Barrichello has been unsung hero at Ferrari
Two of his best memories are bookends of his tenure with the famous Prancing Horse team.
"One of my best memories is standing here on the podium last year with Luca de Montezemolo, the president [of Ferrari]," Barrichello says.
"Here" is the Shanghai International Circuit that is hosting the Chinese Grand Prix for a second time. A year ago, Barrichello won the inaugural F1 race in China. It was his ninth Grand Prix win and, barring some bizarre circumstances in Sunday's race, his last for Ferrari, as he is switching teams next year.
A favorite memory he has came prior to the start of the 2000 season when he went to Ferrari's private Fiorano test track to drive the F1 car for the first time.
"Another great moment, which I can remember as if it was yesterday, was the first time I went to Fiorano and saw my name on a Ferrari," he recalls. "It was snowing and I had to wait for the snow to clear before I could drive the car."
Barrichello made his F1 debut at age 20 in 1993. He spent four seasons with Jordan and three with Stewart Ford before getting the revered call to join Ferrari. And now, after six years with the Italian team, he is moving on to BAR Honda in 2006.
"There have been lots of good moments," he says. "I arrived at Ferrari when they were having a very difficult time, and I am very proud to have been part of the period of growth."
During his stay with the team, Ferrari won six constructors' championships and teammate Michael Schumacher won five driving titles.
|“||There certainly have been more happy moments than sad ones with Ferrari. ”|
|— Rubens Barrichello|
In addition to his nine wins, Barrichello racked up 12 poles, 24 second-place finishes and 25 third-place runs while at Ferrari. Between 2000 and 2004 he was always between second and fourth in the final points standings.
Of course, there have been difficult times as well.
"The worst moment, unlike what people think, was not Austria 2002," he says. "It was when I ran out of fuel while leading the 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix. That sticks in my throat."
Barrichello had dominated the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix only to be ordered by the team to move over and let teammate Schumacher win. It takes a special type of driver to partner with Schumacher, and in the past couple of seasons Barrichello has finally had enough of Schumacher's aggressive tactics.
"I have always gone for trying to have a peaceful relationship with Michael," Barrichello says, "but it has not always been that easy. I was not very happy with Michael in Monaco this year. I got out of the car and said to Michael, 'You really didn't need to do that.' But that is in the past and forgotten. In terms of good things with Michael, I will remember the one-two finishes."
Barrichello was running eighth in Monaco this year with Schumacher behind him. On the last lap, Schumacher went blazing past. Barrichello had two choices: let Schumacher by or crash with this teammate.
All in all, however, they worked well together, and Barrichello deserves a lot of credit for the success of Ferrari and Schumacher.
So will Schumacher miss Barrichello?
"He will still be around," Schumacher says, "he just won't be my teammate anymore. So it is not about missing him."
But will Schumacher miss Barrichello as a teammate?
"Yes," Schumacher, "and I have said many things about the situation; that it has been a good time we had together. But I don't feel like he is gone. I have a different feeling. We don't work directly together anymore. I am sure will see him at all the parties we are going to go to in the future, and we will still have fun privately, and that sometimes counts more than working next to each other. We have had a successful time, and now I look forward to having one with Felipe Massa."
Barrichello will miss being part of the Ferrari mystique.
"I will miss being part of Ferrari, especially when I go to [the Italian races in] Imola and Monza next year with the crowd there," he says. "I will miss the warmth of the Italian fans. I will remember the smiles of the mechanics when I delivered a good result. There certainly have been more happy moments than sad ones with Ferrari."
A week after his final Grand Prix with Ferrari, Barrichello will be back where it all started at the Fiorano circuit, where he will give members of his family rides in a three-seater F1 car.
"That will be my farewell to Ferrari," he says. "I am going to take them for a ride and show them what I mean about going fast. Granddad, father and everybody. After that I will just be exercising and being a dad."
He remains under contract with Ferrari until the end of the year, so he won't be back in an F1 car until he starts testing the BAR Honda in January.
Barrichello is trying to keep an even temperament in his 104th and final Grand Prix with Ferrari.
"This is really a normal weekend for me," he says. "I am sure that it will become a bit emotional on Sunday, but for the moment I am going out there trying to do my best, the same as usual. There is no reason for me to feel sad because I have chosen to go down a different path after six years. It is a move forward for me."
Dan Knutson covers Formula One for National Speed Sport News and ESPN.com.