Our resident Bobblehat Sarah Merritt’s series of interviews from the second Donington Park Formula E test finishes with a grilling of Brazilian Bruno Senna.
In the fourth of my pieces from the Formula E Testing at Donington, I caught up for a chat with Bruno Senna, who remains with Mahindra Racing this year. We perched on the back of a truck at the rear of the Mahindra garage, and and got our heads together to discuss how he thinks Season 2 is looking for them, as well as GP2, McDonalds, and the Skypad.
How have you spent the break since the London e-Prix? Did you manager to get a break?
Yes, I did get a break. I went travelling with my family, we went on a really lovely trip to Tahiti, to Bora Bora, which was really nice. It was the first time that all of us went, and it’s so rare that we get to spend time together as a family, because I live here, and they live in a different country. Straight after that , I came to test in Spain for Mahindra and then I went to race in Spa at the Spa 24 hour race, so not much of a break, but a week at least was nice.
As we know, you combine your Formula E drive with other drives, previously for Aston Martin, and not for McLaren GT. How different is that for you? It must seem quite noisy after Formula E amongst other things?
You know, the cars are fundamentally different – we are talking about a single seater, and a GT car – and Formula E is even more different to other single seaters because of the way the dynamics of the car work, but some things are secondary. When you go to a new track then the gears and not listening to the engine noise makes a difference, but here at Donington we’ve done the laps, we know where we need to upshift and downshift, so everything is more consistent. It’s still a race car, it oversteers, understeers, and you have to work with your team to make it faster and to feel more fun.
Something that I talked about with Sam Bird earlier was the fact that having a home race gives you a boost. Now, you don’t have a home race on the calendar that is, with me calling Brazil a home race.
I had a home race last year in Monaco, which is where I live currently, but a race in Brazil would be very special. Hopefully we’ll get one at some point. They were close to getting a race in Rio but that didn’t happen, which was unfortunate, but hopefully one time…”
Season 2 brings a lot of changes, as we start to see the cars diverging from their previously identical power train and its components. How do you feel that is looking for you and Mahindra? Do you think it will be down to reliability for the first part of the season?
I think so. I mean everybody who is bringing a radically different, or new, package will have more work to do than the evolution cars, or the car they ran last year. There’s obviously advantages to having a more radical or aggressive package, but in general it’s a good thing for Formula E, but perhaps too soon.
I’d have said that it would perhaps have been better to have the same car for two years, let the series consolidate itself and let everybody find their feet. There are some teams struggling with the new car already, and if everybody had more experience and more time, perhaps it would be a bit more straightforward. But anyway, it is what it is, and we still don’t know what the order is between these guys, and ourselves, and hopefully we are competitive. If we are up there in the mix, I think we’ll be pretty happy. Some people are struggling much more than we are, and will have to make some hard decisions pretty soon.
You’ve amassed a lot of fans across the different series that you’ve driven within, including F1, Endurance, and now Formula E. If you had to pick a favourite series, could you?
It’s hard to pick a favourite, but the one I probably enjoyed the most was GP2 because I was in it for 2 years, and I was competing with really high quality drivers. The car was really fun to drive, lots of grip from the tyres, so it was a car where you could muscle your way through.
It’s like that watching GP2 now, so much fun to watch.
But now they don’t have the same tyres, but the car is still fun to drive. I think I had a good time in GP2, and that was my favourite championship so far. But Formula E is good fun. GT is extremely competitive, they have balance of performance. These things take a little but away from the ultimate experience, but at the end of the day, what I enjoy doing is racing cars and the more competitive the championship, the better. Hopefully this time in Formula E we are going to have a better time and race at the front.
We see a lot of you in the UK on Sky Sports F1. Do you enjoy doing presenting and media work? And do you ever panic the “Skypad” might break down on you?
Ah, it breaks down all the time! It’s happened live multiple times where it just did its own thing, or decided not to do anything at all, but you know, you’ve just got to laugh it out!
And are they a nice bunch of people to work with on the Sky team?
Absolutely. They are great fun, very, very professional, I mean the quality of the material they produce – it’s hard to see the same from anybody else, and it’s been a great experience.
I have to say, my passion for presenting and my passion for driving are quite far apart. I enjoy presenting, it’s something that is good for my profile, it’s good for being there and doing some work with some people and understanding what’s going on in the sport, but I just feel that I want to be racing too much to be fully enjoying the presenting side. I look at these guys driving these cars, and I’m like…wow….
You’d rather be driving them?
Yes I would, but I think there is a side where you are bothered by it or when you are not bothered by it, and I’m still bothered by it!
Now I have a few questions from fans on Twitter:
Someone recently asked me ‘what’s my favourite Dinosaur’!
I saw, and that’s been the first question I’ve been asking today!
And I said Velociraptor.
If you are having a naughty food day, when you are able to eat what you like, what would your favourite indulgence be?
Don’t tell anyone….McDonalds!
No! Anything specific?
No, just a good, big, McDonald’s meal so that you know that you had something that you shouldn’t be doing.
What’s the strangest gift you’ve ever been given by a fan?
I didn’t know exactly what it was, but I think it was a collar…like a dog collar or something
That’s a good one!
I don’t know exactly what their intention was with that, but it didn’t really hit my favourite tastes!
What classic circuit would you like to drive a Formula E car around, if you could?
A circuit that I would drive in anything would be Suzuka. That’s my favourite track in the world, and I would even drive it in a Formula E car, even though it would probably not take full advantage of the track, and it by the end of the lap it would probably be a bit hot. But I would still love to drive the car there as it’s such a great track.
It had been a pleasure to sit on the back of that truck chatting with Bruno, and I have to admit, he was the driver I had been most nervous to talk to that day, because to be honest, the “fan” in me has always put Bruno on a pedestal. But as it turned out, that was well deserved, as Bruno was engaging, the conversation flowed, and I really didn’t feel under any time pressure talking to him – he gave me his undivided attention. As I mentioned when I was talking to his team mate, Nick Heidfeld, the two had displayed a good relationship in the garage during the day, and I could see how Bruno’s positive attitude would fit well in the team. Here is a driver who spoke at every opportunity of his unwavering desire to race, and I hope the two of them will find themselves in a strong position to do just that for Mahindra when the Season kicks off in Beijing in October, and from then on in.