On May 23, 1972, Rubens Gonçalves Barrichello was born in São Paulo. The Brazilian driver will enter the history of the Prancing Horse, as, thanks to his support and his performance, he will be able to guarantee the Maranello car manufacturer no less than five world titles reserved for manufacturers in Formula 1. Rubens, nicknamed Rubinho by his friends, has Italy in his blood, descending from Italian immigrants; the grandparents in fact come from Castello di Godego, in the province of Treviso. The young Brazilian discovered his passion for the racing world from an early age, participating at the age of nine in the national kart championship, winning it five times.
In 1984, Rubens took part in the Formula Ford 1600 championship, winning the fourth final position, but the turning point in his career took place during some tests of the European Formula Opel. In fact, in 1990 Draco Racing offered him, at the age of 18, to move to Europe, to participate in the Formula Opel-Lotus Championship, which he won on his debut. The Brazilian achieves the same result a year later in British Formula 3. Despite the transition to Formula 3000 in an uncompetitive team did not allow him to express himself at his best, in 1992 the conquest of third place in the overall standings convinced Eddie Jordan, owner of the homonymous Formula 1 team, to sign him. Rubens thus fulfills the dream of becoming a Formula 1 driver, meeting his compatriot Ayrton Senna. The fate of the two Brazilians will be forever linked.
We are in 1993, and Rubens Barrichello is forced to retire due to a technical problem. The outcome does not change in the following three seasonal events, marking a very disappointing start: the Jordan 193 is not competitive at all, and Rubens navigates in the rear, taking only a fifth place in the Italian Grand Prix, in Monza. If 1993 is stingy with satisfactions, the following season starts immediately strong. At Interlagos, in front of his audience, he climbed up to fourth place, and in the following Pacific Grand Prix he won his first career podium, behind Michael Schumacher and Gerhard Berger. Triumphant, Rubens can't hold back tears during the award ceremony, and later declares to the press:
"It is the first time that I get on the podium, and it is an incredible emotion. I am very happy with myself and with Jordan. I really don't think more could be done. I seem to dream. Fourth in Sao Paulo, third in Japan. We do not have great ambitions for the moment. We live for the day, but, in this way, we live well".
After the convincing start to the season, Rubens arrives in Imola galvanized by the third place he has just obtained, and sets himself the goal of continuing the great moment of form. But his race weekend ends on Friday morning. At 1:15 pm, a quarter of an hour after the start of the first qualifying round, Barrichello's Jordan flies at over 200 kilometers per hour against the protective barriers at the Variante Bassa. In a moment, doctors, firefighters and race marshals arrive on the scene, but for a few minutes, Rubens remains motionless in the cockpit. With all the necessary precautions, after the first aid interventions, the marshals will free the pilot. Barrichello is transported to the rescue center, where about fifteen minutes of feverish waiting pass, before Dr. Giuseppe Piana, head of the medical service, gives the first, comforting news on the pilot's state of health:
"We subjected Barrichello to an x-ray of the cervical spine and then to a brain CT scan which excluded traumatic lesions in the brain. Now he will be transported by helicopter to the Ospedale Maggiore in Bologna for other investigations. In our opinion, he should be under observation for forty-eight hours. As a prognosis, for safety, he is still excluded from the tests and the race".
Later, more good news arrives from the hospital. Further checks led to discover that Rubens only reported a fractured nose and bruises on one hand and ribs:
"I don't know what happened, but I think at that moment I was going strong. I feel good, I just have some difficulty in breathing because of the pain in my nose. Too bad, I can't even play with the nurses; however, I intend to go back to the circuit tomorrow".
Ayrton Senna, who in the meantime has conquered the provisional pole position, is very worried about the young compatriot. The Brazilian driver leaves the circuit in tears and rushes to the hospital with his friend, who fortunately is out of danger. Forty-eight hours later Senna at the Tamburello curve lost his life. The dramatic Imola weekend will mark Rubens forever. In the following weeks, Barrichello is contacted by Frank Williams, with the intention of replacing compatriot Ayrton Senna, who tragically died in Imola.
However, to get rid of the contract signed with Eddie Jordan, the Brazilian driver would have had to pay a fine, which, however, would have been supported by the food company Arisco. But as Williams is sponsored by Rothmans, the Brazilian would also have had to give up his personal contract with Marlboro, to fulfil his dream of driving a truly competitive car. Despite the good conditions, the deal will fail, and Rubens will remain with Jordan. Also, during the 1994 season, Barrichello will even sign a letter of intent with McLaren, but as he will discover that in the contract it is written that the Brazilian driver would become a British team driver, not specifying if he was with a kart, for a test or driving a Formula 1 car, Rubens will be convinced that this way of operating was a serious disrespect towards him, and will not agree further with Dennis.
The rest of the season is marked by slow recovery, even if Rubens manages to take pole position at the Belgian Grand Prix, at the age of 22 years and 93 days, becoming the youngest driver to achieve that goal (the record will later be beaten by Alonso, and later by Vettel). In Spa, an unexpected fall rain shower makes the second qualifying round useless, blocking the times set on Friday, which see the Brazilian driver at the top of the standings:
"I was lucky, but this also takes in life. I know very well that if the track had been dry, I would not have had the opportunity to stay where I was. My car is fine anyway and in any weather condition I think I can finish the race on the podium or at least in the points. If it is still wet, I will have a better chance. I dedicate this partial success to my friend Senna and my father. Without the support of my family, I would not be here to enjoy this satisfaction".
During the pre-season, Barrichello decides to cheer the Brazilian fans, shocked by the disappearance of compatriot Ayrton Senna, with rather high-sounding statements. In one of these, the Jordan driver says he is convinced he can win his first race in the category, despite knowing that the Peugeot engine is weak and the Jordan 195 a car that she was not born under the best star. Naively, Rubens asks the Brazilian fans, orphans of Ayrton Senna, the responsibility of replacing him, ending up becoming the biggest victim of the furious search for a successor to the Sao Paulo champion. It is in this moment that, despite having arrived in Formula 1 with a winning curriculum, worthy of the great champions, it takes Barrichello just two years to destroy his image, transforming himself into a joking character and collecting more disappointments than triumphs.
"I needed to win a race to prove to Brazil that I was capable, that they could keep rooting for me, that it was just a technical failure, after all, I had won everything in the past. It became a necessity, a drug. And it hurt me all season".
