Bruno Senna, the 29-year-old nephew of the late Ayrton Senna, the legendary three-time world champion who was killed on the track, spoke to The Telegraph during the Indian GP weekend.
Senna finished 10th at the Buddh International Circuit, but touched the maximum speed (265.6 kmph) during the qualifying race.
The following are excerpts from the one-on-one
Q Has it been an advantage or a disadvantage being a Senna?
A For me, it has always been a good thing... I’m obviously proud of being related to Ayrton and he’s my biggest reference in life. It’s a great feeling... Having said that, there’s also pressure. There’s big pressure and high expectations from a Senna.
How have you coped with pressure?
The fact that I experienced it in the early years, the years of my development, helped me cope with it.
You were only 10 when your maternal uncle, Ayrton, was killed in the San Marino GP. What are your memories of him?
(Emotionally) I do have memories... We used to have an annual vacation (i-Brazil), where the entire family, including Ayrton, would be present.
That would be when?
After Christmas and Ayrton would come and just relax... He used to look forward to having a good time with the family, before preparing for the next season.
What do you remember about Ayrton?
Ayrton would always try and teach me by making me experience the whole thing. He used to teach me tricks. It was a fun sort of a relationship, which was nice, as kids don’t like to be lectured. They just want to have fun.
Are you aware that Ayrton had a huge following in India?
Absolutely. A lot of people have had good words to say about him... People have come up to me at autograph sessions... It has felt nice, really nice.
You lost your father Flavio (in a mobike accident) two years after Ayrton’s death. Did the twin tragedies leave a very negative impression on you?
Of course... Losing close relatives, one being my father, in quick succession is difficult to accept. Their deaths hit the family hard... We had to stay together, as a family, to go through with the losses.
Your emotions today?
I’m sure lots of things would have been very different had either Ayrton or my father been alive... But life throws up so many things and you’ve got to cope with them. My mother (Viviane) coped with the tragedies very well. As for me, I didn’t lose the passion for racing.
But your family did stop you from racing... Specifically, was it your mother?
Actually, my maternal grandfather (Ayrton’s father, Milton da Silva)... He didn’t want another accident, another death. I had to respect his and the family’s decision. The family was going through a tough time emotionally... But time cures and, after a few years, I got the chance to resume something I was passionate about.
Having lost her husband and brother to crashes, isn’t your mother scared?
Initially, she was... But I had a big crash in 2006 and that happened in front of her eyes. She saw the car and, then, saw me... The car was a wreck, but I was fine. That’s when she began to believe that motor racing is much more safe nowadays. Now, she’s more relaxed when I’m racing.
[The July 2006 crash was in F3, in Snetterton.]
What has given you the mental toughness?
(Smiles) I don’t know... I love fast cars... I have one of the fastest cars (Williams’ Renault-powered)... I have the desire to be on the circuit every day... I love the competition.
The final one... How do you rate Sebastian Vettel, the two-time world champion?
Vettel’s quick, very consistent... He’s a complete driver... He’s got better with experience... He has the best car (Red Bull Racing’s Renault-powered) and has the best chance of again winning the world championship.