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IndyCar Season Preview: Rubens Barrichello

Photo credit: Alex Comerford (CC BY-NC-ND)

#8 BMC/Embrase Dallara-Chevrolet, KV Racing Technology

Born: May 23, 1972

Home: Sao Paulo, Brazil

2011 HIGHLIGHTS: The all-time starts leader in Formula 1 (322 races run since 1993) raced with the Williams squad for the second year in a row in 2011, alongside new teammate Pastor Maldonado. Barrichello managed a pair of points finishes at Monaco and Canada, both times coming in ninth place. As usual, his only retirements on the year came from parts failures rather than driver error.

2011 LOWLIGHTS: Barrichello could only muster four points, good for 17th place in the 2011 standings; while that topped teammate Maldonado’s single point and 19th place finish, it was enough to convince Frank Williams to replace the aging Brazilian with countryman Bruno Senna in 2012.

SEASON OUTLOOK: Landing Barrichello is a huge caveat for IndyCar, as he is the first big name Formula 1 driver to defect to the United States since Nigel Mansell made the move in 1993. Mansell tore up the CART ranks, winning back to back F1 and CART championships. Barrichello tested the new Dallara DW12 multiple times for KV as an advisor in the offseason, having experienced some of the new engineering concepts in Formula 1, and really enjoyed the car. While his wife was initially concerned about the safety of running ovals, which could have resulted in a partial schedule, his kids reportedly convinced her to give the okay to run every race in 2012.

Barrichello’s decision to join KV signifies Jimmy Vasser’s strongest play yet to become the next Chip Ganassi. After adding former IndyCar champion Tony Kanaan last year, Vasser now has another world-class driver in his employ, and he owes it all to Kanaan’s great friendship with his countryman. Barrichello has a reputation as a great teammate (remember all those years that he put up with Michael Schumacher at Ferrari), which should help E.J. Viso wring even more speed out of his KV car, and as a consistent driver who keeps his car together (only six DNFs in his past three F1 seasons). KV’s old reputation for tearing up two cars a weekend should be a thing of the distant past.

– Chris Leone

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