Words John Oreovicz | Main image Michael Levitt/LAT
When the F1 door closed on Rubens Barrichello, IndyCar’s door was flung open.
Rubens Barrichello has nothing to prove. Over the course of a 19-year Formula 1 career, he started more
grands prix than any driver in history,
won 11 of them and demonstrated he was
capable of beating F1’s most successful
driver using the same equipment.
On May 23, he will turn 40, an age
when most F1 drivers of his pedigree have
moved on to a less stressful life on the
beach or in the media. But Barrichello
will spend his 40th birthday at a place
where they pay close attention to historic
milestones. He’ll be at Indianapolis
Motor Speedway, strapped into the No. 8
KV Racing Technology Dallara-Chevrolet,
ready to experience his first Carb Day as
an Indy 500 rookie.
You might ask Barrichello why he’d
want to start over at this stage of his
career. He’d probably ask you: Why not?
“I still have so much passion for speed,”
he says. “I’m quite young in my mind, and
I’m not yet up to my top level of fitness.
I’m just getting better and better.
“I’m just a kid enjoying myself,” he
continues. “When I first went to Sebring,
I woke up a few times before the alarm
and wondered if I was on time because
I was just excited to get behind the
wheel. There are people who just love
They called him “Rubinho” – little
Rubens – when he broke into F1 back in
1993. And even though he’s lived half a
lifetime and lost a bit of hair since then,
Barrichello still has the exuberance of a
man…well, half his age. In a sense,
therefore, “Rubinho” is back.
So how did this come to pass –
Formula 1’s most experienced driver
suddenly landing on the IZOD IndyCar
“You could call me a rookie, even
though I have 33 years on this job,” he
says. “An IndyCar is a different machine
from what I’m used to, but it has a good
feeling. IndyCar is going through a
number of changes with new cars and
everything, so now is definitely the right
time for somebody new to come in.”
Series grid? The simplest explanation is
that 2004 IndyCar champion Tony Kanaan
came to the rescue when his longtime
friend was dropped by the Williams F1
team. Kanaan tweeted a picture of his
new DW12 IndyCar to Barrichello with
the message: “It’s ready for you.”
“I’ve been bugging him to do this for
three years,” Kanaan relates. “This year,
with the unfortunate situation of not
getting the Williams job, he accepted.
But it’s something I’ve been working
on for a long time.”
It didn’t take long for Barrichello to
take up Kanaan’s offer to test. Just 13 days
after being notified that he wouldn’t be
back at Williams, Rubens was pounding
around Sebring’s short course in what must
have seemed like a big, heavy car to him.
The bulk of Rubens’ F1 wins came
in his six years at Ferrari. (ABOVE)
He can learn much about IndyCar
racing from new boss Vasser.