Formula 1 veteran Rubens Barrichello has turned 40 today [Wednesday] while preparing for his inaugural Indy 500 start this coming Sunday.
Rubinho started 322 Grands Prix between South Africa 1993 and Brazil 2011, making his debut with the Jordan-Hart and scoring his first points in Japan, finishing in fifth place.
That race went into the history books as the day when new boy Eddie Irvine upset the victorious great Ayrton Senna, but many overlook the fact that Rubinho beat his 'Suzuka-specialist' (albeit rookie) team-mate Irvine in the intra-team battle.
The following year, on the Friday of that black weekend at Imola, he survived a serious crash and in the second half of the season he earned Jordan Grand-Prix's first ever pole position in the 1994 Belgian GP at Spa-Francorchamps.
A few years at Jordan GP were followed by three learning years under the eyes of Sir Jackie Stewart at Stewart-Ford, which led to his contract at Ferrari. At the German GP in 2000 finally he managed to step at the top step of the podium, followed by eight more wins for the Scuderia.
Having been fed up with the constant number two status, he joined Honda F1, but - with a dog of a car - podiums, such as at Silverstone 2008, were rare sights. His career was almost over when he received a vote of confidence from the team's new owner, Ross Brawn. Rubinho scored two more wins with Brawn GP, after which he spent two fruitless seasons with Williams.
Having been dropped by the Grove-based team, he took his long-term friend Tony Kanaan's advice to join the IndyCar Series and the two became team-mates at KV Racing. So far he has completed four races with the best result of eight at Barber Motorsports Park.
Rubinho never raced on Indy-style ovals (using the banked corner at Indianapolis for the F1 race doesn't count), so this weekend's Indy 500 will be a baptism of fire for the amicable Brazilian. Nevertheless, the start of his Indy 500 adventure looks good, as he qualified tenth in the 33-car field.
By the end of the weekend we will find our whether Rubinho can celebrate his 40th birthday with a pint of milk in Victory Lane!
by Zoltan Karpathy