Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Approaching the start line // A positive view of the upcoming Formula One season

Published by Lukeh

Rubens surveys the scene from the Williams garage.
Credit: Glenn Dunbar/LAT Photographic

It’s nearly upon us once again. The worldwide travelling circus of merry men known as the collective of Formula 1 once again begins taking our attention in just a few weeks and there can’t be any denial, surely, that 2010 is going to be a huge year. Excitement isn’t anywhere near the feeling that the start of the season conjures up inside me. Everyone will have their own reasons why they’re looking forward to the new season – perhaps the return of Schumacher is the fuel to your fire, or the fact that the grid this year is jam-packed full of world champions, and also possibly Jacques Villeneuve. Maybe the new teams and their friendly feud, namely Lotus and Virgin, are adding that extra dimension of rivalry that makes the sport even spicier. It could even be just Formula 1 returning after a long winter that gets that excitement flowing! Whatever the reason, with testing already underway and most of the cars unveiled, F1 is returning very soon. For me, I have my own reason why I’m really looking forward to the 2010 season though.

Rubens Barrichello being at Williams is a hugely happy thought

Predictably, if you know me, the thought of Rubens Barrichello being at Williams is a hugely happy thought. This is a pretty odd statement considering if you asked me in October I would have said quite the opposite. As times change though so can feelings and as time has moved on since his Brawn departure, the closer we’ve gotten to the new season, the more I’ve been anticipating his first race in Frank Williams’ greatest venture. We all know of the success of 2009 for the Brazilian – it was a huge year for his career and I think, as a driver, it gave a more deserved view towards the man. It would be hard to deny that times have been frustrating over the years for Rubens. Upon his arrival into the sport, he soon lost the driver he looked up to, and more importantly his friend, in Ayrton Senna. Whilst he took the chance to prove himself at Jordan and Stewart, his move to Ferrari provided far less than he deserved. Many knew that Barrichello had the ability but, when you’re stuck under Michael Schumacher’s rule at Ferrari, favouritism is going to be a big issue. Rubens had to prove himself.

The Ferrari debacle, however, has one good side to it. Whilst he found the victories and performances when needed, Rubens never got the attention that Michael did and whilst it’s arguable if he’s a better driver or not (7 world championships don’t happen just on luck), Rubens had to prove himself at Ferrari. He had to prove himself as a newbie in the Jordan, he had to prove himself in Jackie Stewart’s lineup for Stewart Racing, he had to prove that moving from Ferrari to Honda was a move worth making, and he had to prove that the faith Ross Brawn had instilled in him in 2009 was worth paying off for. Rubens Barrichello is a driver that maybe doesn’t have the necessary assets to be a world champion, but he’s a passionate driver. He wants to race. In 2010 he will be proving once again, at the age of 37 and after 288 Grand Prix, why he still has the ability to be in Formula 1 and be just as good as any world champion alongside him, as well as joining a team that he has so long desired to be a part of because of his hero’s past. Now he has it, and it’s time once again to prove why the move to Williams after leaving Brawn was a decision worth making.

There are a few admissions from my own point of view though regarding a few issues. When it seemed that the Team-Formerly-Known-As-Honda were indeed going to make it to the grid, I did not expect Rubens to be part of the team that went on to be Brawn GP. Whilst Barrichello had experience, it seemed that the sponsorship and name of Bruno Senna would prevail as Jenson Button’s teammate. Ross Brawn went for experience, and my dream team of Button and Barrichello carried on for another year. What a year it was. Furthermore, in the previous decade Williams became very much a team that faded into anonymity for me as a fan. They attracted drivers with no huge star power and saw the performance of the car fade in comparison to decades before it. The initial announcement of Barrichello’s move to Williams was met with a great deal of dismay from myself. As I previously stated though, as time goes on feelings can change and studying this team in greater detail, I can admit I was very much wrong to ignore them.

The introduction of such teams as Lotus, with their striking livery, and Virgin add new layers of unexpectedness

So this is mostly for me why I’m looking so much towards the upcoming season. Sure, the car won’t be what Brawn was in 2009, but it’s another new chapter in the story of a grand prix driver who drives with a smile on his face. Schumacher's return is huge for the sport, and it’ll be interesting to see how he performs at Mercedes. The introduction of such teams as Lotus, with their striking livery, and Virgin add new layers of unexpectedness to the grid. The titanic partnerships, like Hamilton and Button or Alonso and Massa, are going to be worth keeping an eye on. As I say, for me this new chapter in Rubens’ career is one I greet with much excitement and anticipation. We all have reasons for why we want the sport to return, but as the excitement gradually builds up and as the length to the first race shortens, the feeling of knowing that first race weekend is just around the corner is one that typed words can’t describe. It’s nearly here.

As a Formula 1 fan, I say to you all - let us not enter this new season with the typical pessimism of a Ferrari tweet but of a mood that shouts out optimism and sanguinity for the sport we all love so much. Let us be assured that no matter what may happen, that we should enjoy the sport for what happens on that track with a grid full of passionate racers. Yes, the sport finds ways to annoy us from time to time, and yes, there are changes to things far too often, but in a few weeks time we will find ourselves waking up at silly o’clock, perhaps with a beverage in hand or a duvet hugging us close in the early hours, with our eyes grabbed to the souls that make up the world of Formula 1, with those fortnightly Sunday afternoons seeming a mile apart because we want each race to hurry up. A new era has begun under Jean Todt’s presidency, and a new decade of Formula 1 soon begins with that. Formula 1 is coming back, and I for one am beaming with excitement.

Are you ready?