Rubens will admit, a few years later. During the 1995 Brazilian Grand Prix, for example, Rubens decided to adapt the layout of his helmet to Ayrton Senna's traditional design. The Brazilian driver wants to honor his friend, but for many of his compatriots this attitude sounds like a great heresy, even more in view of the disappointing result he will get over the weekend. Completely lost, Rubens will be even slower than his teammate, Eddie Irvine, who will precede him in qualifying, while in the race he will be forced to retire due to the failure of the gearbox.
The 1995 season was full of retirements, but in Montreal, on the occasion of the Canadian Grand Prix, he achieved the best result so far obtained in Formula 1, finishing second. During the race, Schumacher, in the lead, makes another stop and starts again in seventh place, leaving the lead of the classification to Jean Alesi, who wins for the first and last time in his career, preceding the two Jordans of Barrichello and Irvine at the finish line. The 1996 season starts along the lines of the previous year, so the Brazilian decides to leave Jordan to move to Stewart GP, powered by Ford, the following year. With the British team, Rubens equals his personal best career result at the end of the Monaco Grand Prix, finishing second behind future teammate Michael Schumacher, but the rest of the season will be strongly influenced by the lack of reliability of the SF01, which will force him to collect ten retreats in the twelve remaining races.
"It seems to me yesterday that I was watching Senna on television win in Monte Carlo. For me, being on the podium is like a victory. It was a very hard battle, but also a beautiful one, the best result of my career. And also, Stewart's first great result. which was born from five races".
The 1998 season is similar to the previous year: with the SF02, Rubens won only two fifth places, in Spain and Canada. In the 1999 season the reliability problems were finally resolved, and with the SF3 Rubens finished several times in the points, even winning three third places in the Grand Prix of San Marino, France and in the Grand Prix of Europe, where, thanks to the continuous retirements of the opponents caused by the difficult conditions of the track, completes the only double of the British team. The excellent season just played and the internal discontent born between Scuderia Ferrari and Eddie Irvine earned the Brazilian driver a job at the Maranello car manufacturer the following season. On September 4, 1999, immediately after 9:00 am, the Scuderia Ferrari press office made the announcement:
"Ferrari announces that driver Rubens Barrichello will lend his technical-competitive collaboration to the team for the next two seasons, alongside Michael Schumacher".
Radiant, in Monza Rubens admits:
"It is one of the best moments of my life. Having Ferrari's confidence in my qualities as a driver makes me extremely satisfied, for myself, for my wife, for my whole family, for the Brazilian fans. Knowing that I can win races. driving a Ferrari is something that increases my satisfaction".
In this circumstance, Rubens admits that already in 1995 there was already a contact with the team from Maranello, but it will only be from the 2000 season that the Brazilian will race with the Italian team:
"Contacts with Ferrari started at the Brazilian Grand Prix. But the contract was signed only before Belgium. I couldn't talk about it. I wanted to start this relationship correctly without betraying the trust that Ferrari has placed in me. I think God gives us the right opportunity at the right time. I think there is someone up there who wants us. I always had the impression that one day my dream of driving a Ferrari would come true. I feel this is it. the beginning of a wonderful career, in a competitive team with a car that will allow me to aim for victory, driving alongside the best driver in the world. I think there will be a first season of adjustment. In any case, if the car allows me, I will try to win immediately, I have this desire within me. I believe that my experience in Formula 1 will help me. At Monza, still in the Stewart's cockpit, the fans cheered me on. It's a psychological pressure that I'm prepared for. Maybe in '95 it wouldn't have been like that, but today I feel ready".
Then, speaking of his future partner, Barrichello declares:
"With Michael I have a very friendly approach, certainly I won't have any problems with him. I have the humility to know that I will have a lot to learn. Schumacher is the best for the technicians and for me too. It would be absurd to want to get to Ferrari and stay ahead of him. I want to get there on tiptoe, do my job well, in harmony with the team. I talked to him. He wished me well for being chosen by Ferrari to race with him. And I know it will be hard, very hard. But I feel ready to overcome any difficulty. As a second driver? It is very difficult to talk about these. delicate things: I will do the same tests and my car will be the same as yours. Black on white: I will have to follow the instructions of the team, like Schumacher does. So, it will all depend on me. It will be necessary to see how fast I will be with the Ferrari. If in a race If I were twenty seconds ahead of Schumacher, it would be no match for Ferrari to ask me to slow down. I am happy to be able to drive a Ferrari and I will be more happy when I get my first success. But now I have to keep my feet on the ground. I am thinking of ending my relationship with Stewart well, perhaps winning a Grand Prix. I have not yet done so. nothing, but I know that I will drive for the most famous team in the world".
The adventure in Ferrari started off well: in Australia, Rubens completed his first double win of the year, but in the home race he was betrayed by the engine failure. In the next two rounds, the Brazilian driver finished fourth in Imola, while at Silverstone he was forced to retire. Rubens finds the podium again at Montmelò, and from this moment he becomes fundamental in the fight for the world title, taking precious points away from Mika Hakkinen, McLaren driver fighting with Michael Schumacher to win the Formula 1 World Championship. On the Nürburgring circuit, Barrichello finished fourth, then returned to the podium in Monte Carlo and Montreal, taking second place on both occasions.
And after reaching third place twice in a row at Magny-Cours, and in Spielberg, finally in Germany, at the Hockenheimring, Rubens achieves his first career victory, at the end of a truly bizarre race, which sees him comeback from eighteenth place. The qualifying of the Grand Prix is decided by the copious rain, which falls a few minutes before the start of the session. This weather condition allows Coulthard, who immediately got on the track, to take pole position ahead of Michael Schumacher.
Barrichello, on the other hand, is slowed down by hydraulic problems and, as mentioned, he is unable to go beyond eighteenth place. For Michael Schumacher the start of the German Grand Prix is a replica of that of the previous race: at the first corner he is hit again, this time by Giancarlo Fisichella, and ends up against the protective barriers, retiring. The two McLarens, with Hakkinen passing in front of Coulthard at the start, immediately fly away, distancing the pursuers led by Jarno Trulli. In the meantime, however, Rubens Barrichello, who started with a two-stop tactic unlike the majority of the other drivers, who started to make only one stop, began to recover and, overtaking after overtaking, recovered the third position. The two McLarens seem impregnable, but on lap 24, an ex-employee of Mercedes, fired by the German car manufacturer after 18 years, decides to make an invasion of the track to protest the decision made, forcing the race direction to neutralize the race by the Safety Car.
