|Like uncle, like nephew: Bruno Senna is hoping to blaze a trail through F1 much like Aryton Senna [GALLO/GETTY]
Bruno Senna feels a mixture of giddy excitement and trepidation about his return to Formula One racing, describing it as feeling like "Christmas and my toughest exam have both arrived on the same day."
The 27-year-old Brazilian driver made his F1 debut last season for the Hispania Racing team, but until recently was a reserve driver with Renault, until he was drafted in for this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix in place of
German Nick Heidfeld.
With 11 races gone, and most drivers fully at ease with the vagaries of the new Pirelli tires and finally getting to grips with the DRS overtaking device, Senna knows he will be right up against it in Spa.
"It is going to be a big challenge to come back into the middle of the season, or a bit later than the middle of the season," Senna said.
"It is going to be a big uphill battle to get up to the level of these guys."
"It is going to be a big uphill battle to get up to the level of these guys"
Late starter Bruno Senna
Senna arrived at Renault in February as third driver after Robert Kubica suffered career-threatening injuries in a rally car accident. Senna took part in preseason testing in Jerez and had a spin during the first practice
session of the Hungarian Grand Prix last month.
But he knows that is only a peripheral preparation for what lies in store in Spa.
"I will be having to learn how to deal with the tires from the first set all the way to the sets in qualifying," said Senna, who endured a tough rain-soaked first practice session on Friday.
"Then learning how to deal with the tires for the race as that will be my first experience with the Pirelli tires on high fuel going to low fuel."
Raw Senna speed
Senna, whose late uncle was F1 great Ayrton Senna, started his career in British F3 in 2005 before moving to the GP2 Series in 2007.
A year later, he narrowly missed out on winning the GP2 Series title in the final race, finishing as series runner-up. A move to sports cars in 2009 and a shot at the Le Mans 24 hours proved a steppingstone to F1 for the 2010 season.
His last GP race, with Hispania, ended with a disappointing 19th-place finish in Abu Dhabi last November.
Noted for his raw speed early in his career, Senna hopes to show what he can do in an improved car.
"I am really thrilled and motivated to be getting in the car to race in F1 again," he said.
"Getting back to racing is something I've been craving for a while, and it's not often you get an opportunity like this with a team of this stature."
However, ousted Nick Heidfeld is determined to win his Renault seat back after being replaced 11 races into the Formula One season.
"I was surprised by the team's intention to replace me and regret that things have developed this way," Heidfeld said on his personal website.
"I just wanted to be in the cockpit to get the best result for the team and me. I still have a clear contract and I want to drive."
| Heidfeld believes he has the speed needed to get his seat back and regrets recent developments GETTY]
Heidfeld was given a contract to replace Renault's No. 1 Robert Kubica for the F1 season when the Polish driver suffered career-threatening injuries after crashing in a rally car race in February.
The matter could be settled at London's High Court after the Italian GP, with six F1 races following on from there.
Heidfeld's manager Andre Theuerzeit is determined to see Heidfeld reinstated in Singapore at the end of September.
"I am disappointed the team is allowed to let another driver take Nick's seat for the next weekends," Theuerzeit said.
"However, I certainly am confident we will be able to enforce a fair solution for Nick in the further proceedings."
Heidfeld is a far more experienced driver than Senna, and secured a third-place finish at the Malaysian GP in April.
However, a recent dip in form saw the 34-year-old fail retiring from the German and Hungarian GPs.
After a practice session on Friday for the Belgium GP, Red Bull's Mark Webber was fastest in the pack followed by Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari.
Bruno Senna got off to a questionable start for Renault crashing at Turn Nine in the wet conditions.