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Rubens Barrichello and the promise he once made to his wife
Posted By: James Allen  |  31 Jan 2012   |  6:25 pm GMT  |  91 comments

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.”

“The Brawn year (2009) was incredible. I was four months without a job. I was desperate to drive and all Ross Brawn told me was ‘Keep fit, I’ll call you when I know.’

“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.”

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Off topic James but what in your view was Barrichello’s best race and best season in F1?


1999 was pretty good with Stewart. Second place in Monaco was a standout in the rain.

His best win was Silverstone in Ferrari again in rainy conditions, 2003.


Time to take a well deserved retirement, Rubens! After acheiving the longest yet career in F1, why consider dropping down into Indy? I’m sure you’ve earned sufficient to retire on and enjoy your family.


Rubens has said he’s worked it out with his wife, so that’s no longer a problem. Now it’s up to KV Racing and Tony Kanaan to work out money and a deal.


No. No. No. This is complete stupidity Rubens.

Listen to your wife and look at your kids.

R.I.P. Dan Wheldon


Haha that’s why I love sites like this, a perfect answer


Rubens…..”Why not Le Mans”, makes much more sense.

From 12 to 25 turns to 4 turns is ridiculous!!!


I really hope he has a go at IndyCar I think he could shine at it. The more talented drivers that come over to IndyCar then the better it will be for the sport. F1 will always come first for me but Indycar comes a close second. For those of you who are quick to dismiss IndyCar you should go see it live if you get the chance it’s very enjoyable and they are really trying to improve the series, such a shame though the incident with Dan Weldon happened.


I really hope I’m wrong but I have a bad feeling about Rubens doing Indycar, can’t piut my finger on it but I hope he doesn’t. WTCC maybe, prove his mettle in a totally different place…..


People forget that N Piquet and E Fittipaldi

both survived F1 only to come unstuck in indy cars. Emerson a broken back from memory and Nelson horrific leg injuries. Both brazilians too. Maybe Rubens needs to rethink ovals.


Rubens is a legend. Not just as an extraordinarily talented and experienced racing driver, but as a genuine person who is passionate about his profession. Any series would be proud to have him as part of the show. It is Williams’ shame that it’s not F1.

Adrian Newey Jnr

I think Rubens should look towards sports cars and perhaps a Le Mans tilt. Drivers like McNish have shown their class and cemented their legacy.

As for the state of US racing, the best drivers have followed the money. It is a shame that someone like Bernie can’t take a class like GP2 and rebrand it in the US. Then target the best drivers across all classes.


It occurred to me that while he may not be able to bring huge sponsorship sums to a race outfit, 1.6m twitter followers is a huge asset.


The thing with racing drivers is they’re racing drivers. As James himself has said on several occasions, they have something the rest of us don’t and in Barrichello it is clearly still not fulfilled.

If he needs to do Indycars, then good luck to him, although I must admit to hoping he does a deal for the road courses only and skips the four ovals in this year’s series. Those places have scared me since before Indycars had wings and nothing has changed. It’s not just the speeds, it’s that road-racers tend to instinctively apply opposite lock on the banking and create their own accidents.


It’s the super speedways where the dangers are, short oval tracks like Chicagoland with steeper banking are much safer yet extremely entertaining to watch.


Sorry a bit off topic James, yet talking of F1 tittle-tattle, with the news in the Sunday Times last week, seems we will have another LOTUS v LOTUS battle in F1 2012 with Bahar v Genii/Lopez competing against each other for a buyout of Lotus from new Proton owners, rather than working with each other as had been thought– will you be doing a write-up of your views at all James? Would be very interested to hear your views, especially in light of your recent luncheon with Dany Bahar. Kindest regards and loving the blog as always – Giuseppe


Looks that way. Working on that story now


Thank you James, and I really appreciate you replying to me there. When do you think you will be publishing your story on this James? Have you seen the ‘Lotus/Day In The Life of Dany Bahar’ feature in the latest edition of EVO Magazine (Feb 2012 issue) – the day they shadowed Dany was in December and theres much there showing Dany and Gerard Lopez getting on seemingly very well, both in the text and photos – its a fascinating read, especially in light of these recent murmourings of a breakdown between the two. James, what do you think has changed so recently to cause what seemed like Bahar and Lopez really being happy to collaborate together, to now having them fighting against each other for control of Lotus? I always thought wed have the situation of Genii eventually buying Lotus, but Dany and his current executive committee still being relatively in place to continue the new 5-year plan yet with Lopez owning/Chair of the whole thing and Genii running the F1 team? Its a shame because for all the flack he is getting, I really like Bahar and what he is looking to do with the whole Lotus rebirth and it seems he may soon regretabbly be on the outside looking in – I hope this is press murmourings only at this stage and that a Bahar/Genii collaboration for Lotus Cars and Lotus F1 can still come off.


I think its because Bahar sees it as a way to protect his job. Survival is a powerful motorvator!


Isn’t that Jenson?


good call. they were quite similar with the yellow and white, but that looks like JB’s Monster logo on top.


Slightly off topic, does anybody know what engine was in that indycar in the video. You can hear the turbo, if the next reg F1 engines sound like that it wont be too bad. I love the last few seconds of that video, you can hear Senna stabbing away at the accelerator. Music to my ears!


