JULY 14, 2010
What really happened with Senna and HRT?
Stories emerging that Bruno Senna missed Silverstone because he upset HRT team principal Colin Kolles with an e-mail and/or had not paid sponsorship monies to the team, are not quite the full story as told to us.
The way we heard it was that in after an exchange of internal e-mails, Kolles wasn't especially thrilled with either Senna or Karun Chandhok but, more pressingly, as always in F1 at that end of the grid, the issue was one of finance. Sakon Yamamoto was sitting there with a bag of gold and Kolles needed a reason to take some of it. Any behaviour that could be interpreted as breach of contract suited him just fine.
It has been reported that Senna is obliged to bring money to HRT but, according to those who have seen the contract and those who look after him, such is not the case. It's possible, however, that the backing generated by having Senna in the car has not been as substantial as hoped.
In the meantime, team owner Jose Carabante is believed to have sunk a sum not unadjacent to 20m Euros into HRT so far but, as anyone involved in a start-up F1 team will tell you, that can be spent before a wheel is even turned at the first race, as evidenced by USF1. Carabante is reported to have had some assets seized in Spain while an investigation into a business sale is carried out, but whether that has any relevance in this case, we're not in a position to say.
Young drivers involved with a new F1 team are in a tricky position trying to ensure that what is intended as a racing budget is actually that, and does not disappear into a black hole, as happened with the backing raised by Jose Maria Lopez for a USF1 seat. Without ever having sat in the car, Lopez is owed almost a million bucks.
The Chandhoks though, weren't born yesterday. Karun's father, Vicky, has raced and rallied since the 70s, is a former president of the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI) and is also a personal friend of one Bernard Charles Ecclestone. Chandhok Sr, in fact, privately hosted Ecclestone and his wife on a private trip to India some years ago and Bernie has always kept a weather eye on Karun's exploits.
From what we understand, the way it works is that any money due from the Chandhok side is given to Ecclestone for safe-keeping and released provided everything is satisfactory, which is probably as good an insurance policy as you can have. Nothing moves in the F1 paddock without Ecclestone knowing about it. We believe that on Thursday at Silverstone the stickers were in the process of being removed from Chandhok's car when the team received a visit from a highly influential man who suggested that such was not a good idea...
On Friday at Silverstone, we asked Senna's management when Bruno had discovered he wouldn't be driving. The response was: "Let's just say it's been a busy couple of days..."
Senna is bound to have been disappointed about missing Silverstone, as Chandhok would have been, although as one sage drily observed, "I bet he was secretly thrilled about not having to get that downforce-bereft shitbox around a place like this..." Both drivers cut their teeth in the junior formulae in the UK and there was a special atmosphere at the crammed Northamptonshire track last weekend.
Senna though, was commendably tight-lipped about the whole affair, leaving any Silverstone grenade detonation to Mark Webber. Bruno is obviously looking at a future beyond HRT and figured, probably wisely, that from his position people might be impressed by an ability to button his lip in adversity. As things stand at any rate, he's back in the car at Hockenheim.