Senna story evokes past on ironic anniversary

Updated: 25 August 2011 22:23 IST

The unexpected elevation of Bruno Senna from supporting cast to a starring role in this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix delivered an ironic echo on the 20th anniversary of Michael Schumacher's F1 debut.

Senna story evokes past on ironic anniversary
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Spa-Francorchamps:

The unexpected elevation of Bruno Senna from supporting cast to a starring role in this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix delivered an ironic echo on the 20th anniversary of Michael Schumacher's F1 debut.

Schumacher, now a 42-year-old seven-times champion and a veteran of the politics and chicanery in top level motor racing, was the fast new kid on the block in the late summer of 1991.

He made his impressive debut in Belgium with the Jordan team and, barely ten days later, was 'stolen away' by another team where, in a story that rocked the sport, he took Brazilian driver Roberto Moreno's seat.

The team that conspired to recruit the young German was Benetton, then run by Italian Flavio Briatore and Briton Tom Walkinshaw, and their move was followed by Moreno taking legal action to keep his seat.

That team, still operating from the same headquarters, has since undergone a takeover and a facelift - and in 2011 is the Renault team that has pulled off a similar, if not identical, move.

A long series of meetings in smoke-filled rooms at the famous Villa d'Est hotel overlooking Lake Como followed in 1991 before Moreno agreed to be re-situated in the Jordan team as Schumacher's replacement - while Schumacher became three-times champion Nelson Piquet's new partner in the Benetton garage.

This weekend, Heidfeld and his lawyers will be taking their time as they chew over the remains of a contract through which, it appears, Renault have driven a double-decker bus.

In Schumacher's case, Jordan's contract with the driver was lacking the final paperwork and signatures.

It was a classic story of F1's power and politics as the sport's power-brokers sought to place Schumacher --- seen even then as the great German hope to expand the sport in Europe - in a top team.

And it was a story that saw a disgruntled and obviously unhappy Brazilian thrown aside for the new German wunderkind - to the clear dismay of not only Moreno, but also two other brilliant Brazilian drivers, Piquet and Ayrton Senna.

What irony then that 20 years later, the late Ayrton Senna's nephew pitches up with a package of sponsorship deals and ousts a German from his job - on the very weekend when F1's grandees in Belgium are celebrating Schumacher's landmark Grand Prix weekend.

Senna said many times, clearly and without fear, that he disliked intensely the way in which politics and business interests interfered in and influenced the racing in Formula One - and he articulated those views 20 years ago.

So did many others who were upset at the way in which honour and integrity were overlooked in the interest of money.

Sadly, Senna died at Imola in 1994, crashing while still believing his sport was not operating on a fair and level field.

Three years earlier, on the morning after his overnight defeat at the hands of the men who ruled the sport, Eddie Jordan was met at the gates to the paddock at Monza by the then-boss of McLaren Ron Dennis.

Dennis greeted him warmly, but with an ironic smile of his own.

"Welcome to the Piranha Club," he said.

Twenty years on, the mythical club that once figuratively ruled in Formula One has shown that its influence on affairs may not be all over yet. albeit that any team has the right to pick and choose its own drivers, subject to contract.

Topics : Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix Michael Schumacher Bruno Senna
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