When is an IndyCar rookie not a rookie? When he's an F1 driver with 19 years of Grand Prix experience by the name of Rubens Barrichello, according to the organisers of the IZOD IndyCar Series.
IZOD IndyCar Series president of competition Beaux Barfield had previously decided not to classify Barrichello as a rookie for road courses in the 2012 season because of his motor racing resumé, but conceded on Monday that this could put the Brazilian at a disadvantage as he tries to learn the new tracks and the new chassis and engines that the series is using.
As a result, Barfield has modified Barrichello's status for road courses and will allow him to participate in an extra half hour of track time on circuits where he has not previously tested with KV Racing in 2012. That will be done by putting Barrichello into the Group 1 designation for the first practice session reserved for rookies and those drivers outside the top ten in the championship points.
After the first two races of the 2012 season, Barrichello is already in tenth place and tied with reigning series champion Dario Franchitti on points. That meant he looked set to miss out on the additional time at this upcoming weekend's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 15 on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary street circuit in California.
Barfield said that Barrichello's status has been "re-evaluated based on team request," after IndyCar had earlier determined that the F1 veteran of 322 Grand Prix starts was not a rookie based on past precedent and the level of experience.
"He will be allowed to participate in the first 30 minutes of the first practice session and he also gets an extra set of tyres," Barfield explained. "So that's a benefit.
"Street circuits that can be quirky and difficult to learn he has the benefit of that extra set of tyres and the extra 30 minutes of practice to learn the track quickly and get down to business," he added.
Barrichello won't get the time and tyres dispensation for the August race at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California, as he has already participated in team testing there. The same will apply for any other road/street courses that he tests on between now and any race at the same circuit.
"[Thanks] for letting me have the extra 30min on street courses," tweeted Rubens Barrichello after learning of the decision.
Barrichello is already listed as a rookie for oval races and is expected to have his first taste of ovals at Texas Motor Speedway on May 6. He will have to undergo and complete rookie testing there before being eligible to take part in qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 race.