Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

The 40 year old rookie // The longer you drive, the harder it gets

Published by Lukeh

So, it turns out it is in fact possible to watch Formula 1 without the presence of Rubens Barrichello. As strange as that may seem to some, I'm part of the generation that, before this season, has never watched a Formula 1 race without the presence of the longest standing servant of the sport. This is further compounded by the fact that I'm actually a bit of a Rubens fan as hinted at in regular intervals roughly around every 10-15 minutes or so.

It was Barrichello’s turn last winter to make the move from F1 into new ventures following his dismissal at the hands of Sir Frank, so this past season he’s found himself in the US going through his first season of IndyCar with KV Racing. It’s been a fair old adventure, to say the least. Now that season has been completed and Ryan Hunter-Reay has come through as champion to see Will Power once again defeated, I thought it’d be a good time to look back and digest what 2012 has been like as a Barrichello fan away from the sport I so much adore.

My chemical bromance

It’s weird to be sitting here in October talking about a completed season of motorsport already, but that is the case with IndyCar. As I say, Rubens was taken on board by the KV Racing guys alongside his brother from another mother Tony Kanaan and the unrelated-but-unfortunately-named EJ Viso.

There was already a clear rapport within the team between the guys seeing as these were fellow South American team-mates with plenty of experience who could help Rubens get on his feet in the sport. This was furthered by Rubens and TK’s bromance. Honestly, do you see them on Twitter? They’re such good buddies I don’t think there could've been a better team mate for Barrichello. Yet, despite his age, he came in as a rookie and there were some real stand out moments for me over the year.

Kanaan was on hand to film Barrichello's first laps around an oval
Kanaan was on hand to film Barrichello's first laps around an ovalCredit: IndyCar/LAT

For some reason, before the season, people were speculating if Rubens could get a win in his debut IndyCar season. This was always nonsense and I never took such a notion seriously. Whilst he never had a consistent season at the front, I don’t think I was expecting him to anyways but that’s beside the point. One of the moments I was most proud of this season I think was seeing him gain Rookie of the Year status at the Indy 500 during the summer.

Cynics of the world will simply just dismiss oval races as a giant left hand turn

Cynics of the world will simply just dismiss oval races as a giant left hand turn but if there’s one thing IndyCar has proved to me this year it’s that they’re oh-so-much more than that and the Indy 500 was a brilliant few hours of entertainment, with Rubens even leading a lap or two! It’s not much but it’s something.

To be crowned Rookie of the Year for the race though, bearing in mind he had no actual oval experience before 2012, was really quite thrilling stuff and I think it really boosted his oval race confidence for the rest of the season from there. Considering his hesitance towards ovals in the past, he can be very proud of finally getting this under his belt.

I know what you did last summer

Rookie of the year
Rookie of the yearCredit: IndyCar/LAT

Whilst it wasn't success all season, there were several top ten finishes throughout and some really quite impressive drives I felt. One that also particularly stood out in my eyes was his drive at Sonoma in which, from 11th on the grid, Rubens managed a mighty impressive 4th place. Prior to the season starting, this was where Rubens got plenty of testing done so it was the only real track he had a strong level of familiarity in and look how it paid off.

This bodes well for 2013, and makes me think how much of an improvement there will be now he's had a full season of experience on the various tracks across North America. Earlier in the year too, at the race in Long Beach, he started in 22nd on the grid and finished in 8th place which for your third race in a new formula, is damn impressive.

Of course, there were hiccups along the way, but nothing is perfect. It’s his first season, what are you going to expect? It’s a shame that there were car failures at certain points but this is motorsport.

One new direction

It seems pretty much certain he’ll stick around for 2013 and I think it’s a very smart choice to do so. At every race I've watched this season he’s seemed like he’s really enjoyed being part of IndyCar and he’s taken to the sport really well. The sport itself has welcomed him with open arms and whilst I may be a rookie fan myself, in what I know about IndyCar, there was a clear level of enthusiasm from the other drivers having such an experienced name from F1 as part of the ranks.

I think it does a world of good for IndyCar too, having a name like Rubens on the grid.

What is F1’s loss is without a doubt IndyCar’s gain and whilst he may not be fighting it out at the front with Will Power, he’s doing what he does best - that is smiling every second of the way and loving the job he’s loved for all his life in the form of putting his right foot down and racing.

Not bad for a 40 year old rookie, really.