This circumstance favours Barrichello, who returns to the pits and cancels the disadvantage from the leading duo. All that remains is to overcome the two McLarens, which is certainly not easy. However, when the safety car returns to the pits, it starts to rain very irregularly at Hockenheim, and in particular in the final part of the track. Hakkinen, Coulthard and many other drivers decide to return to the pits and mount the wet tires, while Barrichello risks everything and remains out: it is the winning move, as the McLaren drivers will not be able to bring the Brazilian closer before the end of the race. The last laps were heart-pounding: Hakkinen and Coulthard gain ground in the wet sections, but Barrichello manages to make up for the lost time by exploiting the dry areas and maintaining the gap. Until the last lap, practically free diving. Just past the finish line, the Brazilian driver's incomprehensible screams come from the radio connected to the pits.
Rubens Barrichello has just won his first Formula 1 race, ahead of Hakkinen and Coulthard, who on the podium celebrate his first career achievement with the Paulista. An affirmation that he could have already obtained in Montreal, were it not that the team decisions had deprived him of the first triumph in favor of Schumacher, in the fight for the title. But it doesn't matter. On the podium of Hockenheim, Rubens lets himself go to a liberating cry, wiping his tears with the Brazilian flag gripped between his fingers and his face bent with fatigue and joy. Then, like an orchestra conductor, he conducts the Italian anthem, looks up at the sky as a sign of gratitude and kisses his boss, Jean Todt, before taking the ritual shower of champagne.
"I took off a burden, I can't believe it. I dedicate this victory to dad, mom and Silvana, who said he would follow me until I won and he wasn't there today. I'll celebrate with her".
These are the first words of Rubens, who commenting on the race admits that:
"It was lap 34 when Ross Brawn warned me from the pits that Hakkinen was coming back to change tires. I replied that two or three chicanes were still dry and I decided to stay on track with slicks. Then Ross explained to me. that if I had kept my pace I would have won. At that moment I felt a great joy. The longest lap was the last. It never ended. I reviewed my life, my loved ones. In Brazil, when Senna won, they always played beautiful music. From the pits they told me that there is that again. music and I, as I saw the checkered flag, started crying and screaming".
After this exceptional success, Rubens will return to the podium at the United Sstates Grand Prix, in Indianapolis, and in Malaysia, allowing Ferrari to win the World Championship dedicated to manufacturers, and Michael Schumacher to become champion for the third time in his career at Suzuka, bringing the world championship back to Maranello after twenty-one years. In 2001, the Brazilian driver once again proved to be Schumacher's perfect squire, with the latter confirming himself as world champion without problems. Although he does not repeat the success obtained in Germany the previous year, and is again the victim of yet another disappointment in Brazil, where he is forced to retire after bumping into Ralf Schumacher, during the season Barrichello conquers the third place in the third place five times. Grand Prix of Australia, San Marino, Austria, France and Great Britain, while finishing second as many times in the Grand Prix of Malaysia, Monaco, Germany, Hungary and Italy, improving the final position in the drivers' standings compared to the previous year, hitting the third place.
Despite the two excellent seasons, the feeling between Rubens and Ferrari began to break down as early as 2001. In Malaysia, a violent tropical storm broke out on the circuit creating havoc and forcing the entry of the safety car. With Barrichello slipping into tenth position and Schumacher immediately behind in eleventh, at the restart the Ferraris climbed the rankings in a few laps thanks to a happy choice of tires, intermediate for the Italian cars as opposed to the wet ones mounted by the competitors. The two Reds from Maranello reach the finish line first and second, but with Schumacher ahead of Rubens, following an overtaking by the German driver who took place immediately after the restart, surprising the Brazilian driver:
"We agreed with Ross Brawn that the condition of the track was dangerous and that, once the safety car was out of the way, we should have behaved with caution. But as soon as we could start again, I went a little too far under Trulli and I saw Schumacher walking past me. I was a little surprised. I am in a difficult situation in the team because I am racing with the strongest rider in the world".
In practice, Rubens thinks the positions should not have changed as long as the track remained slippery. So, on TV Globo he tells this version, adding that this was the order of the team. The reaction of the whole Maranello team was not long in coming:
"We spoke on the radio about the need to be cautious, but he understood that there were priorities that were not there".
Ross Brawn responds, while Ferrari team principal Jean Todt adds to the dose by saying:
"Never given that order. But let's not make a drama out of it. It happens that in the tension of the race a driver misunderstands the situation".
Even the German driver aligns with what the team thinks, and admits:
"Being on the same team means not trying to get hurt, but it doesn't mean that everyone doesn't do their own race. I don't know what Ross Brawn said at the time. I felt very fast and I wanted to get out of the traffic right in front of me because I didn't know how Coulthard would go".
But Barrichello does not stop. After the statements made in Malaysia, in a meeting with a journalist from the newspaper O Globo, the Ferrari driver lets even the most hidden thoughts escape:
"I don't want to be second forever and I'm aiming to win the World Championship, maybe again this year. My main challenge is to beat the German. I'm like a student. In the second year at Ferrari, I have settled in better, I know everyone, I have friends, competent technicians who take good care of my car. In any case, I was not disappointed last season. Knowing you have a competitive car helps a lot, especially in front of my fans. Pressure? There was more pressure when I was driving a car that didn't give me a chance to succeed. Thanks to Schumacher I am improving, and a champion, he does not have a bad day. I will beat many records in Formula 1, the one of the five titles of Fangio and perhaps of the 65 pole positions of Senna so I conquer one too".
"I never took a second per lap from Schumacher like Irvine. I think I proved stronger than him, I could already win a race in Montreal last year. At Ferrari there are 550 people who work for Michael and not for me, so I think I got good results. It's normal: he's been in the team for six years. I'm the driver who has been closest to him in the times. If Irvine accepted to be a second driver, I don't want him and I bet on myself. Some Brazilian journalists always point out negative things about me. The departure to Malaysia, for example: what do they know? Did they know I had forty kilos more petrol in the tank? It is easy to say that I take a second from Schumacher when we don't have the same tires, but no one says that I gave two to Hakkinen with identical tires. I don't understand".
