F1 renaissance boy Rubens Barrichello has quipped that he brought older drivers back en vogue
in the top flight last year with his title-challenging form at the grand old age of 37 – and as he now endeavours to put all of his wealth of experience to good use to drive Williams back towards the front of the pack in 2010, the Brazilian has warned his rivals: “I'm up for it!”
Having been pensioned off by many observers in the wake of Honda's sudden and shock withdrawal from F1 competition at the end of 2008 – Barrichello's 16th season at the highest level since making his debut with Jordan Grand Prix all the way back in 1993 – the Paulista's experience ultimately saw him retained by team principal Ross Brawn as the beleaguered Brackley-based outfit fought back from the brink of oblivion and re-invented itself as Brawn GP over the winter months.
It was that same breadth of experience that enabled 'Rubinho' to overcome a first half to the campaign that saw him routinely outpaced by team-mate Jenson Button – and lose his cool in very public fashion following a poor strategic call by his team that arguably cost him his first victory of the year in the German Grand Prix at the Nürburging mid-summer – to battle back over the second half, by coping noticeably better as the Mercedes-powered BGP 001 fell from the very front-running pace and proving unbeatable at both Valencia and Monza as he launched a late bid for glory.
As proof that there is life in the old dog yet, it was convincing indeed, and the eleven-time grand prix-winner will find himself joined on the starting grid in 2010 – his 18th campaign in F1 – by fellow 'oldies' Pedro de la Rosa, a year his senior, and former Ferrari team-mate and seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, who at 41 is now incredibly into his fifth decade.
Barrichello contends that it is a combination of his performance in what is inarguably the autumn of his career, allied to the far greater restrictions on testing these days that penalise young, untried newcomers, that has opened teams' eyes once more to the value of experience – and even as he prepares to hit the 300 grand prix marker this year at Suzuka in Japan, he makes it very clear that his determination to succeed remains undimmed.
“It's good to see them back,” he told ITV-F1
when asked about Mercedes Grand Prix returnee Schumacher and Sauber recruit de la Rosa. “I think that after last year when I drove a competitive car and almost won the championship, [it] obviously gave the people in the paddock a different sensation.
“Five years ago it was all about Kimi Raikkonen and 'he's 22-years-old' and it was about new drivers. Formula 1 wanted new drivers all the time; [Robert] Kubica was the same and then so on. Now, with no testing, it just makes the older drivers attractive.
“I'm up for it. I'm very motivated and all my experience will count, so I'm going to give [Williams] all the feedback possible to be winners. If that's going to be the case, we have to wait and see; [it's] still unpredictable.”
Barrichello wound up comfortably quickest of the twelve drivers present in pre-season F1 testing at Jerez yesterday, as rain continued to lash the southern Spanish circuit.