On a weekend during which he produced a performance good enough to stake his claim to a prolonged tenure in the top flight, Rubens Barrichello has dismissed as 'invented' suggestions that he may be IndyCar Series-bound in 2009.
The 36-year-old's Formula 1 seat at Honda has been the subject of much speculation in recent weeks, with rumours he could be set to lose it to countryman and GP2 Series Vice-Champion Bruno Senna. On the back of that, it was mooted last week that an IndyCar test had been arranged for Barrichello with the multiple championship-winning, Honda-powered Team Penske outfit at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida following the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix early next month [see separate story – click here
Whilst refusing to rule out a move to competition across the Pond one day in the future, the São Paulista – the most experienced driver in F1 history with no fewer than 269 starts under his belt over the course of his record-breaking 16-year career in the uppermost echelon – insisted that day would not come anytime soon.
“Someone invented that story,” he stressed in an interview with Eurosport Motormagazin
in Shanghai. “Because of my friendship with Tony Kanaan, I had the opportunity to go to the Indy 500. Then my wife told me that was the only thing she didn't want me to do, racing on the ovals.
“It would be tempting to drive for a team like that of Roger Penske, but there is nothing to it currently. I don't have his phone number and we have never talked about it. I have only read about it on the internet and, as you can imagine, I was pretty surprised!”
The Brazilian certainly proved he has lost none of his flair with a feisty showing in the Chinese Grand Prix, comfortably out-qualifying team-mate Jenson Button – conversely tipped to retain his place at the Japanese concern next year – and going on to out-race the Briton even more convincingly, making the best use of a bright start from 13th that vaulted him into the top ten early on to take the chequered flag in eleventh spot, his best result since his wholly unexpected rostrum finish at Silverstone back in July.
Along the way the nine-time grand prix winner enjoyed an entertaining battle with the Red Bull Racing of Mark Webber – ultimately beating the Australian to the flag by just over seven seconds – and even briefly ran inside the points before making his first pit-stop on lap 19.
“It was a better race than some of our recent races,” Barrichello acknowledged, “but it is disappointing not to have been able to get into the points. I had a great start and first lap where I overtook three cars to move up to tenth, and I went flat-out for the whole race to try and make up some ground on the people ahead.
“However, our finishing position of eleventh is reflective of what the car is capable of, and we have to be pleased with making the best out of the package that we have available whilst still being disappointed not to score any points.”