"There is always a chance to win the world championship. By doing a good job, even with Schumacher in the team. It won't be easy, not only for me, but it wouldn't be easy for any other driver. But in life nothing is impossible. I only had part of the good fortune that accompanies Michael, the situation would be different. In Malaysia we went off the track together, I loaded a lot of gravel into the radiators, he nothing. One of the stones even got into my cockpit. I passed a good part of it. of running trying to knock her off the seat. When I did, I thought: I had one under my butt and one, that is Schumacher, remained in my shoe".
However, after having released these statements, the Thursday preceding the next race that would have taken place in Brazil, Barrichello returns to talk about the alleged friction with Schumacher and retracts what has been said, emphasizing that these would never have been born in recent weeks:
"They made a cocktail between what I said in Sepang and the Brazilian interviews, but one thing has nothing to do with the other. If I say that I wake up every day with the idea of winning, it doesn't mean that I wants to be number one in Ferrari. I never said that Schumacher had instructions to stay behind. Maybe I thought that at that moment it was not the case to fight for positions. It was more an opinion that I kept to myself".
However, this will only be the prelude to what will happen in Zeltweg, on May 13, 2001, opening up a scenario that, absurdly, will take place the following year. At the end of the race Schumacher approaches Barrichello, who had been asked several times by radio to let his team-mate pass: the Brazilian driver controversially executes the order at the last corner, crossing the line in third position.
"Let him pass".
Let him pass: the order comes with three laps to go, but is carried out two hundred meters from the finish.
"I don't feel like talking hot like I did in Malaysia. First I want to discuss with the team".
Rubens declares lapidary at the end of the race. The Brazilian driver closes the argument, but the grudge remains. The image of Todt pressing the button to make radio contact with the drivers is in the eyes of those who have followed the Austrian Grand Prix: communications between the pits and the Ferrari drivers have been transmitted to the general public of Formula 1. A peremptory and synthetic let him pass, which has become on the last lap, when someone feared a gesture of rebellion, a more motivated one let him pass for the championship. After getting out of the car to go to the final press conference, Rubens is called by Todt who reassures him with an explanation later.
The Brazilian replies: "I wouldn't have talked about it anyway".
Meanwhile, however, Michael Schumacher offers his version of communications with the boxes:
"They warned me that if I could get close to Rubens and prove I was faster, they would tell him to give me the way. So it was. Some will say it wasn't fair, others will approve. The public, however, in between. two weeks he will have forgotten everything. In the past I too let Irvine pass. It is normal for a team order to arrive at some point in the season. Everything depends on when".
But this version does not appeal to the general public. Jean Todt tries to ease the tension by admitting:
"Today we decided that way. There are no fixed rules. As long as Rubens was able to fight with Coulthard we left him. We always regret having to tell a rider that he must lose his position, but, in the end, we considered that two more points could be decisive in the final Grand Prix".
After that, the Ferrari team principal denies having feared a gesture of rebellion by the Brazilian driver:
"Barrichello is a professional, I was sure of his loyalty. The Ferrari race was compromised at the start: something went wrong in the launch control, the electronic system that manages the start; there was an excess of grip on the asphalt and the software has decreased the engine revs".
In simpler words, the sensors transmitted insufficient power to the wheels for fear of them skating. Schumacher confirms:
"A wrong start is no longer the driver's fault. We just have to release the clutch and press the accelerator the electronics do the rest. Something went wrong on my car and Rubens's. If I had started in the lead, I could have managed the race better and probably would have won".
Todt, however, concludes his argument by stating:
"If - Rubens - had been in the lead we would have let him win. And even if he had been in third position we would not have denied him the joy of the podium. It was the smallest sacrifice that could have happened to him. We do not feel indebted to anyone: when you drive a Ferrari you have to play along".
It will not be so. A year later, on May 12, 2002, the scene is repeated. But this time Rubens is leading the race. Just like the previous year, on the sixty-third lap of the seventy-one scheduled, due to a team order already discussed in the hours preceding the race, the order was made to let Schumacher take the lead. But it is only on the last lap and a hundred meters from the end of the race that Barrichello slows down, letting Schumacher approach and passing him almost under the finish line. The post-race is a delusion. Todt tries to defend himself by admitting that:
"I don't know if it was the right choice, but it is our choice. There were pros and cons, we felt there were more pros. The championship is still long. There are eleven races to go and it is not certain that our superiority remains unchanged. In 1997, 1998 and 1999 we escaped the title at the last race. In 2000 we won the first three races and someone claimed that it was all decided. And instead, we had a series of problems, enough to risk not making it. It wasn't an easy decision, but it was what we had to do in the interest of our team. Rubens proved to be worth our trust with a wonderful race that crowns a fantastic weekend: he is the moral winner and that's why we sent his track engineer, Gabriele Delli Colli, to the podium".
And speaking of a ruined image, the Ferrari team principal declares:
"The image is ruined more when you lose a World Cup by four points. The whistles are clouds that pass and in the end everyone will only remember who finished first. It was a decision for the good of the company of which I am an employee. We believe, rightly or wrongly, that Schumacher has a better chance of winning the world championship and we must decide in his favor. It is important to take advantage of our superiority. The decision was communicated to both of us at the sixty-third of the seventy-one laps. We could have achieved the same result by putting an extra ten liters of petrol in Michael's car during the first pit stop, in order to avoid a second stop, but that would have been incorrect. against Rubens".
Audience boos cover the German anthem. Michael Schumacher, moreover disappointed by what happened, leaves the top step to Barrichello and gives him the first-place cup. Rubens, on the podium, on that highest step that he deserved but which was not his due by regulation, lets himself go to a nervous cry, while the fans continue to scream. Two minutes later, in the press room, a long howl greets Schumacher, who again hands over the central place reserved for him to his teammate. The German driver tries to justify the choice of his team by self-criticism, praising his teammate and contesting the orders received, after the Brazilian driver admits:
"If I hadn't obeyed, I would have compromised the relationship with the team, not the one with Michael. The understanding between him and me is excellent. The only critical moment was when the safety car came back: I was afraid that the cooling of the tires and brakes could give me some problems. I already have experience in overtaking just a few meters from the finish line. I have just renewed my contract for two years it is good that I respect it. I am having a wonderful time. I have become a better person and a faster driver. I believe that my determination will lead me to many victories. I have no reason to complain. I will have to try to be in front of Michael at the right time, but I swear from the bottom of my heart that I will never wish him any problems. However, I believe that I will not win a race until the championship is won. But from this Grand Prix I certainly do not come out defeated".
