to the airport, is so wasteful."

Looking forwards, what are your expectations from the remainder of the season?

"We’ve done some development work in Punta. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to apply it to the car from Buenos Aires. It was a little bit tight.

"So, we are getting the information and trying to translate into the setup and hopefully, we are going to gain a good few tenths on most tracks and that could put ahead of us of the guys who are with the same car. So, make our chances better of being there."

Elsewhere, what inspired you to return to WEC, this time in the LMP2 class?

"Luckily the WEC doesn’t clash with Formula E which means you can do the whole championship and really get racing much more often. The competition would be fantastic in LMP2 and we have a fantastic car. So yeah, this thing is going to be very cool."

And what are your expectations heading into the season?

"Well, I think we have a really strong lineup. Filipe [Albuquerque] is super experienced and Ricardo [Gonzalez] has already won Le Mans. So, I think we have a good chance of winning some races and hopefully the championship."

And looking back, how do you look at your F1 career where you never got hold of a winning car?

"Considering my career itself, doing two full years in Formula 1 was a pretty good achievement. At that point, I had only five years of racing under the bag.

"So, I think very few people manage to have such short careers before they get to Formula 1. Opportunities weren’t quite there.

"I’m sure I could have done better. But in the end, it’s about the chances you get. I’m glad I got the chance. I’ll keep pushing outside Formula 1."

You finished second in GP2. So clearly you must have high expectations going into Formula 1?

"It was, as it would be. Anyone who goes into Formula 1 has some expectations.

"But again it’s all about opportunities, being in the right place in the right time. Unfortunately, that was not the case for me."

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About this article
Series Formula E , WEC
Drivers Bruno Senna
Teams Mahindra Racing , Williams
Article type Interview