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Williams signs Senna to complete 2012 F1 lineup

Updated: January 17, 2012, 08:59

MADRID(AP) Brazilian driver Bruno Senna signed with Formula One team Williams on Tuesday, returning the Senna name to the British outfit 18 years after his uncle died.

Senna, the nephew of three-time F1 champion Ayrton Senna, joins Venezuelan driver Pastor Maldonado to give the British team an all-South American lineup going into the March 18 opener in Australia.

Ayrton Senna joined Williams from McLaren in 1994 and was fatally wounded during a crash at San Marino, only his third race with the team.

"It will be very interesting to drive for a team that my uncle has driven for, particularly as quite a few of the people here actually worked with Ayrton. Hopefully we can bring back some memories and create some great new ones, too,'' Senna said. "My family is thrilled. This is very much a family business in our case and everyone is super happy about it.''

Senna replaces fellow Brazilian driver Rubens Barrichello, who leaves the team after two seasons in which he picked up a combined 51 points, but only four last year.

"I wish my friend (Bruno Senna) all the best ... the future is wide open,'' the 40-year-old former Ferrari and Brawn driver wrote on Twitter.

Bruno Senna served as a test driver for Lotus Renault last season before replacing Nick Heidfeld for the last eight races, scoring two points.

He drove in 18 GPs for Spanish team HRT in 2010. Williams did not disclose the length of Senna's deal.

"The circumstances of Bruno's two seasons in Formula One have not given him an ideal opportunity to deliver consistently so it was essential that we spent as much time with him as possible to understand and evaluate him as a driver,'' team principal Frank Williams said. "He has proven quick, technically insightful and above all capable of learning and applying his learning quickly and consistently. Now we are looking forward to seeing that talent in our race car.''

Williams has won nine constructors' championships and seven drivers titles, but none since it swept the two in 1997. The team is coming off one of its worst ever seasons since its debut in 1975, scoring just five points.

"Last year was the worst of their history and they don't want a repeat of that,'' Senna told reporters in a conference call. "It is very important for them to have a very good year this year, and the pressure is on everybody.''

Senna will get his first taste of his new drive at the season's first official test session in Jerez, Spain, with the Sao Paulo native getting behind the wheel on Feb. 9.

"It's nice to start the season at the same level as the other guys, I never had that chance before,'' Senna said. "That should give me a chance to be ready for all kinds of situations since I'll know the car as well as my teammate.''

Senna's signing was also reportedly pushed through because of his strong sponsorship, which includes Embratel and Gillette.

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