Schumacher, as mentioned, will try to dissuade the controversy, admitting that:
"It was a team decision, I had to obey even though I didn't agree. I don't like winning like that. I hoped they wouldn't give the order. During the last few corners, I even slowed down, but Rubens slowed more than me".
Schumacher is asked more and more embarrassing questions, including the question of where the credibility of sport goes:
"They will say a lot. Some will understand, some will not. Unfortunately for him, Rubens is too far behind in the standings and is not able to fight for the title. I don't like what happened, especially considering the trend of the season, however. I ask everyone to respect the team, which is focused on winning the World Cup".
They had talked about it before the race:
"No, so I didn't expect it. There are no winners today, we all lose".
If the sponsors like this choice:
"I don't think they will be sorry if we become champions. A year ago in Budapest, when we took the title two months early, nobody asked me about the last Austrian Grand Prix, when Rubens gave me second place. Everyone was talking about super Ferrari".
And if the federation rules allow certain agreements:
"Formula 1 is a team sport. We are not the first to have done so".
Then when the journalists ask the German driver if he thinks he will become champion because he is the best driver or because he has the best contract, Schumacher does not answer. Barrichello, sitting next to him, decides to help his partner and colleague by putting an arm on his shoulders and taking him away. The then technical director of Ferrari, Ross Brawn, will say a few years later, refuting the version of Schumacher, exhibited in those situations to try to tone down:
"The fact of Austria, on reflection, was a mistake. The underlying circumstances were a bit more complex than people might think, as we had discussed before the race how we would handle the situation - if it had happened - according to which Rubens would have been in front of Michael, but at some point, he would have let him pass and we would have continued the race. It was all pre-agreed. Then in the race, when Rubens was ahead of Michael, we said to him: OK, now can you let him pass? But Rubens replied: No. Don't let me do this. It's my big chance. to win this race. You can't do this to me. Michael was also on the radio at this point, eager to know when Rubens would let him through as previously agreed. How to reconcile this if we didn't do what we said we would do in the pre-meeting? So, this was ultimately the reason why we told Rubens he had to do it, and of course that got a big deal. The situation then got worse, because Michael saw the reaction of the crowd and put Rubens on the top step of the podium, for which we were fined a million dollars by the FIA. What followed was much more damaging and distracting for the team, compared to if we had left Rubens alone and given him a spanking in private. If I could have repeated it, I would not have done what we have done, because the consequences have been deeper than we could have considered. Something that should have been an internal team issue has become political".
On June 26, 2002, Ferrari will be convened before the World Council by the FIA, where initially it will be proposed to recognize the order of arrival of the drivers of the Maranello team, but to reduce 4 of the 10 points obtained by Schumacher and accredit them to Barrichello, with the payment of a related fine to be paid by Ferrari; in the end, however, the Maranello team will only be sanctioned with the payment of a fine of one million dollars for failing to comply with the procedures laid down during the ceremony on the podium, while the team order itself, although judged deplorable in the way which it was implemented, will not be considered punishable by the FIA.
The disappointment for the Brazilian driver is enormous, also because, up to now, 2002 had reserved for Rubens three retirements in the first races and a second place in Imola, while at the start of the reconnaissance lap of the Spanish Grand Prix on his Ferrari had broken the transmission, forcing him to retire even before the start of the race. Nonetheless, the 2002 season will become the best of his career, as the Brazilian driver will triumph on the Nurburgring circuit, Hungaroring, Monza and Indianapolis, where controversy ignites for the second time after Schumacher and Barrichello slow down in the final laps, notably, preparing a parade arrival.
The controversy arose as a result of the fact that, on the finish line, Rubens overtook his teammate, winning by just eleven thousandths of a second. Initially it seems that Schumacher had confused the finish line with the starting line, placed further back, slowing down more than necessary: at the end of the race, however, the German driver declares that he independently decided to let his teammate pass, to repay him for the gesture. accomplished in the Austrian Grand Prix, when Barrichello had given him the victory at the finish line after receiving the controversial team order.
"I gave America to my friend Rubinho, after what happened in Austria I owed him something; now we are even".
Schumacher will declare, while Todt will minimize what happened by saying:
"The important thing was to see two Ferraris in the first two places. One-two or two-one at this point is the same for us. Michael wanted to have Rubens close by, there was no need to push hard, there weren't team orders as in other races. They had a great race, battling each other until the second stop for tires and gasoline. Then everything had to be normal. Schumacher also asked us via radio if the team wanted something, we replied that they were free to decide. The German thought of the parade but it is impossible to calculate the arrival to the thousandth. It went like this, we are fine anyway".
But the Americans do not like the end of the race, so much so that someone misinterprets the episode, thinking of another team order.
The 2003 season is the year in which Barrichello is most decisive. McLaren is once again the direct rival of Ferrari, which fails to dominate as in the previous season. For Rubens there are two main stops: Silverstone and Suzuka. On July 20, 2003, in a heat wave, the British Grand Prix was held. The Brazilian driver arrives at Silverstone after a disappointing result obtained at the French Grand Prix, where in the first lap he was the author of a spin that had relegated him to the back of the group, and forced to a comeback that will stop only in seventh place. In the following days, criticisms rained against the Brazilian driver, and even Schumacher let himself go to a stinging comment:
"I don't expect Rubinho to help me".
But Barrichello does not give up and conquers his second pole position of the season with almost two tenths of an advantage over Trulli, despite the fact that he made his own timed lap second, after going off the track in Friday's session. In the comparison between the two, the first sector of the track will be decisive, in which the Ferrari driver will gain over two tenths of his rival: despite the Italian driver having scored the best partials in the second and third sectors, the Brazilian's margin will be sufficient. to hand him the first position.
"Today was better for me, but I avoid jokes".
Rubens comments at the end of the qualification, shaking off criticism and jeers.
"The jokes don't count. The important thing is what we bring home. I go to win, if I can. Silverstone is a track that favours us: Ferrari has really improved after a week of very hard tests and Bridgestone has worked in exceptional way. Compared to Magny Cours there is a notable difference in performance. The important thing is to keep your feet on the ground".
This time it is Schumacher who makes a mistake: slowed down by a mistake at the Abbey corner, the German driver has to settle for fifth position.
"During Michael's lap I had mixed feelings: I didn't want Schumacher to beat me, but I was hoping that he would set a good time for team spirit".
