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Rubens Barrichello Q&A: we're not here to make up the numbers 10 Mar 2009

Rubens Barrichello (BRA). Formula One Testing, Day One, Barcelona, Spain, 9 March 2009. Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Brawn BGP 001 Formula One Testing, Day Two, Barcelona, Spain, 10 March 2009. Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Brawn BGP 001 makes a practice pitstop. Formula One Testing, Day Two, Barcelona, Spain, 10 March 2009. Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Brawn BGP 001 Formula One Testing, Day Two, Barcelona, Spain, 10 March 2009. Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Brawn BGP 001 stops on track. Formula One Testing, Day Two, Barcelona, Spain, 10 March 2009.

After last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix not a lot of people would have bet on seeing Rubens Barrichello back in a Formula One car. But then Honda’s decision to withdraw changed everything. And with Ross Brawn now the controlling force behind the team, the decision to let Barrichello add to his 267 starts, alongside team mate Jenson Button, was a pragmatic one. In a sport with reduced testing and a raft of new regulations, experience is a valuable commodity indeed…

Q: Rubens, are you happy to still be here in Formula One racing?
Rubens Barichello:
I am delighted to be here. Like I have said to some of you friends, and you've seen on the column on my website, for some reason I could not confirm that I would be racing - but I didn’t feel Interlagos was my last race. Something told me it wasn’t. So I had three months at least of being patient, losing weight and keeping firm, talking to the team instead of talking to other people. So I kept it quite silent. And it worked perfectly. I am so glad I am going to drive the car on Tuesday.

Q: How close was it between you and Bruno Senna?
RB:
That you have to have to ask Ross!

Q: But you must have a feeling about that?
RB:
I don’t think my chance came this winter. I think my chance started when I was running for Ferrari. Some people might not know my speed, but Ross does. I have a feeling that it didn’t start then, I have a feeling that Ross had to go through a lot of stuff. But seeing the outcome, that I am driving, I think it was his wish since the first time I said I would like to keep driving.

Q: Have you spoken to Senna?
RB:
I have tried. I left a message on his voice mail. We are good friends, and although we haven’t talked for the past few months when we were fighting for the same position, it has nothing to do with us. It is sheer coincidence that we ended up after the same place at the same time. But I wish him all the very best. For someone who has four years of experience, he has done fantastically well. He has a future in F1 for sure. I haven’t seen anyone just yet with the capability of having run four years in cars, and all of a sudden getting to F1, and doing so well like he did in testing. I am just lucky that at this time F1 changed a little bit, and because of a lack of testing, it is going to more experienced driving again. But I wish him all the very best.

Q: How influential in the decision process was it that you had already seen the development of the new car last year?
RB:
Not at all, because we didn’t have an engine until January. So that was affecting the whole structure of the team and the way they would go for some of the stuff - like gearbox and stiffness. We didn’t know if we had a Ferrari or a Mercedes engine. I just knew we had a good engine and that made me feel good. I don’t think the decision was done based on what I knew from the team. We did very little at the end of the year. I had tested the slicks, but when I tested them in July or August it was a different tyre altogether. The tyres are much more developed now, so I don’t think the situation was developed from what I knew about the team.

Q: You said you had a feeling that you would still be in the team. Can you explain that a little bit more?
RB:
It’s nothing that can be explained. All I heard at that last race in Brazil was people saying, ‘how does it feel, that this could be your last race?’ Something told me that it wasn’t my last race. But I don’t think it is explainable. I just felt very secure. As for my friends and family, all they ask now is ‘how could you feel so secure?’ I didn’t go to the gym because I wanted to show my body on the beach, it was because I knew I was driving the car. But nobody told me I was driving the car, it was a case of being good within myself and to keep on working. I went to the gym everyday thinking I had to keep my body strong, my neck strong, because at some point somebody would call and I would have to drive. So that is what I have done and I have done it with some security from myself. But nobody told me, apart from Ross who kept telling me to keep fit, as we might call you!

Q: Having seen the times Jenson has done, it looks interesting, doesn’t it?
RB:
It looks interesting indeed. But all of a sudden people will write that we are lucky something happened. But I must congratulate the whole team for their efforts since this car was started in May/June last year. There was a lot of effort and a lot of things behind that, so we knew aerodynamically that the car had all the potential to be strong. So today is good proof of that. We are delighted that the car is running reliably and I am so pleased I am going to be driving it on day two.

Q: And you’re even more pleased that you will be driving it in Australia…
RB:
Well, I am not going to Australia feeling differently to before. Some people are saying I am going there happy because I am going to keep adding to my numbers. It is something that I am pleased about, but it will be one day in 10 years time when we are sat down with a glass of wine saying I competed in 300 Grands Prix. For me, it doesn’t matter apart from the fact that I am only back to win. It has been a tough two or three years, and I am not here to promise anything. But I am only here competing because I feel I have the chance to win. The day that doesn’t happen, I don’t care anything about the numbers.

