01-30-2012, 10:44 PM
Officially Welcomed to the 'Fest
Location: Nor Cal
Join Date: Jan 2005
Mein Auto: 330i
Rubens Barrichello donned a headset as fellow Brazilian and longtime friend Tony Kanaan zipped around the Sebring International Raceway short course at 9:45 a.m. in the No. 11 KV Racing Technology car.
"Sounds impressive," the driver with 332 career Formula One starts said of the Chevrolet 2.2-liter, dual turbocharged V-6 engine. "Sounds like he's having fun."
Soon it would be Barrichello's turn in the new Dallara DW12 chassis.
"I just hope I don't break anything for Jimmy (team co-owner Vasser)," joked Barrichello, 39, before getting accustomed to the car and bumpy circuit for two days of testing in the No. 5 companion to Kanaan's car.
He didn't during almost six hours of track time and 94 laps (150 miles). He exited the car with a large grin and promptly gave Vasser and Kanaan high-fives.
"I feel like a kid," Barrichello said. "I had a really good and productive day with all the set-up options we tried. You could call me a rookie, even though I have 33 years on this job. In the morning I was getting used to the car and not doing anything silly because obviously you donít want to put it in the wall. It's a different machine from what I'm used to, but it had a good feeling."
What began as a pick-me-up message from Kanaan two weeks ago -- after Barrichello learned that he was being replaced at Williams F1 by Bruno Senna -- has developed into serious consideration about him joining the IZOD IndyCar Series for the 2012 season that kicks off March 25 with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
"If you go purely from joy, it wouldn't be a problem," Barrichello said. "I have still so much passion for the speed and I'm quite young in my mind and I believe I'm getting better and better. Right now, I'm truly happy and I like what I saw. I've been a fan of the Indy series for a long time. It's a great atmosphere and great racing.
"I just need to see what comes up. I need to talk to my family, I need to talk to Jimmy. I like it."
Kanaan, who was joined at dinner Jan. 29 with Barrichello by Helio Castroneves, Will Power and Oriol Servia ("he noticed the atmosphere; how we all get along"), was happy to have Barrichello accept the invitation to join him at Sebring.
"Over the winter we talked about it, but it became serious when I was testing (at Sebring) and they announced that he wouldn't be will Williams and I tweeted a picture of my car saying 'It's ready for you,' " said Kanaan, who is godfather to one of Barrichello's sons and vice versa with his son, Leonardo. "Then I called him up and said, 'Hey, you want to come test at the end of the month?' And he said yes, so I called Jimmy (Vasser).
"It's great to have a guy I can call brother with us. His knowledge and experience helped confirm some ideas that we had for this test, so it was very productive having Rubens around. (His future) is in his hands. Right now, it's just an invitation for him to help us out as far as his feedback. What goes beyond that, it's up to him.
"Knowing Rubens, his timeline will be pretty short. By the time he gets out of the car (Jan. 31), he'll have a pretty good idea what he wants to do. Right now, we don't have anyone signed for the other two cars. You can tell by his face he's having a lot of fun."
Vasser said the door is open.
"This was Rubens' first time in an IndyCar and I think he enjoyed himself," he said. "Certainly, we had a lot of fun working with him. Most importantly, if he is going to have this kind of affect on Tony we are going to have to figure out a way to keep him around.Ē
Barrichello, who has recorded 11 wins, 68 podiums and 14 pole positions in F1, was joined at the facility by his family. They were greeted by INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard.
"If Rubens joins the IZOD IndyCar Series, it continues to strengthen the caliber of drivers that we're attracting," Bernard said. "His record alone is the type of excitement that we want to build within the series and give our fanbase. When you at the history of Indy car and the greats such as Nigel Mansell and Emerson Fittipaldi, it only helped the stature of Indy car. If there is a transition, I want him to know that we're here to help him."
Servia (in the Lotus development car), Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe (Andretti Autosport), JR Hildebrand (National Guard Panther Racing), and the Team Penske trio of Ryan Briscoe, Castroneves and Power also were on the track Jan. 30.
Justin Wilson (Dale Coyne Racing), who co-drove the winning entry in the 50th anniversary Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 29, Mike Conway (A.J. Foyt Racing), Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing), Graham Rahal (Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing) and Charlie Kimball (Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing) join them Jan. 31.