Senna impresses on second chance

It is not very often a driver is given a second chance in Formula One, so Bruno Senna is a rare breed.

Formula 1: Bruno Senna

Senna's debut season last year with newcomers Hispania Racing was always going to be a tough, sometimes tortuous affair, and so it proved.

For the highly-likeable Brazilian there was also the added burden of carrying the evocative Senna name back into a sport synonymous with his uncle, the late three-times champion Ayrton.

To his credit Senna overcame that hurdle confidently, primarily because he had become well-schooled over the years in fending off the obvious questions surrounding his famous relative and the path he had subsequently opted to follow.

On the track, Senna maintained his composure in a car that barely made it onto the grid for the season-opening race in Bahrain, and beyond that at times bore a resemblance to a mobile roadblock.

In terms of experience, however, the season was crucial for Senna as he learned the nuances of F1, of how to work with a team, and all bar one of the circuits as he was dropped for the British Grand Prix.

Hispania's decision to part company with the 27-year-old at the end of the year did not come as too much of a surprise.

In truth, it was a foolish decision as he and they had come through the other side of an arduous campaign, and would have been in a far better position moving forward together in year two.

Hispania team principal Colin Kolles, however, is an uncompromising character, so Senna was cast aside, but at least he had a foot in F1's door.

It was not long before Renault came calling as he was taken on at the end of January as reserve driver.

When Robert Kubica suffered an horrific accident in a rallying event a few days later, a race return was on the cards.

However, he was overlooked for the race seat as the Enstone-based team opted for the experience they felt was required to lead in the form of Nick Heidfeld.

It appeared a sensible solution, but to the chagrin of team boss Eric Boullier, Heidfeld failed to display neither the leadership credentials nor the speed the team desired.

It meant Boullier and owner Gerard Lopez spent the recent summer break locked in a legal battle to extricate themselves from the contract they had signed with the German.

An interim High Court decision allowed them to replace Heidfeld with Senna for two grands prix - Belgium and Italy - prior to a definitive ruling being issued later this month.

At Spa, as Heidfeld insisted he had a case to stay with the team for the remainder of the year, Senna quietly and efficiently went about his business, much to Boullier's delight.

The Frenchman had taken a major gamble in recruiting Senna given his only previous outing in the car had been in Friday practice in Hungary at the end of July.

So you can imagine the smiles in the garage on Saturday when, in tricky conditions, Senna qualified seventh, three places ahead of team-mate Vitaly Petrov.

As Boullier remarked: "I was more than happy to see all my people in the garage applauding at the end of Q2 and Q3 with a smile on their face.

"It was the first time that had happened since Malaysia. It is important to have your people, who work all day and all night, be happy.

"For me, this is very important. This is the way I can get the best out of our guys."

Those smiles, however, were shortlived as a first corner crash in which he wiped out Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari raised eyebrows.

Senna managed to nurse his own way through the remainder of the 44 laps to finish 13th, with Boullier seeing enough to firmly believe his hardball stance with Heidfeld had been justified.

"You have to question a lot of people before you take a decision like that," said Boullier.

"You obviously make some people unhappy and it is always challenging for my job because if I fail....

"Once you push the button and choose to go for a different scenario you have to take the responsibility."

Heidfeld has since opted against pursuing his case, leaving Senna free to compete in the final seven grands prix.

The next 12 weeks now represent the most important of his career because it is almost certain there will not be a third chance if he fails to take this one by the scruff of the neck.

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