Rubens Barrichello has received two positive indicators that moving to the US-based IndyCar Series would be a possible means of extending his motor racing career after completing a day of testing with KV Racing Technology at Sebring.
Barrichello and friend Tony Kanaan shared the team's new Dallara-Chevrolet DW12 in Florida, with the F1 veteran - who was driving an IndyCar for the first time and making his Sebring debut -, ran 94 laps, or approximately 150 miles. Making progress throughout the day, he eventually worked his way down to times that were competitive with drivers who have been in the series for several years and had tested at Sebring before.
"I had a very very nice day with KV Racing Technology,” Barrichello said, “In the morning, I was getting used to the car and not doing anything silly, because obviously you don't want to put it in the wall. It's a different machine from what I'm used to, but it had a good feeling. You could call me a rookie, even though I've had 33 years doing this job, but today I was an IndyCar rookie."
Despite refusing to give any clue as to whether he was seriously considering a switch of codes, Barrichello hoped that he had helped make a useful contribution to the team's development of the all-new car-engine combination.
"Whatever happens for the future, which might change, all I said at the beginning was that I want Kevin [Kalkhoven], Jimmy [Vasser] and Tony to remember that, when we were here at Sebring, 'Rubens tried that and it was really good and made us go faster, so let's try that again for this circuit'," he noted, "I've had a very good and productive day behind the wheel and, with all the set-up options that I have tried, I think it went well. "
Barrichello and Kanaan have known each other for almost 30 years and refer to each other as brothers, but this was the first time in their careers that the pair had tested the same type of car on the same day. Kanaan, who was testing at Sebring for the second time with the new Dallara, completed 84 laps, but was clearly impressed with what his countryman had achieved.
"Well, there really isn't much to say,” he claimed, “The guy comes here for the first time and, after 20 laps, he's already running the same lap times as me! His knowledge and experience helped confirm some ideas that we had for this test, so it was very productive having Rubens around."
Team co-owner, and former CART champion, Vasser also remarked favourably on Barrichello's contribution to the day.
"I can say that we are all very pleased with today's test - the entire team did an excellent job," he reported, "This was Ruben's first time in an IndyCar and I think he enjoyed himself. Certainly, we had a lot of fun working with him. Most importantly, if he is going to have this kind of effect on Tony, we are going to have to figure out a way to keep him around.”
Even as recently as the eve of his test, Barrichello was quoted as saying that he hoped to find a way of prolonging his F1 career into a twentieth season, although it appeared that he was hoping for either a replacement role or a return after 2012, as only HRT has a vacancy for the coming campaign. His stock is clearly rising in the USA, however, as IndyCar Series boss Randy Bernard made no secret of his interest in adding the Brazilian to the grid.
“He's a champion, a driver who would be a tremendous addition to a series,” he told the Associated Press
, “Indycar would love to have him and, if there is a transition, I want him to know that we're here to help him.”
KVRT has yet to confirm the identity of its other two drivers, although EJ Viso is understand to remain in contention for one of the seats, and several other high-profile drivers remain without rides for 2012.