A rookie in IndyCar, Barrichello drove along the streets of Toronto for the first time with team KV Racing, in the second weekend in July.
By Sacha Vaz
After 19 years in Formula 1, with 11 victories and a record of 322 races run, Barrichello, 40, started in IndyCar when invited by a friend and pilot Tony Kanaan, now team mate at KV Racing.
Born in the same neighborhood as the famous Interlagos circuit in São Paulo, he started his career at a very young age driving karts in Interlagos. Still as a boy, Rubinho used to sneak into the track to watch the races.
For the first time racing in Toronto, Barrichello said he was nervous with the challenge, despite all the years racing in F1 getting excellent results in Monaco, which is also a street circuit.
Although this was his first visit to the city, the pilot has visited Canada many times to race the Montreal F1 Grand Prix.
Together with his wife Silvana and their two kids, Barrichello visited the CN Tower with the family and had dinner at the Italian restaurant Sotto Sotto, in the Annex, a neighborhood in downtown Toronto.
On Saturday 7, a day before the race, the Wave team was at the pit stop of KV Racing. While Rubinho was racing in the qualifying practice, we talked to Silvana, who was there with their kids: “I was planning to visit Niagara Falls today, but my kids don’t want to be away from their dad and want to stay here and watch him practice,” she said.
A big fan of Corinthians, Rubinho celebrated the team’s win in the Libertadores Cup with a sticker of the team placed on his Honda Indy car in Toronto.
The IndyCar track in Toronto is located around Exhibition Place, one of the biggest event arenas in Canada, by Lake Ontario. Even though he arrived 11th on the 26th edition of the event, Barrichello had a good race and managed to be in the fifth position with only five laps left to the end of the race.
Kanaan was very close to the podium as he was second for a long time, but ended up finishing the race in fourth place. Another Brazilian who did well was Helio Castroneves, who finished in sixth place. But American pilot Ryan Hunter-Reay of team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda won the street circuit in Toronto, on July 8.
During his interview with Wave, Barrichello told us about his change from F1 to IndyCar, the difference between the cars and went back in time to talk about who Ayrton Senna was in his life.
How do you compare a F1 race with the IndyCar race?
Barrichello – They are very different. With F1, race strategy is as important as with IndyCar, but here it is very important to understand the rules. IndyCar is much more complex than F1, you have to know the right moment when to save fuel and know what the flags mean. Sometimes you make a mistake because you’re a rookie, but I am having a lot of fun!
Driving a Formula Indy car is very different than driving an F1 car. I am still struggling to get used to the car, that has a turbo engine and it does not have hydraulic steering power and tire warmers. Also, the pit stops are much narrower and I am still taking longer than I should at the stops. For me, this is all a new challenge.
“I still get butterflies in my stomach before every race. If I stop feeling it, I will know I no longer love my job and I should go home”
Which tips did Tony Kanaan give you when you started racing IndyCar?
Barrichello – Kanaan is like a brother to me … we have been friends for a long time. He told me the basic things right in the beginning, but at each race, he gives me specific tips on the tracks like “be careful at this curve, you should avoid this or that …”. So he is helping me.
But now Kanaan is your team mate and also competition. How is this relationship?
Barrichello – I am very competitive and so is he (laughs). Over the last few years, we joined our families and spent New Year’s eve together … when I was an F1 pilot and he was here with IndyCar, we would not see each other almost the entire year so I told him, if we spend 2013 New Year’s eve together that will mean we are almost brothers since we see each other every day. But it’s not easy, because since you are competitive, you want to do the best you can. And when there is a person you care about competing with you, you may consider “taking it easy”. But I told him: “don’t make it easy for me because I won’t do the same for you (laughs)”. Tony is a great pilot, no doubt. One of the best in IndyCar.
If you could describe something that surprised you the most in IndyCar from the first day, what would it be?
Barrichello – Definitely the oval tracks. After three weeks racing in IndyCar, I had the challenge to race in the oval circuits and I think it was the best thing that happened to me. On the first day, I managed to finish 20 laps only because of a technical problem with the car, but the team was very nice to me. I was getting closer to having an accident when they warned me about the car. It takes a while to learn to deal with it. Even when I sit in the car, I feel the difference. It is hard for rookies, but I see the challenge in a positive way.
How did you prepare for your first race in the streets of Toronto? Did you watch videos of previous races?
Barrichello – Yes, of course! I am a fan of IndyCar, and always watched the races. But for the Toronto race, I watched last year’s race video twice to see the maneuvers. By doing this I managed to prepare my mind for what I should expect from the track.
“The biggest challenge of IndyCar is the undulations on the track and I am still not driving 100 percent the way I would like to”
You have turned 40 this year and you have raced almost half of your life in F1. When do you plan to stop racing?
Barrichello – My life has been a positive challenge. I am still racing because I love this job. My wife asked me one of these days if I intend to stop racing one day, so I said maybe at the end of a 50-year career, I may stop (laughs).
Talking about the past now, especially the beginning of the 90’s. Who was Ayrton Senna for you?
Barrichello – Senna was my idol. A person who I knew for a short while, as I was apparently the guy he thought would be successful in the future. At that time we had a big age difference and he was a very private person. We were never friends, never had his phone number or something like that. But I was really crazy about everything Senna did and had the pleasure of racing at a time when he was racing too. So 1993 was a very special year for me and just like all other Brazilians, I carry that good vibration and the smile that Senna had with me.
“I love to say I am a rookie, because it makes me feel young (laughs)”
Weather forecast for the weekend is average air humidity above 50% and rain. You are considered one of the best pilots to have a great performance in the rain. How did that happen?
Barrichello – Brazilians are good in the rain! Only yesterday my kids were racing in their karts in Orlando and it started to rain. I told them it was no problem and that’s how you learn. When it starts raining many people go home. Brazilians stay on the track.