Barrichello: I'm still a rookie

2012-04-02 08:31

BIRMINGHAM, USA -   Veteran driver Rubens Barrichello has a record 322 Formula 1 starts - among them 11 wins - and 1.5-million Twitter followers.

Despite all that, Barrichello says he will be a rookie during the 2012 IndyCar season.

He said piloting a still-unfamiliar car at venues where he's never raced makes him every bit the neophyte and deserving of the extra practice session granted to rookies and drivers ranked outside the top 10.


Barrichello said: "I'm definitely a rookie. I can see the likes of (Josef) Newgarden as a rookie. He's done Indy Lights. He knows the track, but he's a rookie because he's so young. (Simon) Pagenaud is a rookie but he has done races before.

"People are saying that I have 19 years of experience and I'm not a rookie," he said.

"I don't want to run for the championship as a rookie. But when I go to Long Beach - let's say I finish top-10 here - I don't know the track. I don't know the car very well, and maybe I have only an hour and a half to try the track. I think this is not right, because I am a rookie. I need that half-hour to learn the track."

Barrichello, in his debut season in KV Racing Technology's No.8 car, will compete in his second IndyCar event, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

He spent two days testing at Barber Motorsports Park, even if one was marred by rain. IndyCar rules merely state that the series decides who receives rookie status.

Beaux Barfield, president of competition, said he made the decision on Barrichello based on precedent and level of experience. IndyCar did not classify Sebastian Bourdais, a winner of 31 open-wheel races, as a rookie in 2011.

In 2012, Katherine Legge (28 Champ Car starts) and Pagenaud are rookies. Pagenaud competed in one season of Champ Car in 2007 and ran three IndyCar races in 2011.


In Nascar, former Formula 1 star Juan Pablo Montoya was the 2007 Rookie of the Year. Going back even further, Nigel Mansell was Formula 1 champion but counted as a Cart rookie in 1993 before winning the points title.

Tony Kanaan, Barrichello's team mate, also argues that Barrichello meets the definition of a rookie. He said: "I still don't understand how a guy that never raced in IndyCar cannot be classified as a rookie. I understand he's got experience, but so had Simon Pagenaud. I still don't understand that."

Improving on a rocky debut is of more immediate concern for Barrichello and his team. He was 17th in St Petersburg after running out of fuel with a couple of laps left on the street course. Mechanical difficulties also limited him to eight laps in the first practice session.

Now he shifts to a road course and Kanaan thinks he could finish up front.

Kanaan said: "I know he's going to do well. I have no doubt how good he's going to do so for me there will be no surprises. Hopefully he's understanding more and more.

"It'll be the first race he comes back to a track where he's already tested. I think he can win every race. I definitely have a lot of faith in the guy and I know he's talented."


Barrichello ran 25 laps before the first qualifying session was stopped by lightning on the 3.8km, 17-turn course. He was fifth-fastest with a lap of 1min11.60.

Defending champion Will Power was fastest (1min11.29), followed by Helio Castroneves (1min11.50), Takuma Sato (1min11.56) and rookie Josef Newgarden (1min11.59). A number of drivers didn't bother slogging through the afternoon practice session under heavy rain, with Barrichello's nine laps the third most ahead of Saturday's qualifying.

Now the Brazilian wants a better weekend. He certainly has the seasoning to deal with setbacks such as St Petersburg and any critics during his transition.

Kanaan said: "We've got to a level in our careers - I don't think we need to prove anything to anybody. It's for ourselves and to do good for our team. If people want to bash or criticize him, I don't think he cares. He knows what he's doing and when the time is right, he's going to do it."