ISTANBUL, Turkey -- A chance to drive for Ferrari sounds like a dream job, but it's one that many top Formula One drivers wouldn't touch.
Because the other driver at Ferrari is Michael Schumacher, of course.
It is a big challenge to be Michael's teammate 1) because he's fast and 2) because there's either the real or the perceived notion that Michael gets preferential treatment and that his teammate sometimes has to defer to him.
Rubens Barrichello has had that difficult job for five seasons (and in each of those years Schumacher won the World Championship), but he's now handing over the reins to fellow Brazilian Felipe Massa.
So what advice can Barrichello offer to Massa on how to cope with being Michael's teammate?
"The only thing I told Felipe was not to use the toilet on the top [level
of the team motor home] because I had bad times there, so just be careful there," Barrichello quipped.
Barrichello didn't elaborate exactly what the bad times were in that
toilet, but he did talk about being Michael's teammate.
"Felipe is going to have a tough time, absolutely, but if I was in his
position, younger, eager to win, I probably would have done the same,"
Barrichello said before practice began for the inaugural Grand Prix of
Barrichello had been an F1 driver for seven years when he joined Ferrari in 2000 at age 27. Over the years, he has had to play backup to Schumacher more than once, including the infamous 2002 Austrian Grand Prix where Barrichello dominated but was ordered by the team to move over and let Michael win.
But Barrichello, who moves to BAR Honda in 2006, says that things have changed and that Massa will get fairly equal treatment at Ferrari next season.
"I'm proud to say now that the team is different to the one when I came to Ferrari in 2000," Barrichello said. "It is much broader in its thoughts,
and thinking much more of both drivers, so I think Felipe will have an
advantage compared to myself if you look back to 2000. But the rest is up to him to show his speed. Speed is much better than words."
Massa is 24 years old. He made his F1 debut in 2002, spent 2003 working as a test driver for Ferrari and rejoined Sauber in 2004. Ferrari has had a contract option on him since 2001.
"I am still young," Massa said. "When you have a competitive car, and when you have the opportunity to go to Ferrari, it is fantastic for a young guy, so I feel ready. I have some good experience in F1 already, and now is the time to take the opportunity to show what I can do. Going to Ferrari is always an incredible opportunity."
Back in 2002, Massa had a couple on-track run-ins with veteran Jacques Villeneuve, who was pretty caustic in his opinions of the rookie.
Now, however, they are Sauber Petronas teammates; they get along well and have a lot of respect for each other. Like Barrichello, Villeneuve says Massa is doing the right thing by going to Ferrari.
"In his position, it is the best thing he could have done," Villeneuve said.
"He has matured a lot compared to a couple of years ago," Villeneuve added. "He will have to learn how to drive at the front, which he will have to do once he is at Ferrari. He didn't have the opportunity to practice here."
Certainly Schumacher should be able to teach Massa a lot.
"I am not sure that Michael will want to teach anyone," Villeneuve said.
"That is not what drivers do -- you don't teach other drivers how to beat you."
But he doesn't expect Massa to sit around getting beaten.
"He does not seem to have the personality for a number two," Villeneuve said. "He is a fighter. I'd be surprised if he just goes there, sits down and accepts everything."
In recent years, Barrichello insisted that his Ferrari contract did not
stipulate that he had to defer to Schumacher.
Massa says the same.
"This is not written in my contract," he stated.
Whatever the terms of the contract, there is no way an up-and-coming driver like Massa would turn down the chance to drive for Ferrari.
But, equally, there is no way an established star like Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso or Juan Pablo Montoya would go to Ferrari at the moment -- because as long as Schumacher is there, it is going to be Michael's team.
Dan Knutson covers Formula One for National Speed Sport News and ESPN.com.