Rubens Barrichello still possesses the necessary talent and drive to succeed in Formula 1, reckons Gary Anderson – with the esteemed former designer confident that Brawn GP made the right choice in electing to retain the Brazilian's services in 2009 rather than promoting his young countryman Bruno Senna.
For much of the winter, it was almost taken as read that Senna – nephew of the late, great three-time F1 World Champion Ayrton, and runner-up to Giorgio Pantano in the 2008 GP2 Series – would be making his grand prix debut with the ex-Honda outfit this year.
With the wave of new technical and aerodynamic regulations in F1 putting a premium on experience, however, ultimately the team kept faith in Barrichello – a veteran entering his 17th campaign in the top flight and, as of the Turkish Grand Prix last May, the most experienced driver in the sport's 59-year official history.
Though the nine-time grand prix-winner has not now triumphed since his penultimate season with Ferrari back in 2004, the São Paulista nonetheless by-and-large showed the way to highly-rated team-mate Jenson Button throughout 2008.
Anderson – who worked closely with the 36-year-old at Jordan and then Stewart from 1993 to 1999 – is convinced that should the opportunity present itself – as it did in the rain-lashed British Grand Prix at Silverstone last summer – then 'Rubinho' will not be found wanting.
“I know Rubens very well,” the Ulsterman told Crash.net Radio
, “and I think as a driver he's still got the talent to do it and he's got a new lease of life. Right now, the team has to show stability, and a new driver like Bruno Senna is a risk. They make mistakes – whether they like it or not, they will make some mistakes – and you can't afford to throw away too many mistakes.
“Rubens has made all his mistakes in reality, so he shouldn't be making any more of them and he will bring home the best he can, and Button will do the same. I think those two are for stability the best package; Bruno Senna might end up being a quicker driver in the longer term, but that's probably going to be two years by the time he's gone through the learning curve, maybe even three – and at the minute the Brawn team doesn't have that time to throw away.
“They need to get the best out of everything that they can and show some solid stability in terms of championship points, because over the last couple of years Honda have really had a bit of a battle. Now it's the time to turn the switch and move it the other way.”
The Brackley-based concern certainly seems to have 'turned a switch' in pre-season testing, with both Barrichello and Button tearing up the winter test tracks and leaving their rivals trailing and quite literally gasping for breath. Though some have accused them of running light – or even underweight – in a bid to attract sponsorship, Anderson sees differently.