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Barrichello: Indy 500 is possible

1 February 2012

Rubens Barrichello is on record in the past as saying that he didn't see himself ever moving over to IndyCar and that he had promised his wife Silvana that he would never, ever race on ovals. But on Tuesday, the loudest sound in the paddock seemed to be Rubens hitting reverse gear on such previous statements.

"I did say that. It came out of my mouth," he admitted. "I never thought I could come over to this side because I thought I would race 25 years in F1 and I should be over and couldn't come this way."

As for the ovals: "There are so many different situations that I could run. I could run on the road tracks; I could run Indy," he added. "There are so many options available, and I'm thankful for the choices at age 39 and still going fast in the car."

But there's not going to be a quick decision either way, he stressed.

"We're going to go back to Brazil, the kids are going to go back to school, and I'm sure we'll be talking about it," he said. "I'm not putting pressure on it; I have to think it through."

Barrichello won't be able to delay the decision for too long, however: KV Racing are believed to be in advanced discussions with both their 2011 driver EJ Viso and also with Firestone Indy Lights' runner-up Esteban Guerrieri to race alongside Tony Kanaan in 2012. Team boss Jimmy Vasser has insisted that sponsorship for Barrichello is definitely available, which possibly signals the option for the team to extend to a four-car line-up if Rubens decides to sign on.

One person who dearly wants to see such a deal happen is IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard. Not the sort of man who would normally be found attending a routine off-season testing session, he was in Florida bright and early on Monday specifically to meet Barrichello.

"That kind of credibility is exactly what calibre and level IndyCar needs to attract," Bernard told reporters. "I'm here just to support and make sure if Rubens has any questions for me," he continued, stressing: "I need to make sure I do what I can to help. That's all I am here for."

IndyCar is still getting over the loss of its former star driver Danica Patrick, who defected to NASCAR over the winter. But getting Barrichello on board would more than compensate for that: just going from social media statistics alone, Danica's 450k Twitter followers are a fraction of the 1.4m that Rubens enjoys.

Whether it happens or not, there was no disguising the enjoyment Barrichello was having at Sebring with his 'brother,' Tony Kanaan. "I woke up a few times before the alarm and wondered if I was on time, because I was excited to get behind the wheel!"

It proved so much fun that Barrichello couldn't tear himself away after the scheduled two days, and he returned for a third on Wednesday. With Viso also at Sebring for the day, Barrichello was time-sharing Kanaan's #11 KV Racing Technology car.

Ahead of the first day of activity on track at Sebring International Raceway with Jimmy Vasser's team, Barrichello had joked "I just hope I don't break anything for Jimmy ... Obviously you don't want to put it in the wall!" but in fact it was Tony Kanaan who had the first incident on Monday when he tore off the front wing after his carbon disc brakes overheated.

Barrichello's familiarity with F1's steering-wheel based gear controls meant that he eased away from the pit box without a problem on his very first attempt. Lacking the same experience with the system, Kanaan stalled the car when it came to his initial turn. It showed how much Barrichello's expertise in F1 could bring to KV Racing Technology and to IndyCar in general, if he did decide to make the transition.

While no formal timings were released from the session, it's thought that Kanaan led the way with a low-53s lap early on Monday morning, which Barrichello matched by the end of the day. That was refined to 53.0s on the second day, a match for the efforts of reigning champion Dario Franchitti in the Ganassi Dallara-Honda.

Driving Andretti Autosport's Dallara-Chevrolet, Ryan Hunter-Reay put in the fastest lap of the two day test session with a time in the low 52s on the 1.8-mile, 10-turn short road course, while Hunter-Reay's new team mate James Hinchcliffe posted a time one tenth of a second off Barrichello's fastest lap.

Penske trio Ryan Briscoe, Helio Castroneves and Will Power were also present on Monday, as was Panther Racing's JR Hildebrand.

Lotus were also in attendance at Sebring, with Oriol Servia scheduled to put the manufacturer's development car through its paces. But Lotus had a more troubled time of it than they did in their first round of tests with Simona de Silvestro earlier in January: the twin-turbo V6 test engine was late getting through customs and developed a leak during its shakedown lap, meaning that it lost all of Monday's track time. Even so, Servia was able to get the car down to a round 54s lap on the Tuesday.

Lotus were not alone to have teething problems, with Ganassi's Graham Rahal and AJ Foyt Racing's Mike Conway both experiencing problems with the Honda engine during their Tuesday activities. Franchitti was unaffected by such issues, and Justin Wilson also seemed glitch-free in his first outing in Dale Coyne Racing's Honda-powered car.


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