Q: How much have this year’s regulation changes helped the team?
RB:
Obviously it does help when you have the change in the regulations early enough for you to point out how the development should go. But everyone had the same time, and you could argue that we had more time because we saw last year was so bad in terms of results that people started to put more effort into the new car. But so did everyone else. They had different groups of people working on separate things. We have a good bunch of people here and last year was a tough one because of several things. We were lacking speed on the straight and we were not fast enough. So with all the programmes when we discussed how many stops we were going to do, you always had a bad feeling. You had to do one stop less than people to try and get somewhere, so a lot was done. And it was a shock when I received the news that Honda was quitting, as it was for everybody. That is when you see your real friends come along. It was a really nice group of people at Brackley that developed this car, as if it would always have happened, just like I felt for myself that I was always going to drive. I don’t know where we stand right now, but I feel the car is competitive and we are going to have a good season.

Q: You've worked with Ross Brawn for a long time. Could you ever have imagined that one day he would become a team owner?
RB:
Talking to him personally on the side, I think he can answer that more than I can do. I don’t think he ever thought he could become the owner. The idea was always to sell the team to somebody who had money and who wanted to take the team on board and make it happen. It was a solution for him to become team owner. I cannot answer for him but I think he had mixed emotions when the car went out. It was sort of: ‘wow the car is going and it has my name’. I thought he had mixed emotions.

Q: How do you think he will be as a team owner? What will he bring the team?
RB:
To be very honest, I think it will change very little. He is the guy who is going to give everything for the team to go. But he is the boss in the way he was last year. The only change is that right now he is on top of everything - plus it is his car. So he is the one behind this car coming alive. Everything was reported to him when they made modifications to the aerodynamics or someone wanted to do something different on the suspension. So you could say this car is very much Ross’s baby.

Q: Are you optimistic about the performance of this year?
RB:
Absolutely. Like I said, I think it would not be my desire to just come in and compete with something that I did not think was good and was just making up the numbers. I have had the best four months of my life in one way - I had my family and my friends and I worked with no pressure, which was really good. So I could see that one day when I stop that I will have a good and normal life. But after two weeks like that, I was already driving fast on the road. I was already having this feeling that I cannot stop. It is something odd and talking to the team I knew where the car was and the good numbers on the aerodynamics. And everything made me feel that I could still compete on a higher level and go to win.

Q: Did you ever consider other race series?
RB:
No. I think it was amazing how you guys write things down and then the other guys in Brazil copy it. Then it gets translated to Italian and it becomes Russian, and then it goes around. It is amazing how many stories I have seen about my name that were all basically untrue. For me the worst was the one that said Senna had already signed for three years with the team. The team didn’t even have a name or an owner. That was the worst story created by some of the press, but it was funny how I saw my name in IRL, in ChampCar, in Stock Cars. In reality I was racing go karts in Brazil just to keep fit.

Q: How will this team behave differently now Ross, not Honda, is the owner?
RB:
Is it going to be like a small Stewart family working? It might be a smaller team just working together, not going through too many people to get an answer. It might work in our favour. I think Honda have done brilliantly, and I am sorry to see them go, but you have got to say that there is always a culture difference and a difficulty in the language. So it was a tough thing. Coming from that tough moment, walking through the desert, and not seeing the end. Right now we are at the end. So now the smaller team could be an affirmative answer to all the problems. All I wanted to see at the team was what I found at Ferrari - they were really good at winning together and losing together. The team is quite small now, so it could be like that. That is what I am looking forward to working on, and I am sure Ross is in the same boat. That is what makes it a competitive F1 team. It is not going to the press and saying this is bad or this is good, it is about winning together and losing together and working on the problem.

Q: If you are with a small team, when you grow you know every role is vital. Is there a danger when you are shrinking that you could get rid of the wrong people?
RB:
It could be. But to be very honest I don’t want to get into the political point. I don’t know how many people will be told to go home, if any. Whenever you have something big and it shrinks you want to keep the good ones. You could be saying, okay, these two used to do two different jobs and we need to send one home and now this one will do both jobs. This is a bad thing, definitely. You want the good people to do whatever they are good at. Ferrari always had people doing their jobs correctly. That is the modern life in F1; it is not only us suffering that. I think the crisis is coming on the whole world. I’ve been in America for some of my vacation with my family, and I could not believe how many shops were closing - shops where you went a month ago and they were huge. So it is just like the modern world - it will shrink.