The Lifer

Rubens Barrichello, the most experienced Grand Prix driver of all time, talks about Ferrari and his 19 seasons—so far—in Formula 1.

July 2, 2011
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Rubens Gonçalves Barrichello spent six seasons racing with Scuderia Ferrari. During that time, he won nine Grands Prix and twice finished second in the World Championship. However, Barrichello is likely best remembered for driving in the shadow of, and being ordered to pull aside for, teammate Michael Schumacher.

Born on May 23, 1972 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Barrichello began his racing career in karts, winning five youth championships. In 1990, he moved to Europe to compete in the Formula Vauxhall Lotus series; he won the championship in his first season. In ’91, he stepped up to British Formula 3, and again won the title in his maiden year.

Barrichello moved up again in ’92, this time to Formula 3000. While he didn’t score the hat trick of three championships in three seasons, he won something better: a seat at Jordan F1 for the 1993 Formula 1 season.

Barrichello’s first year in F1 was relatively uneventful, largely due to the car’s poor reliability. In 1994, he scored his first podium and began to score points regularly. He continued to rack up the points in ’95 and ’96, at least when reliability wasn’t an issue.

In 1997, Barrichello moved to Stewart Grand Prix, but the attrition rate there turned out to be even worse than at Jordan. Although he scored a second-place finish at the Monaco Grand Prix, he failed to finish 15 of the year’s 18 races. Barrichello stayed with Stewart in ’98 and ’99, and began to score points as the cars’ reliability gradually improved. By this time, the big teams had noticed him.

In 2000, Barrichello joined Ferrari. He scored his first Grand Prix victory at that year’s German GP and finished on the podium nine times. However, Schumacher won nine races and the championship. The situation was much the same in 2001, and Barrichello was slowly relegated to playing second fiddle. This was never clearer than at the 2002 Austrian GP, when Brazilian was ordered by the team to pull aside and allow his teammate to win the race. He complied, blatantly, setting off a small firestorm surrounding team orders, which were soon banned (officially, anyway) by the FIA.

Barrichello stayed at Ferrari until 2006, when he left with a year remaining on his contract to drive for Honda. When Honda announced it was leaving F1 at the end of the 2008 season, many believed that Barrichello’s career was over. However, Honda team principal Ross Brawn, formerly Ferrari’s technical director, bought the team, renamed it Brawn GP and kept on racing.

In 2009, driving for Brawn, Barrichello scored two wins and finished third in the World Championship, which was won by teammate Jenson Button. At the end of the season, Brawn GP was purchased by Mercedes-Benz, and Barrichello moved to Williams F1.

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