Barrichello takes pole position with Trulli alongside him, but the Brazilian's inspiration is not good and the Italian driver thus manages to gain the lead of the group. After a few laps, however, the race is turned upside down by the entry on the track of a religious, Neal Horan, who throws himself between the cars showing signs that invite you to read the Bible. So he must enter the safety car on the track. Many drivers take the opportunity to go to the pits and find themselves in the lead the two Toyota of da Matta and Panis. After a few laps, however, Montoya commands the race, with Barrichello and Schumacher who, despite the entry of the safety, remain in rear positions. The Brazilian begins to recover, overtaking both Kimi Raikkonen and Montoya, while the German is blocked for a long time by Jacques Villeneuve, from whom he struggles to free himself and then reaches the finish line fourth.
"In the last two weeks I have been told a lot about that spin on the second lap at Magny Cours. Rubens here, Rubens there. I hope they keep quiet now. I like being in this team, where you work perfectly. Six days of testing we were able to improve the car and the Bridgestone was exceptional. It was only in the cold that I had some grip problems. Maybe that's why I lost two positions at the start. In the first lap I struggled and struggled to hold the position, but as soon as the tires got up to temperature, I was able to start attacking Raikkonen. On the straight we both went fast, it was a tough duel. Then I did many others, the most beautiful and the most important was the last one, again on Kimi. But I don't remember how many there were...".
Five (Montoya, Trulli, Panis and Raikkonen twice), with a determination and courage that the Brazilian seemed to have lost.
"I had nothing to lose. With the car that the team had made available to me, I couldn't do otherwise. When it was necessary to be aggressive it responded wonderfully, the traction proved to be exceptional".
In just one race, Rubens dispels the fear of having to abandon Ferrari, given that his contract expires at the end of 2004, and is back in the running for the World Championship.
"I know what you want me to say: I'm aiming to beat Michael. No, I only think about going fast. We are so many fighting for the title. I dedicate this victory to God for the calm and serenity he offered me, and every I thank him at night for the life he gave me. Calm and serenity lead to results, you have to have them at the right time. In a race like this, similar to a go-kart race, it is a moment to lose the nose in contact".
Off the podium, Schumacher hugs Rubens, compliments him and thanks him for helping him.
The championship continues with ups and downs for Rubens, while Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen fight each other until the last race. The outcome of the season is decided at the last race. In Japan, the McLaren standard bearer is nine points behind the Ferrari driver: to win the title, the Finnish driver must win the race and hope that the title rival will not score any points, because in the event of a tie in the final score the championship would still be awarded to Schumacher by virtue of the greater number of victories won by the reigning German champion: six against any two of Raikkonen.
At the same time, the situation in the constructors' championship is also uncertain, in which Ferrari has only three points clear of Williams. At Suzuka, qualifying was heavily conditioned by a shower of rain that fell on the track in the last minutes of the session, which compromised the performance of the last drivers to take to the track. At the start of the session, the two Toyotas of Da Matta and Panis are the fastest, after setting the thirteenth and fourteenth time respectively in the session with tanks empty on Friday. Their times are beaten in sequence by Montoya and Barrichello, but already when the Brazilian driver is making his timed lap the rain begins to fall insistently.
Räikkönen, fifth on Friday, was forced to remain stationary in the pits due to the advertising interruption scheduled every five timed laps, going out on track when the track was now clearly wet, unable to do better than the seventh time, being beaten immediately after by his teammate of Coulthard team and then slipping into eighth position. Schumacher, however, does not go beyond the fourteenth place. Barrichello then conquers the pole position, preceding Montoya by almost seven tenths. It becomes clear, therefore, that the outcome of the drivers 'and constructors' championships in favor of Ferrari passes through the Brazilian driver. At the start of the race, Rubens and Montoya maintain the top positions.
The Colombian driver, however, attacked his rival already during the first lap, overtaking him at the Spoon Curve and immediately gaining a good advantage, which stabilizes around four seconds. However, on lap nine Montoya was forced to retire due to a mechanical problem, giving the lead to Barrichello. In the following laps, Rubens continued to increase his advantage over the McLaren drivers, with Raikkonen who, slowed down by a set of tires with less-than-optimal performance, also lost ground against his teammate. Thus, while Schumacher completes his comeback, the Brazilian driver wins ahead of the two McLaren drivers, allowing the German driver to take the sixth world title of his career, and Ferrari to win the constructors' title for the fifth time in a row.
"I just concentrated on the start, trying not to make any mistakes. I didn't ask on the radio where Michael was, I only found out on the return lap after crossing the finish line".
He will declare Rubens at the end of the race. And speaking of the start of the race and the overtaking suffered by Montoya, Rubens admits:
"I couldn't resist him. In the first few kilometers, the Williams tires have superior grip. Among other things, I was in a wet area of the line. I tried to accelerate, to move, but I realized that I would risk going off the road. So I suffered Juan's maneuver. A few laps later, however, I started to catch up. I would certainly have caught up with him, although I can't say that I would have overtaken him too. It was a very tough race, due to the tension. I didn't have to and didn't want to make a mistake. Only in the final, when the lead over Raikkonen had stabilized, was I able to slow down. My Ferrari and the tires were perfect, like the whole team, fantastic. I was having difficulty with the visor which was misting due to the humidity. There was a car, probably Frentzen's, which left a long strip of oil. I found it in front of my eyes, I saw very little, I had to clean it with a glove. I was also afraid that it would start to rain. For this reason, I tried to increase the advantage over the pursuers, to have a safety margin. Because you know that when the asphalt is only wet we are in difficulty. Everything went very well. I am the happiest person in the world, because I am convinced that I have made progress. Even though last year I had accumulated more points and had finished better in the general classification, I think I was more brilliant in the championship. 2003. The F2003 GA is a slightly particular car, faster than the F2002, but sensitive and nervous. I have learned to make the most of it. After all, this year I can only blame one real mistake, in Australia, when I left track on lap six. For the rest it was a very satisfied season. I thank Ferrari and also the fans, especially the Brazilians who have been up all night to watch the race. Obviously, I congratulate Michael, he is always him".
Congratulations also returned by Schumacher himself. And to thank Rubens we also think of Jean Todt, who recognizes the great merit of having triumphed in a not simple circumstance, and of having given Ferrari yet another world triumph:
"Barrichello was instrumental in winning the Constructors' title and in supporting Schumacher in his world championship challenge. We have always had faith in him and I think he reciprocated".
