Remembering... Barrichello's day in the rain

It may have taken 7 years but when Rubens Barrichello did finally break his F1 duck in the 2000 German Grand Prix, he ensured it was one to remember.

By Ollie BarstowFollow @OllieBarstow on Twitter

For a driver that ended his career with 11 wins and positioned inside the world championship top three as recently as 2009, it is easy to forget it ultimately took more than seven years for Rubens Barrichello to even reach the top step of the podium in F1.

It is just as well then that his (very) long awaited maiden success has become etched in F1 folklore.

Long considered 'one of the good guys', Barrichello was the perfect all-rounder to Ferrari team-mate Michael Schumacher's divisiveness. 2000 had seen him join Ferrari in place of Eddie Irvine, the Brazilian justly rewarded for his hard work in three promising - if occasionally debilitating - years at Stewart, which in turn had come after four equally eye-catching turns at Jordan.

None of those seven seasons and 114 races featured a win though - only nine envious sideways glances from either side of the top spot - but for many the move to Ferrari ensured it was going to be a case of 'when' and not 'if' that maiden success would come.

As it happens, Barrichello's first win would indeed occur in his first season with the Scuderia... and it was achieved in what can only be termed as 'extraordinary circumstances'.

Mid-season and Barrichello had been enjoying a fairly strong maiden campaign in scarlet, but while podiums had been plentiful he remained one step shy of the top.

After seven years at Jordan and Stewart, Barrichello joined Ferrari alongside Michael Schumacher with a maiden win in his sights

When the F1 circus ventured to the Hockenheimring - round 11 of the 2000 season -, Barrichello had added a not insignificant six podiums and a pole position at the British Grand Prix to his career tally, placing him fourth in the standings.

Indeed, qualifying had long been a strength of Barrichello's over the years and he was known for his Saturday achievements up against more formidable machinery than he had beneath him.

The 29th of July 2000 was not to be one of those days though. Back in the era of the one hour free qualifying session, Mother Nature would condense it into a mad dash as looming clouds overhead made rain an inevitability in mere minutes as the green light flashed at the end of the pit lane.

In fact, the volatile side of Mother Nature had been an unwelcome presence over the weekend already, a violent storm on Friday evening flooding the paddock and creating havoc in the campsites as the lightening-luring tents provided the ideal conductors, putting a handful of unlucky fans in hospital.

With cars streaming onto the dry circuit knowing these one or two flying laps could determine the grid, this was not the moment to hit problems... Puff. Barrichello's F12000 strikes oil in a bad way as a leak consigns him to using Schumacher's spare car. With a foreign set up and only a single lap to make an impression, 18th on the grid was perhaps justified...

Technical issues and Mother Nature would conspire to leave Barrichello 18th on the grid for the 2000 German GP

As he dejectedly declared it as being the 'worst day of his season', little did Rubens know as he lined up on the ninth row of the grid that he was due to transform a nadir into his zenith.

The race started dry but with a - literal - air of anticipation as storms once again rolled across the region in the distance poised to disrupt proceedings.

Even so, it would take just seconds for carnage - and circuit-wide despondency - to break out as Schumacher found himself unceremoniously shoved out of the race by Giancarlo Fisichella at turn one, his change of line so sudden it left the frustrated Italian with nowhere to go.

Somewhat amusingly (albeit not for Fisichella), Schumacher's action was a response to David Coulthard sweeping across his nose off the line in what the Scot later admitted was a deliberate attempt to mimic the German's oft-criticised aggression when the lights go out.

It would ultimately set the tone for a rollercoaster of an afternoon in the forest.

The penultimate race to be held around the iconic 6.8km iteration of the Hockenheimring before it was shortened, the limit-stretching straights, punishing chicanes and balance clipping stadium section was F1's ultimate test of strength and poise.

In a season that had seen McLaren and Ferrari exclusively share the spoils in the run up to Germany, Barrichello's progress up the order was appropriately swift. Climbing to 10th at the end of the first lap alone, Barrichello had slipstreamed his way to fourth position by lap 12 of 45.

