Rubens Goncalves Barrichello was born on May 23rd, 1972. Best known for his time spent at Jordan with Eddie Irvine and at Ferrari with Michael Schumacher, Rubens has been in Formula One since 1993 and continues to compete in F1, currently with the Honda team.
Barrichello was born in Sao Paulo in Brazil, and he quickly progressed through the junior ranks of motor racing. He won five karting titles before 1990, and after moving to Europe, he claimed the Formula Lotus title and the British Formula Three titles at his first attempts. In 1992, he competed in Formula 3000, and although Rubens didn’t manage to take the title, his third pace earned him a drive for the Jordan team for 1993.
1993-1997: The Jordan Years
Barrichello’s rookie year in Formula One was to be electric, as he managed to outpace many of his team mates in the forming Jordan team. In only his third race, Rubens ran in third place for much of the race, and ultimately, the season awarded Barrichello with two points.
1994 was to be a difficult season though. At the San Marino Grand Prix, Barrichello suffered an almighty accident that almost claimed his life. Barrichello’s Jordan ran wide at one of the corners, but instead of running off the track and hitting the barrier, the car was lifted up by a kerb and Rubens ended up flying through the air crashing into the fence above the barrier. Thankfully, the medics – led by Professor Sid Watkins – saved his life, and Rubens returned to racing later in the year. Unfortunately, Rubens lost a friend at the same race that almost claimed his own – fellow Brazilian Ayrton Senna – and even though Rubens did return before the end of the year, he never really recovered from that tragic weekend. A pole at Spa Francorchamps was the highlight of the season for Rubens, becoming the youngest driver to manage such a feat, and Rubens finished the season in an admirable sixth place.
Rubens continued to drive for Jordan for another two years. During this time Rubens couldn’t continue his progress and his successes remained pretty much status quo. A second place, standing next to third placed driver and team mate Eddie Irvine, and maiden race winner Jean Alesi at the Canadian Grand in 1995 was the best result Rubens could manage. At the end of the 1996 season, Rubens decided to leave Jordan and head to the newly formed Stewart Racing squad, founded by former Formula One champion Jackie Stewart.
1997-1999: The Stewart Years
The Stewart team was new and they struggled in the first few years. The highlight of Barrichello’s time at the team would have to be his second place at the 1997 Monaco Grand Prix. Team mate Johnny Herbert gave the team their maiden victory at Nurburgring the following year, but progress was painfully slow and at the end of 1999, Rubens was offered the chance to fulfill his life-long ambition. Rubens received a call from Ferrari.
2000-2005: The Ferrari Years
2000 was looking to be more of a promising year for the Brazilian. Although his career had dwindled slightly with the mid-field teams, Rubens grabbed this new opportunity to drive for the resurgent Ferrari squad and reinvigorated himself for the upcoming season.
After competing in 128 races, Barrichello finally managed to claim that elusive first victory. He did it at the German Grand Prix, and he did it convincingly. Rubens had been number two to his team mate Michael Schumacher for much of the year, but Hockenheim was to be kind to the Brazilian that year and Rubens enjoyed his success, even crying on the podium.
The Ferrari years of Rubens were to be successful to the Brazilian. Although Rubens played second fiddle to Schumacher, Barrichello was always waiting in the wings to pick the pieces should Michael’s car not perform to the best of its abilities. The dominance of Ferrari and good working relationship with the team saw Rubens flourish with the Italian team, and Rubens claimed nine wins in his time at the Scuderia.
There were more race wins for Rubens, but team orders at Ferrari meant that some had to be conceded to Schumacher for the German to win the title. Austria 2002 is possibly the most famous of these occasions, were Barrichello waited until just prior to crossing the finish line on the last lap before backing off. The ensuing confusion caused Michael to lift as well, and in the final few seconds of the race it was unclear as to who actually crossed the line first. However, it wasn’t necessarily this that caused the mammoth uproar. The fact that Ferrari appeared to be fixing the race results by swapping drivers around in an unsporting fashion sent shock-waves through the Formula One community. To this day, people still discuss the Austria incident.
Although successful at Ferrari, Barrichello never managed to win the crown, and in 2005, he announced that he would be leaving the Ferrari team to join Jenson Button at Honda.
Barrichello’s 2006 season – his first in the Honda team – was difficult and Rubens found adjusting to the team very hard, particularly in the first half of the year. Barrichello’s reputation seemed to be fading fast, but towards the end of 2006 Rubens found his groove again. Few points were awarded to Barrichello, and despite team mate Jenson Button winning the teams first race, Barrichello was upbeat about 2007.
Rubens may have been upbeat about his chances of success in 2007, coming off the back of the team’s maiden win the year previous. But the Honda team couldn’t have come back down to earth with any bigger bump, and the RA107 turned out to simply be a dog of a car. Its woeful and erratic handling caused problems for both drivers, and sister team Super Aguri were beating in the constructors title right up to the very end of the season.
Jenson Button didn’t score any points until the eighth round in France, and then again the Briton managed another point in Belgium and four in China. However, 2007 was to be Rubens first season in Formula One with zero points scored. Even in his debut year the Brazilian finished in the points. The highest finish Barrichello managed was ninth at the British Grand Prix, and he eventually finished the year in twentieth position.
Beyond Formula One
Outside of Formula One, Rubens is married to Silvana, and they have two sons, Eduardo and Fernando.