SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium, Aug 27, 2011 (AFP) - Bruno Senna lived up to family hopes and bettered his own expectations on Saturday when he qualified seventh on his debut for Renault at the Belgian Grand Prix.
The 27-year-old Brazilian, nephew of the legendary late Ayrton Senna, drove with great sense and much good judgement on a day of typically capricious conditions at the sprawling Spa circuit in the forests of the Belgian Ardennes.
Emerging afterwards, having outpaced his new team-mate by more than a second - Russian Vitaly Petrov was down in 10th place - Senna said he felt he had made the family proud and done justice to their famous racing name.
"I guess I made the Senna name proud - my mum is happy, my grandparents are happy so it's a good day for us all," he said.
Senna was promoted to take over as race driver from dumped German Nick Heidfeld, 34, who has since taken legal action to recover his seat.
He has alleged breach of contract against Renault and the case is to be heard at the High Court in London on September 19.
Senna has been told he will race at the Belgian and Italian Grands Prix and that a decision on the remainder of the season will only be taken after the court hearing. He hopes to retain the seat.
In difficult, constantly-changing conditions, Senna produced an assured performance.
He admitted: "To be honest, I didn't know what to expect. I just wanted to do my best and learn. "When the conditions were changing for qualifying and the forecast was going maybe for dry, I got a bit more nervous, because I knew from yesterday I
knew it was very difficult for me in the drying conditions.
"But just getting into Q3 was a massive, massive victory for me and then I knew I could push, especially on the last few laps, as I had not much to lose to be honest in that situation. "I didn't want to go off and crash, so in that sense I wasn't pushing 100 percent, but I was pushing where I knew I could push and get away with, maybe, out-braking myself and I think where other people made mistakes, I didn't."
Looking ahead to Sunday's 44-lap classic race, he said he saw it as another learning curve.
"It is a pity that Vitaly made a mistake as I wanted a better comparison with him, but he is going to have the experience on me in this race, especially in the dry - if it is dry.
"But in terms of expectations everything has been going pretty well and now I just want to take things step-by-step. For me, if I can score points and finish in the top 10 it will be a dream come true.
"But there is still a lot to prove. I want to be consistently good, and if I can be there I will make my career."