Rubens Barrichello drove an IndyCar this week in a specially arranged test session at Sebring, Florida. The Brazilian, who lost his seat for this season at Williams to Bruno Senna, completed 94 laps and was on the pace of the KV Racing Team’s lead driver Tony Kanaan.
“I’m truly happy and I like what I saw,” said 39 year old Barrichello. “I just need to see what comes up. I need to talk to my family and to Jimmy (Vasser, KV team owner).
Barrichello certainly does need to speak to his wife, Silvana. Because he made her a promise, that he would not race on the oval at Indianapolis, which he would find it hard to keep if he were to accept a drive in the Indycar series.
“I’d love to race at Indy,” he told JA on F1 last June, “But it’s the one thing my wife asked me not to do, because she thinks it’s dangerous. It’s the only thing she’s asked me not to do.”
The ironies and echoes of the past are are everywhere in this story; Barrichello took part in 322 Grands Prix – exactly double the number his idol Ayrton Senna started – making him by far the most experienced driver in the history of F1, but his passion for racing is still very strong.
Co-incidentally Ayrton Senna also tested an IndyCar, 22 years ago, at the end of a 1992 season in which his McLaren had been pulverised by the active suspension Williams of Nigel Mansell. Senna had no intention of moving to IndyCar at the time, but he wanted to send a strong signal to McLaren, to their sponsors Marlboro and to F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone that the technical playing field needed levelling in F1 or he might seek pastures new. (Check out the video of the test at the bottom of this post)
In contrast, Barrichello’s F1 career looks to have run its course and it seems now he must look for pastures new. Hence the test.
With Bruno Senna taking his seat at Williams, Barrichello finds himself without a drive for the first time in his F1 career, stretching back to 1993.
The quote above about promises to his wife comes from a fascinating question and answer session I did with Barrichello in front of a US and Canadian audience in Montreal last year and he gave some great answers looking back over his career.
In his long F1 career Barrichello raced against 12 of the 32 drivers who have won the F1 world title, without ever being the champion himself (he was runner-up in 2002 and 2004)
On how much of his long career he can remember:
“Sometimes between planes I get to write a bit of my book, I don’t know if it will ever come out but it’s a pleasure to write my stories there. I remember most of my races vividly, even kart races from the 1980s.”
“It was one of the best days of my life when I drove the car for the first time and realised it was a good car. The win at Monza was very special, to be in white overalls and all the Ferrari fans were down below me and they clearly hadn’t forgotten me.”
On the pressure of driving for Ferrari
“To drive for Ferrari is just great. The first day to see my name on the side of the car was just great. When I was a kid I dreamed of it. But when you start driving you have to forget you are in a red car with a horse on it. Mentally you got to do that. Because the pressure could get too much. At Ferrari you learn to live with the pressure and if you want to conquer in F1 it you have to push on because there is so much pressure from the press, the country and so on.
“You cannot say everything that you would have liked to. So you have to focus on why you are driving because there is so much pressure.”
You have two sons. To me the question is not, “Will your kids race?” But rather “Do your kids feel a great pressure to race?”
“Eduardo (older boy) doesn’t want the pressure. I don’t think he’ll be a racing driver. I would love him to race, but he doesn’t like pressure. He always asks me why I have to exercise so much or travel or whatever.
“He loves driving. I take him karting and it’s fantastic. But it showed me something; once I said to him, ‘Can you take that corner flat, throttle down?’ He said to me,’Do you want me to, Daddy?’ So I said, ‘Yes,” but then I thought it could be dangerous, but anyway I said, ‘Yes.’
“So he went out and he took the corner flat, but then the next lap he lifted. If that had been me at his age I’d have been mad flat, so it showed me there that it was what I wanted, not what he wanted.
“So I just want him to do what he wants.
“The younger one is just nuts. He takes everything flat!”
On his massive Twitter following:
“Twitter is a good thing to interact. For people who love F1 its great because if they cannot be there, it’s like they are there.”
On his future after F1:
“Racing is in my blood. The months when we are off over winter eventually you start driving too fast on the road. So I need something to drive. I think eventually I will do stock cars in Brazil. It’s a great series. Maybe I’ll be at home a bit more and still racing.”
On staying fit at approaching 40:
“I run six days a week. Between 6kms and 16kms. I also do a training programme where I go fast for a few seconds then slow then fast, simulating the corners on a race track. The heartbeat in a racing car is between 140 and 180 beats per minute. It goes down on the straights. My resting heart beat is 55.”