He’s raced in 267 grands prix, enjoyed 9 wins, 13 pole positions and accrued 530 points in 16 years of competing in Formula One. With two second-places in world championships and one third, Rubens Barrichello will pass the grand age of 37 next season. But should the former Jordan, Stewart and Ferrari driver retire gracefully from Honda and racing, allowing a young hotshot the chance to prove himself? Or should the Brazilian driver continue competing for another year?
Rubens Barrichello has enjoyed a long career in Formula One (the longest, in fact), and he was once hailed as the second Ayrten Senna in the making. Unfortunately for Barrichello, luck hasn’t always been on his side, but great drives in the under-funded Jordan and Stewart teams allowed his ability to shine. A promotion to Ferrari came in 2000, but Michael Schumacher was unbeatable during the team’s dominant era. Ever the team player though, Barrichello stood by and watched his team mate win five successive driver’s titles before finally switching teams at the end of Schumacher’s run.
Finding a new home at Honda wasn’t the best of moves, but at the time Rubens found few other options available. With the announcement of former Ferrari Technical Director Ross Brawn to the team chief role at Honda, many thought the fortunes of the Brackley-based squad would see an improvement. However, while many are hopeful the performance of the team will improve, they certainly didn’t during the 2008 campaign.
In Rubens’s first year at Honda, he was outscored by his team mate Jenson Button, but the car was reasonably competitive when everything came good and Barrichello managed a consistent season, finishing on 30 points. 2007 was a let down though for all those involved, and although it was the Brazilian’s first ever point-less campaign, Button’s wasn’t much better with a pitiful 6 points. For 2008, the performance slumped again although Barrichello managed to outscore Button for the first time since their pairing. A fine podium at Silverstone boosted Barrichello’s haul to 11 points, considerably more than Button’s 3.
Honda are due to test two young GP2 drivers later this month (Senna and Di Grassi), and many Formula One insiders are saying that the writing is on the wall for Rubens. It’s also worth mentioning that the team’s CEO Nick Fry has stated that he will “bring some fresh blood into Formula One” next year, strongly hinting that Barrichello will be replaced.
Do you think Nick Fry is right to bring in a younger driver for 2009, or do you think Barrichello still has some fight in him? Would Honda be taking an unnecessary risk by retiring Barrichello’s wealth of experience, or would they do good by letting a younger and perhaps more hungry driver into the cockpit?