In 2004, precisely to avoid the risks of the previous year, Ferrari engineers built one of the best cars designed in Maranello, the F2004. With this car, Schumacher wins twelve races out of thirteen and in Hungary the world championship is already over. The Brazilian was unable to keep up with his teammate at the start of the season, consoling himself with two second places in Australia and Bahrain. The season continues with the Paulista driver almost always on the podium.
In fact, five second places were obtained in the Grand Prix of Spain, Canada, Europe, USA and Hungary, while he obtained four third places in Monaco, France, Great Britain and Belgium, followed by two victories in a row in the Grand Prix of Italy and China. In the meantime, however, the Ecclestone-Mosley duo, to put an end to Ferrari's dominance and increase safety, during the 2004 season decided to change the rules again in anticipation of the 2005 vintage, revolutionizing the qualifying format and banning tire changes.
The superiority of the previous four years is a memory for the men of Ferrari, and both Michael Schumacher, and Rubens Barrichello, fail to counter the contenders for the 2005 title, namely the young Fernando Alonso with Renault, and Kimi Raikkonen with McLaren. For the Brazilian driver, 2005 is the worst season in Ferrari, as he does not go beyond two second places obtained in Australia and the United States, where he completes the only double of the Prancing Horse.
The race held in Indianapolis will go down in history due to the retirement at the end of the reconnaissance lap of the teams using the Michelins, after the French manufacturer had advised its customers not to race for safety reasons, due to an incorrect configuration of the tread structure. Precisely in this circumstance, Rubens Barrichello decides to leave the Scuderia Ferrari at the end of the season, because he is tired of a coexistence no longer sustainable with his teammate. Michael Schumacher, in fact, already in Montecarlo, although they were far from the best positions, a few laps from the end overtakes Rubens; after the race, the Brazilian driver will not hesitate to call the German a little man.
"A world champion like him doesn't need to do certain things. We could have both gone off the track. The only thing I can say is that I wouldn't have overtaken that overtaking. We got three points, but we could go back to home with a nice zero in the standings. Anyway, when I go to bed I sleep soundly. Let's leave feelings aside: I immediately asked him for an explanation, he did not answer. In any case, it's not like we won't talk to each other anymore: we'll work a bit like a robot. Do you want to know if he'll give me a present for my birthday? I don't know. I already have the present. is expecting our second child".
The German's response was quick:
“This is the world of Formula 1 racing. It's not a stop at the bar. I was six cents away from him. I thought I could attack Rubens. I saw a gap and I did. I don't think we took a big risk, on the contrary, the door was open and we didn't touch each other. Then I tried to repeat myself with Ralf too, but I couldn't. Unfortunately. I'm a pilot and certain situations are an integral part of my business".
This means that in Indianapolis, Schumacher pushes his teammate towards the grass to defend the first position after the pit stop, and he doesn't take it well at all. If in the previous years the disappointments were diluted with the victories, now that the successes are in hiding, in the mind of the Brazilian driver the desire to change the air and try to chase the title of World Champion prevails. For this reason, in the following weeks, Rubens begins to consider the offer received from Honda, which is about to take over the British American Racing (BAR) team to aim for the conquest of the world title. An advantageous offer also from an economic point of view, given that the Brazilian driver earns eight million dollars a year at Ferrari, while the Japanese carmaker, to persuade him to change, offers him over ten million dollars.
"Barrichello is already from the Bar. He has signed a contract for 2006 and 2007".
He supports Nelson Piquet during the Hungarian Grand Prix race weekend. The news bounces back to the Hungaroring from Brazil, through the newspaper Estado de Sao Paulo.
"Why don't you ask Piquet? I have nothing to add to what I've always said".
Rubens replies to the journalists, who ask him for an explanation:
"I have a contract that binds me to Ferrari until the end of 2006. If you invent something, then everyone believes it to be true. Now I announce that Michael is going to Red Bull and tomorrow I will read it in the newspaper".
But surprisingly, Rubens, despite having a contract until 2006, convinced that the Ferrari cycle is over and that he has no chance of beating the German in the same team, has actually already accepted Honda's offer, so he asks Jean Todt to be able to free himself from the contract that binds him to Ferrari. The French manager asks for a week's time. After that, on August 2, 2005, the Maranello-based carmaker announced that Barrichello will not race for Ferrari after the end of the current season. On August 17, 2005, interviewed by the SportTv broadcaster, the Brazilian driver gives a very special interview, in which he expresses his feelings and his emotions that have influenced him up to now:
"I'm sure when I fight Michael Schumacher next year my radio won't play anymore".
Rubens begins, referring to the team orders received over the years, and then continues by saying:
"The goal at Ferrari was to have only one car capable of winning and often it was Michael's. We were betting on Schumacher, but this does not mean that he could not have had the chance to fight to achieve my goals. I haven't found anything better in the past; I probably would have become world champion with Ferrari if Michael Schumacher hadn't stayed so long".
Later, however, during the press conference on the eve of the Turkish Grand Prix, Rubens will use very different tones, and will declare:
"I want to thank Ferrari. In fact, I had a contract in place throughout 2006, with no possibility of freeing myself. So it is thanks to Jean Todt that the move to the Bar was possible. I asked him if I could leave and he replied that he needed a week of time, because he had counted on my presence in 2006. I have been talking to the Bar for a long time and this season things have taken a more concrete turn. If it were not for the experience I have accumulated in Ferrari, next year I would certainly not be in a position to seek victory with BAR and Honda. I am proud to have helped transform Ferrari from what it was in 2000, when I arrived. I think now this team has a broader horizon and is able to focus equally on both drivers. We have been through difficult times," but also many beautiful. People think that the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix was the most critical juncture, but to tell the truth I think it was one of my best experiences, because from that moment things have changed. The team has in fact started to respect me more because he knew that I too was able to win and it was a turning point for my career and for the whole team".
Barrichello's choice will soon prove wrong, in fact all year long he struggled to find the feeling with the car, while the new teammate Jenson Button reached the podium in Malaysia and won in Budapest. The only high points in 2006 are the fourth place obtained in Monte Carlo and Hungaroring: in the Principality, Rubens touches the podium, but this fades after exceeding the speed limits at refuelling, a factor that causes him a penalty. In the second part of the season, thanks to some updates, Barrichello will be able to constantly fight for the points, and to stay ahead of his teammate regularly. With these premises, the Brazilian driver hopes for a significant evolution of the car the following year, but his expectations will again be disappointed. The RA107 is not competitive and the Brazilian does not win even a point, obtaining a ninth place at Silverstone as the best result.
