F1 Fanatic guest writer Journeyer begins a new series of F1 driver retrospectives with a look at the most experienced driver of them all: Rubens Barrichello.
Rubens Barrichello won the first Chinese Grand Prix in 2004 – in fact, that was his last victory to date.
In this first part of a look back on Barrichello’s career we will see how he made a name for himself in Formula Three before graduating to F1 with Jordan in 1993. After that he came tantalisingly close to scoring his first F1 win with Stewart before leaving the team to join Ferrari.
1991: This was Rubens’ breakout year in the junior formulae. He won the British Formula 3 Championship from fellow future F1 star David Coulthard. He also raced in Macau (car 11 in the Casio livery), but could only manage fifth to Coulthard there. His team mate Jordi Gene finished second. Other racers on that grid included Jacques Villeneuve and Paul Stewart, son of Sir Jackie.
1993: After a relatively quiet year in Formula 3000, he got called up to Formula 1 by Eddie Jordan. And he made quite the entrance, driving a brilliant race in the wet European Grand Prix at Donington Park to go up from 12th to second. He was contending for a podium, before a fuel system problem shut off his car with just three laps to go.
1994: This was a very emotional year for Rubens. It started on a high, with fourth at Interlagos and a first podium at Aida. Then came Imola. His major shunt at the Variante Bassa was only the beginning of F1’s darkest-ever weekend. Rubens himself was lucky to get away with only a chopped-off tongue (which he nearly choked on, but was eventually completely sewed back).
WARNING: This scene depicts a very dangerous accident. Discretion is advised.
But then came another high – his and Jordan’s first pole position at Spa. His race wasn’t as good, though – going off and out at Pouhon.
1995: Rubens slightly went off the boil this year, nearly being beaten by Eddie Irvine that season. Still, he scored Jordan’s best result to date with a second place in Canada. That was also achieved thanks to a bit of good luck – Michael Schumacher’s Benetton suffered gearbox problems.
1996: It was a hot and cold year for Barrichello. Often, the car would either score points or not finish at all. Fourth in Buenos Aires and Silverstone were Rubens’ best results, but he might’ve gotten a podium in Barcelona, had the car let him.
At this point, Rubens’ working relationship with Jordan was getting frayed. It was time to move on to a new challenge.
1997: After the death of Ayrton Senna, one could say that Rubens did not have a mentor until he began working for Sir Jackie Stewart and his new team. Rubens was able to regain his confidence and speed. His debut year for Stewart also saw his best race to date – a second place at Monaco, giving the Stewart team a podium in their debut year. It would prove to be the best result for a rookie team for 12 years. Unfortunately, it was the only time Barrichello scored all year.
1998: This was a forgettable year for Rubens – two 5th places were his only points all year. At least he beat his teammate Jan Magnussen, as well as his midseason replacement Jos Verstappen.
These were the highlights from Canada, where Rubens finished fifth, thanks to cars taking each other out more than anything. And yes, the Japanese commentary is still off the scale!
1999: Year three of the Stewart project, and the team suddenly came good. Rubens scored 1 pole (in France) and three podiums. But Johnny Herbert giving the team their one and only win at the Nurburgring was not what Rubens had in mind. Rubens also suffered some rotten luck at Interlagos, going out of the race while in the lead.
France was still his best race that year, though, fighting and defending from Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen!
Towards the end of 1999, Barrichello got an offer from Ferrari to replace Eddie Irvine. Sir Jackie advised him not to take it, seeing the fate of Michael’s previous teammates. But after dinner with Luca di Montezemolo himself during the Italian Grand Prix weekend, Rubens thought he could take the fight to Michael. He duly signed for the Scuderia for 2000.
His years with Ferrari, Honda, and Brawn will be covered in part two tomorrow.
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