Still, as impressive as Barrichello's scything through the order had been, third place appeared to represent his glass ceiling as the front row starting McLarens of Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard galloped away. By the time Barrichello had put himself in a provisional podium position - impressively after only 15 laps -, the Silver Arrows were 14secs up the road and seemingly cruising.

And then, a man. Of course, sport is no stranger to pitch or court invasions (occasionally minus clothing), but when it comes to a track invasion the camp amusement is considered rather more dangerous.

In this case, when Robert Sehli appeared alongside the barrier at the Clark Chicane, there was a scramble in Race Control and amongst the marshals. Unfortunately for them, the appearance of the latter would spook Sehli - complete with sensible rain poncho - to jump the barriers and make his way towards the track.

It would later emerge he was a disgruntled ex-Mercedes employee keen to get his grievances out on a global platform (we didn't have Twitter back then after all...) and decided to take himself into forests after being ejected from the circuit having tried to disrupt the grid earlier on.

Fortunately, a TV unfriendly 'worst case scenario' mercifully wouldn't occur as he was promptly rounded up, but his unwanted appearance did prompt a strategic havoc as the Safety Car was deployed to neutralise the race. Unfortunately for McLaren this came after it had sprinted past the finish line, whilst everyone else behind dived in for a 'free stop'.

Was Sehli a master of F1 strategy or was it just a coincidence that his appearance had screwed with McLaren's race? Probably (almost certainly) the latter, but there is certainly irony to be enjoyed either way.

Furthermore, with Coulthard failing to receive the radio call to follow Hakkinen into the pits when they did come back around, thus sending him on a painfully slow lap backed up behind the safety car as everyone eased up behind him on newer rubber, he was now out of contention.

Hakkinen still led - albeit with his lead reduced to nothing - over Jordan's Jarno Trulli and Barrichello, the Finn still otherwise well placed to sprint away again in the final 10 laps.

Barrichello was running third behind Jarno Trulli with 10 laps of the race remaining as rain loomed

However, just as the race resumed at racing speed the bubbling clouds carried through on their threat and released rain. Furthermore, in true Hockenheimring style, there was only a downpour at certain points, the sheer breadth of the circuit making it both too wet for slicks and too dry for wets at the same time.

It was a day for gambles but the stakes varied from driver-to-driver, with Hakkinen opting to play it safe as he dived for the pit lane. His was the popular choice though, with all but four of the remaining drivers opting for treaded tyres. Barrichello, the recovering Coulthard, Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Ricardo Zonta put faith in their skill.

With Barrichello inheriting a remarkable lead given where he had started, many initially questioned his wisdom as Coulthard changed his mind, Frentzen (up in podium contention from 17th himself) retired with technical issues and Zonta spun off.

Barrichello, however, remained steadfast.

With Hakkinen now chasing Barrichello on entirely different tyres, the Finn began to close quickly as Barrichello tip-toed through the wet sections and attempted to recover the ground in the dry. The gap was down to 10secs, creating a thrilling premise in the dying laps. However, with the weather stabilising so would the margin, the disparate conditions creating a strange to-and-fro through the splits, only to ultimately even out at the end.

Slick tyres, wet circuit, Rubens Barrichello rolled the dice and gamble paid off

And so it would remain, Barrichello cheered home by the partisan fans which had been forced to adopt the Ferrari driver as their next great hope after Schumacher's early exit.

It was a popular win and not just amongst the faithful. Even Hakkinen was content to concede to his rival given the enormity of his efforts and the significance for a driver whose career very nearly ended back in 1994 when he crashed heavily in practice for the San Marino Grand Prix, the prelude to what would become one of sport's blackest weekends.

There was a collective nod of appreciation as he dedicated this poignant win to his hero and friend Ayrton Senna as the notion that he was the first Brazilian to win an F1 race since 1993 sunk in.

It was to be Barrichello's only race win of the 2000 season, but while he would of course go on to achieve more success in the ensuing years with Ferrari and also for Brawn (via Honda), his first remains arguably his best.

It turns out good guys don't always finish last... they just start last.

The first Brazilian to win in F1 since Ayrton Senna, few begrudged Barrichello such a hard fought win

Read More