Friday, May 9, 2008

Rubens Barrichello : The Most Experienced Driver In Formula 1

As the Formula 1 circus hits Istanbul in Turkey, a landmark will be reached in this race. Rubens Barrichello will become the most experienced driver in Formula 1 with 257 Grand Prix starts, surpassing Riccardo Patrese's record of 256.

The 35 year-old from São Paulo, Brazil has been in Formula 1 for 15 years and has won 9 Grand Prix and been on the podium 61 times with 13 poles, 16 fastest laps and 519 career points in what has been an up-and-down career for the plucky Brazilian.

He started his career with Jordan in 1993 and continued there until 1996. His first year at the team turned out to be a very effective rookie year for him.He made a big impression in his 3rd Grand Prix, running as high as 2nd before retiring, and outpacing his three team-mates that season, Ivan Capelli, Thierry Boutsen and Eddie Irvine. He scored a 5th place at the Japanese Grand Prix in is only points finish that season.

1994 started well for Rubens with a 4th and 3rd place in the first two races. However, at the disastrous San Marino Grand Prix, Rubens was involved in a high-speed accident during Friday's practice. The impact at Variante Bassa turned him upside down. This accident knocked him unconscious and threatened his life, with his tongue blocking the airway. He owed his life to some quick action by the officials. He recovered strongly from the crash and at Belgium secured his first pole position. He finished sixth in the Drivers' Standings.

1995 and 1996 were disappointing seasons for Rubens, as he struggled with an uncompetitive car and as his relationship with team boss Eddie Jordan soured. He jumped ship to the new Stewart team for 1997.

1997 and 1998 were difficult seasons for Stewart and Barrichello. The best results he could manage was two fifth places in 1998, but he consistently outperformed his team-mates Jan Magnussen and Jos Verstappen.

1999 was much better for Barrichello as he recorded three podium finishes and led the Brazilian Grand Prix until his engine blew up. His podium at the European Grand Prix came as his team-mate Johnny Herbert won the race. He caught the eye of Ferrari and was snapped up for 2000.

In 2000, Barrichello secured his first Formula 1 win at the German Grand Prix and was consistent with scoring points and podium finishes, but he was often outclassed by the two McLarens and his team-mate Michael Schumacher. He was a reliable number two as he helped Schumi to the world title, beating Mika Hakkinen.

2001 saw Rubens finishing 3rd in the Drivers' standings as he was again a reliable second fiddle to Schumacher, with 10 podium finishes.

From 2002 to 2004, Barrichello was a consistent podium finisher and race winner, and in these three years he finished runner-up to Schumacher in the driver's championship and contributed to Ferrari's increasing dominance of the Constructers' title.

2005 was a sour year as Ferrari struggled with a car on uncompetitive tyres. Barrichello could only muster two second places as he finished 8th in the drivers' standings. But he hopped ship to Honda after becoming frustrated at playing number two to Schumacher.

In 2006, Barrichello and his team-mate Jenson Button were consistent points scorers as Honda enjoyed a good season. Barrichello ended up 7th with 30 points in the Table, 26 behind Button.

Null points were the order of the day in 2007 as Barrichello endured a torrid season as he struggled with an uncompetitive car. His best result was a 9th place as he finished 20th in the drivers' table. However, he pledged another year to Honda in the process.

I can't think of anyone who has been a good servant to F1 more over the years than Rubens has. He's always been there or there-abouts, whether good or bad seasons. This is a tribute to Barrichello as he prepares for his record-braking race.

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