Rubens Barrichello's disappointing Australian Grand Prix could be put down to his struggle to adapt to the latest wave of technology in F1, and the ability to cope with an increasingly-complicated cockpit environment.
That is the claim of a paddock insider, who watched the Brazilian veteran - praised, and prized, for his development skills - spin out of Australian GP qualifying on a warm-up lap and then crash into a hapless Nico Rosberg during the race. Barrichello insisted that he wasn't even trying to overtake the Mercedes driver, adding to the suggestion that he is being overloaded by the requirements of F1's button-laden steering wheels.
"Barrichello had trouble with the multi-function steering wheel he had at Ferrari and, compared to a modern wheel, that's like the [minor division] Kreisliga
versus the Champions League," the insider told Speed Week
The Brazilian would not be alone in thinking that F1 has become more complicated than necessary, with many of his rivals having already complained about the amount of technology they need to control from the cockpit. The reintroduction of KERS and advent of the DRS, or adjustable rear wing, have added two or more buttons to the steering wheel, many of which now need to be used in close succession in order to be competitive, Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso have both voiced their concerns about the increased workload.
A former contemporary of Barrichello's, double world champion Mika Hakkinen, has admitted that he would not contemplate taking on the new breed of driver simply because of the amount of technology that he would have to control. The Finn is of similar age, 42, to Michael Schumacher, who returned to the fray with Mercedes in 2010.
"I would be racing against guys who are 20 years old, [and] these guys are a different generation, their mind is developed differently," Hakkinen told India's Mint
magazine, "I don't want to lose what I have got. I know I cannot take the time back and be young again. You have to be realistic."