Despite the results below his expectations, Barrchello decides to extend his contract and stay with Honda also in 2008. But even in the following season, in which he becomes the rider with the most Grand Prix disputed, Rubens cannot fight for the world championship, and indeed, despite the arrival of Ross Brawn in the team, he is often relegated to the rear. The Brazilian driver did not give up, and at Silverstone he made a new masterpiece: started from sixteenth position, taking advantage of the wet track, he won the first podium with Honda.
This will be the only satisfaction of another difficult championship because, if possible, the worst is yet to come. On December 8, 2008, Honda announced its farewell to Formula 1. With all the seats already assigned, Rubens risks being left on foot. But Ross Brawn thinks about saving him, taking over the team for the symbolic sum of one pound. Rubens passes in an instant from being free to having the possibility of achieving the goal for which he left Ferrari: finally fighting for the title.
The former Honda team, which already seemed a miracle had managed to have a car ready in a few months, amazes its rivals in the Barcelona tests, giving the world constructors champion Ferrari two seconds, thanks to the great novelty of the rear diffuser, unleashing a series of appeals before Australia, which will be rejected. Rubens, given his great experience, seems to have the chance of a lifetime. But bad luck haunts him: in Australia he is second in qualifying, but at the start he starts badly, then he is hit by Kovalainen and is forced to recover, settling for second position.
In Malaysia, due to a gearbox problem, he suffers a penalty on the grid and is fifth. In China he takes pole, but the constant problems, this time with the braking system, make him finish fourth. In Bahrain, during the qualifying hour, it is the rear wing who betrayed him, so he doesn't go beyond fifth place. The confrontation with teammate Jenson Button is merciless, with the latter winning three of the first four Grands Prix. Upon returning to Europe, Rubens is determined to reopen the games, but Jenson also beats him at Montmelò and in the Principality of Monaco; with the retirement in Turkey, the Brazilian driver is forced to acknowledge that his teammate has an almost unattainable advantage in the standings.
As if that weren't enough, starting from the Great Britain Grand Prix, Brawn GP loses the superiority it had up to now, favoring Red Bull, which with Sebastian Vettel manages to recover much of the disadvantage. Barrichello returns to victory after five years in Valencia, only to repeat himself in Monza, reducing the gap from his teammate, but in Singapore and Japan he does not go beyond the sixth and eighth position.
With two Grand Prix left at the end of the championship, Rubens is second, 14 points behind Jenson Button. Rubens has the chance to overturn the championship in his favor at Interlagos, where he takes pole in the rain, while his teammate even stops in Q2, finishing fourteenth. However, the home race will once again be bewitched: at the start, Barrichello defends the first position, but in the middle of the race he collapses in performance, and in the final he suffers the overtaking of Lewis Hamilton, then punctures a tire and closes eighth, while Jenson Button, with the fourth place becomes world champion for the first time in his career.
The following year, the Brazilian's story is once again intertwined with that of Schunacher: Mercedes, which in 2009 supplied the engines to the British team, bought the Brawn GP. Meanwhile, Ross Brawn manages to convince the German driver to return to racing, deciding not to confirm Rubens, who accepts Williams' offer, but also in 2010, the Brazilian driver finds himself facing the same problems he had in the three years lived with there with Honda.
In fact, the FW32, especially at the beginning of the year, does not seem to be competitive, but in the second half of the season Rubens still manages to get some satisfaction, finishing fourth in Valencia and fifth Silvestone, behind former teammate Jenson Button, who in the meantime moved to McLaren. With the subsequent sixth place obtained in Singapore, the Brazilian driver is also reconfirmed for the following year, but 2011 is the exact replica of 2008. At the beginning of the championship, Rubens hopes that the indications given at the end of the previous year and throughout the winter to the Grove technicians, will allow Williams to reduce the distance from the top teams, and instead between reliability and scarce problems. performance, not the Brazilian driver does not go beyond two ninth places obtained in Monte Carlo and Montréal.
Destiny is still involved in Barrichello's career. Although in the previous two years she always wins the internal duel with young teammates Nico Hulkenberg and Pastor Maldonado, for the 2012 season Williams prefers to hire Bruno Senna, Ayrton's nephew, in his place, being the son of his sister Viviane. Rubens Barrichello, disappointed with the choice made, announces his official farewell from Formula 1 in the first months of 2012; two years later, the Brazilian driver will think of a sensational comeback at the Brazilian Grand Prix, raced in Interlagos, but the subsequent failure of Caterham will make the opportunity disappear.
The Brazilian ended his Formula 1 career with 323 Grands Prix, 11 wins, 68 podiums, 14 pole positions, 4152 km in the lead, 17 fastest laps, 97 retirements and 658 total points. In 2012 he accepts the challenge of IndyCar, where he doesn't get great results. After the American parenthesis in 2013, Rubens moved to the Brazilian Stock: after a difficult start, in Salvador he obtained the best result of the season by finishing second at the finish. This experience will be useful to him for 2014, as the Brazilian driver changes gears in the middle of the championship, and with two triumphs and four podiums he wins the title, which also touches on in 2016, finishing second.
In the meantime, Rubens will also participate four times in the 24 Hours of Daytona, where he will achieve second and fifth place as best places, in the 12 Hours of Sebring, in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Lammers Van Eerd in a Dallara P217, obtaining a thirteenth place, and at the 24 Hours of Spa, where however he will be forced to retire. In 2013 Barrichello was appointed Commander of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, for sporting merits. For many, the Brazilian driver was Schumacher's perfect squire, while few notes that the five titles dedicated to manufacturers, won by Ferrari from 2000 to 2004, are undoubtedly also thanks to the driving qualities of the Paulista.
"I remember exactly as if it were yesterday the first day at the Fiorano circuit, when I saw my name on the car. It was snowing and I had to wait a long time before I could get on track. It is an image that I will always keep in mind, as well as the one linked to the warmth of the public that I will miss a lot. I am happy to have helped to solve many problems. I am proud to have helped to solve them and to grow the team".
For this reason, regret still remains today for what Rubens could have been, but which he was unable to express. A huge talent, a broken promise.