Should be the Ilmor 265B (Badged as a Chevrolet)

2.65 Liter Turbocharged V8.


Looking forward to his nutso younger boy racing in future.

he’s a good man Rubens, I wish him the best post F1. I know i will miss him greatly.


I love Rubens even more now that you shared this with us James. He is so open in his interviews. Love him.

Wish him all the best and to keep safe.


Barrichello will not be back in F1 (as a driver). I don’t know why he thinks he can come back just like Schumi and Kimi. They are champions and people really wanted them. There is no one queuing up for Barrichello even now.

He broke the cardinal rule. F1 is a small community with a handful of teams. Never bad mouth your employer. That will never go down well with the teams and their sponsors.

Adios Rubino and good luck with the book!


James, that shot or rubinho taking the corner in the Brawn car is fantastic.


brilliant if it happens. Be interesting to see how he measures up against the current indycar drivers and vice versa. Hopefully indy will get back to where it was in the early 90’s.


Looking at the clip I dont think the Senna test was particularly meaningful, he hardly got out of 2nd gear! Definitely political.

I’d love to see Rubens do Indy. Reckon he’d do really well over there. Not to be underestimated though, there are some quality drivers in the States. Sato has struggled to make an impact.

rob in victoria bc

I wonder if the guy who wrote this now regrets it. Took me a while to think of it, Senna’s been gone for so long, but that’s a very arrogant way to write about a great driver like him.’Hardly got out of second gear. Definitely political.’ Personally, I doubt that’s how Senna went to any test.

The 90’s were the heady days of IndyCar, went to the Vancouver Indy in ’93, met Mansell, Rahal, Luyendyk.

Remember how damned fast Zanardi and Montoya were when they came along.


Whoa!!! I guess it’s true what they say then, that racing is a drug, a very addictive drug at that and it’s quite obvious from Rubens’ passionate words that he needs some kind of rehad to help him recover from the F1 withdraw symptoms he’s suffering from.

So it appears Rubens is off to Indy Cars despite the promises to the Missus, I suspect Rubens wants to remain fit & on form because the reports I read are that he’s still hoping for a comeback in F1 just like Schumi & Kimi.

Ha, interesting to read Aryton too was all for equal cars in F1, he too must have been disgusted watching less worthy drivers steal WDCs from him with ease but unfortunately F1 has that Red Elephant in the room that can’t even tolerant the thought of equal cars = Humiliation when they get beaten.

As for Rubens’ boys, am sure we can look forward to his younger son joining the circus in the future (Brazil tends to have great sponsors) also in my experience, it’s the younger sons that tend to be more like their fathers like the older ones.

Now, I don’t expect much from that Rubens biography especially concerning his Ferrari years for Schumi & the Red Dragon must have made him sign all kinds of non disclosure contacts & hence the quote, ”I don’t know if it will ever come out”.

And oh, one last thing, experience in F1 is waaaaay over rated for how come the most experienced driver EVER has nothing to show for it & yet his idol Aryton drove half as many races but clinched 3 WDCs


Hahaa those former Brawn drivers are something else;

First Jenson promised his Missus that he would marry her after bagging the WDC only to go back on his word and now Rubens pulls this *&@# on his dear unsuspecting wife —> What a bunch of crooks!

And of course Rubens’ wife is going to go through with his dreams for there’s nothing a new diamond bracelet can’t fix.


Steady on, he hasn’t broken any promises yet. Indycar has far more road courses than ovals.


Human nature is general toward the dark side. Yor need a great humna being to hold back the dark side and show the bright side.


Well said, Yoda.


You never heard of adrenaline “junkies”?


i don’t like barrichello since his ferrari years, and some other small things, but i understand he is a real racer. To convince me again, he must race the indy 500, after a lot of talking with his wife.


To convince you what? He doesn’t neet to prove anything to you. Plus what’s the big deal about Indy 500?


neither to you… but i am talking about what i think, and he deceived all the fans when he let schumacer pass him not once but twice at austria.

He stayed at ferrari when he should do an alonso and leave, even if the car was a winner.

If he goes an risks it at indy, that will mean he puts racing first.

That i can respect. Being an f1 driver past his due date, when he knows that hurting himself is not a real posibility, is not too impresive.


Stick yer foot down. Turn left.

OK, I know that’s an over-simplification, and it takes a high level of skill to drive an Indycar, but anyone who’s piloted an F1 car around Monaco, Imola, Monza, Silverstone etc., has demonstrated a greater spread of car control skills than are necessary to nail it round a banked oval track. Besides, Rubens has already raced at Indy.

He’s got nothing to prove. He’s one of the best drivers in the world.


Iecho -> And Blanchimont, and Parabolica, and 130R, and last corner at Canada (“the wall of champions”), and many others…


Robert –> say anything about going flat, high-speed and close to the wall to a guy who took Eau Rouge in more than twenty different F1 cars 🙂


Actually, it requires a fair degree of car control since speed at Indy is basically gained by taking as much downforce off as possible while not loosing control. Also a lap of the Indy Oval involves getting as close to the wall as possible while not making contact in order to minimize the loss of speed in the corner.

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