Debate: Rubens Barrichello

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Rubens Barrichello should break the record for the longest ever Grand Prix career next year, assuming he starts another nine races.

Seeing as Barrichello has extended his Honda contract for another year, it looks as though Riccardo Patrese’s record for longevity will indeed be eclipsed by the Brazilian.

He’s been a world championship runner-up twice – in 2002 and 2004 – but is he in danger of being remembered as no more than number two to Michael Schumacher?

Barrichello’s career started at Jordan before switching to Jackie Stewart’s new Stewart team. He won his first race after moving to Ferrari in 2000.

By the time he left the Scuderia he had won on nine occasions but never looked like mounting a consistent challenge to Schumacher.

He will start his third season at Honda next year, a team which does not look very likely to give him a winning car.

Can he really expect to add to his achievements in Formula 1 by staying another year in the sport?

Some might even suggest that his record of nine wins flatters his talent, that he didn’t get into Ferrari on merit, and only got to spend so many years in a championship-winning car because he wasn’t about to get in Schumacher’s way.

In many ways he reminds me of the man whose record he is about to surpass – well-liked and good on his day but lacking that final percent of ultimate speed. In short, the perfect number two.


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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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13 comments on “Debate: Rubens Barrichello”

  1. I think you are spot on – a nice guy who can win if in a decent car and everything is going his way. A bit like DC in that sense, although DC had a very real chance to win the Championship on a few occasions unlike Rubens who would never have been allowed that opportunity while Schumacher’s team-mate.

    Until Honda find someone better though, I can understand why they are continuing with him – his Ferrari days should help with development more than Button’s input as he probably doesn’t have too much to share on that front having driven for this team for so long.

    As for Rubens, I think he obviously loves racing and doesn’t want to give up just yet even though adding to his wins tally is unlikely – the record he is about to beat next year may also be some motivation for him.

  2. without moving to Ferrari he might not have any race wins, but on the other hand, he seems to have lost the winning mentality in the years in Maranello… he did not do too bad in Stewart so who knows what could have been if he ended up in different top team where the drivers have more equal status.

    Honda move for him was the move to only top team at the time, he could not have the slightest idea how much backwards will they move … He is one of the nice guys on the grid, I hope Honda has something good for him to race next year, not such a dog of a car they as their 2007 junk

  3. Rubens knew exactly what was he was signing on for when he accepted Ferrari’s offer. And the point is he accepted it, obviously thinking that it was better to be in a good car and finish second with the occasional win, rather than be in a poor car and have no chance of a win at all. But that illustrates why he could never be champion – there is no fierce ambition and self belief in anyone who can just accept permanent number two status.

    The Ferrari years ruined his reputation – if he was quick, it was the car, if not, it was all his fault. But he’s actually pretty quick even now. Button’s fast and Rubens is not being embarrassed by him. Certainly he’s worth another year with Honda and hopefully they might get their wind tunnel correctly calibrated this time.

  4. I think Rubens is a great driver who was always underrated during his time are Ferrari. The fact that he was so close to Michael when he was still using right-foot braking demonstrates a finesse with the car that many still lack. Suzuka 2003 was his breakthough in left-foot braking and the pole and win were the reward, at a track that Schumacher traditionally owns.

    I don’t think it is an overstatement to say that he was the fastest team-mate Schumacher ever had. Ferrari don’t was money on slow drivers. I only wish they had given him a true shot at the title. It would have enhanced Michael’s reputation rather than diminsh it if he had fought for and won it in a 50/50 gararge like Williams.

    I hope he can bag one more win before he hangs the helmet up for good – if Honda give him the car he can deliver as he has in the past.

  5. I look at it this way… Rubens was stuck for 2000. Either he went to Ferrari, or stayed on as Stewart became Jaguar. Jag wouldn’t have done him much good in their debut year. I think he was better off at Ferrari then.

    Oddly, though, he didn’t get a Williams seat soon after. I’m sure if he tried to negotiate with Sir Frank in 2001 or 2002, he could have proven he was a better deal than at least Ralf Schumacher. As it is, it seems unlikely he’d fit in either at McLaren or Renault.

  6. A lot of Rubens’ misfortune can be laid directly at the door of Honda. No one could have predicted the state that Honda would be in, Rubens could not do it either. Jenson Button made the same mistake as him.

    Rubens may be genuinely fast, but I guess we are never going to know. I remember a few occasions towards the end of his career at Ferrari that he actually looked angry, and raced Schumacher rather hard.

    In the end, without a car that can at least fight it out among the middle of the grid, there is nothing anyone can do. Rubens may have it in him, but right now with Honda, his career is at such a low that he has no option other than to stick around. And the more time he spends without a fast car, the lower is going to be his self belief and confidence.

  7. If you read the current issue of ‘Motor Sport’, there is an interview with Rubens about Donington 1993. Everyone remembers Senna’s opening lap, but Rubens went fron 12th to 4th on the same lap, in a Jordan!

  8. He does indeed look like a Patresse to me in some way.
    But we can’t forget his jordan and Stewart periode .. he did really well back then.
    He was a good number 2 driver, but we will never know what he could have done with equal treatment. Of course Schumi is one of the best.

  9. It’s really interesting to read your opinions about Rubens. As a brazilian, I’ll never have a clear view. We expected too much after Senna and he suffered too much for trying to fill those expectations.
    In Brazil, he’s pictured as a victim or as an idiot, sometimes as both.
    A perfect example is that, earlier this year, when Nelson Piquet Sr. lost his driver’s licence for speeding, and went to reeducation, the main joke was: “Rubens will be hired to teach Piquet how to drive slowly”
    I know he doesn’t deserve that. He’s a brilliant driver on the wet, Donnington ’93 (which I remember clearly, because I’m brazilian), Spa ’94 (when he was the youngest pole sitter ever, for Jordan) and Monaco ’97 (a great second place between the Ferraris) among others, show that.
    Apart from that, his Ferrari years costed him too much… I always say he was the greatest no. 2 driver in Formula 1 history… but that’s a terrible way to be rememered. Being humiliated like he was in A1-Ring 2002 was unforgetable. It’s narration on brazilian TV was an all-time classic (“Not today! Not today… Today again? Oh, no, Today again!”), referring to another time he had to let Schumacher pass…
    Besides that, he’s seeing as an unlucky guy, a mecanhical faliures specialist.
    How do I see him? As a fast, reliable driver, capable of some great performances, especially when no one expects nothing from him (his maiden win, at Hockenheim, 2000, from 18th on the grid, is the perfect example), but uncapable of resisting year-long championship fight pressures, and who complains too much about his own misfortune.

  10. Thanks for that Daniel – it’s fascinating to hear what the Brazilian press think of him.

    I did feel a bit sorry for him last year when Massa won the Brazilian Grand Prix on his first appearance there for Ferrari, after Barrichello had tried to win it so many times but failed.

  11. Keith, I’m glad you liked my report…
    By the way, your blog is excellent, deep and well-written. I became a constant reader of yours!

  12. Of all the older generation of drivers in F1, for me Rubens is the one who should move on. Honda desparately need someone better to exploit the few chances of points that they get. The only thing Rubens will achieve next year is beating Patrese’s GP record start.

    Bring on Marco Andretti!

  13. Please, more respect for Barrichello. Now he had 6th and 7th place in the last two races, lets see what the rest of the season brings.

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