Rubens Barrichello's exit from F1 and his switch to the IZOD IndyCar Series was one of the most sensational stories of the 2012 pre-season build-up; but 12 races into his US open wheel racing career, Barrichello appears to be disappointed with how his post-F1 career has gone so far.
In recent interviews with Auto Motor und Sport
in Germany and SPEED TV in the US, Barrichello said that he still believed that there was a chance he could return to F1, having described the 2012 Grand Prix season as "sensational." (See separate story
However, Barrichello was quick to add that this didn't mean he wasn't taking his IndyCar racing seriously. "I am not racing in IndyCar as a last resort, I am competing because I love racing," he said. "I am happy that I can drive here and I do not see myself as a victim."
But there have clearly been frustrations related to his move to the US - some of them because of the inherent differences between F1 and IndyCar, while others have been more to do with the KV Racing Technology team with whom he has a one year deal in place. It seems changes may be coming, one way or another.
Barrichello singled out the heavier IndyCars less reliant on aerodynamics than their F1 counterparts, an emphasis on fuel conservation and the lack of tyre warmers and power steering for his problems adjusting to the new environment. Instead, IndyCar relies on classic mechanical set-up adjustments to dampers, springs and roll-bars to tweak performance, and has recently re-introduced a basic turbocharger overboost "push-to-pass" system instead of F1's hi-tech KERS and DRS technologies.
"In F1 there are lots of electronic toys, there is none here," Barrichello said, hinting that IndyCar technology was in a state more like that of F1 a decade ago. "There is nothing wrong, it is simply less money," he added, pointing out that an IndyCar operation could run on $5 million a year versus the $50 million required in F1.
Ironically, given his initial concerns over running on ovals, his best result to date has been seventh place at Iowa Speedway. He also finished in 11th place in his maiden Indianapolis 500 outing, and claimed tenth place on the Milwaukee Mile oval track.
"Strangely, I have my best results on ovals, and I tell you why," he said. "You need to have a smooth driving style to pick up points," he said, adding that this suited his temperament. Even so, he admitted that the whole thing had been "a whole new experience - in the beginning you're buzzing around just one thought in mind, just keep away from this wall!"
By contrast, Barrichello hasn't been enjoying the street and road circuits, most of which are so tight and bumpy that they would never have even been considered for F1 events when he was chair of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association. His season started well enough with three top ten finishes in the first four street races, but since then he's struggled to find anything like the set-up he needs for success. Meanwhile Tony Kanaan has gone from strength to strength, and now sits in seventh place in the drivers' championship - ten positions ahead of Barrichello.