Barrichello returns to Brazil, says IndyCar still an option
Formula One driver Rubens Barrichello spent a third day Wednesday testing for KV Racing Technology. Although a move to IndyCar was not imminent, the Brazilian is definitely considering the series for 2012.
Barrichello was scheduled to test Monday and Tuesday at Sebring International Raceway, then stayed an additional half day Wednesday to drive friend Tony Kanaan's car in the morning session.
"I very much enjoyed being here. I enjoyed the car, and I enjoyed the team," Barrichello said in a phone interview. "So now I will take my family back to Brazil and wait a little longer to see if this is my future."
Barrichello said the attention he has received in Brazil over a potential move to IndyCar was "not a mess, but quite a lot of hype," and he needs a few days to process his next move in auto racing. He lost his F1 seat at Williams earlier this month to Bruno Senna.
He brought his wife and two children to the test in Florida, which was arranged by fellow Brazilian Kanaan. KV Racing co-owner Jimmy Vasser was optimistic going into the test because, at the very least, Barrichello could give the team feedback about the new car.
Barrichello felt he accomplished that.
"I ended up contributing more than I thought I would, which I am happy about," Barrichello said. "Now I need to take my family back and take some time to talk to them, talk to Tony and talk to Jimmy over the next week. So far, I am happy with my experience."
The 39-year-old Barrichello made his F1 debut with Jordan in 1993. With 19 seasons racing in that series, he's the most veteran driver at what's considered auto racing's most elite level. He's also one of the most-liked drivers in F1 and has competed in more races in that series than any other driver. He finished second in the drivers' standings in 2002 and 2004, both times with Ferrari behind seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher.
He's also wildly popular around the world. A video he posted Tuesday on Twitter of his lap around Sebring shot from an in-car camera had more than 10,000 views just 30 minutes after it was posted.
Izod IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard even flew from Indianapolis to Sebring on Monday to introduce himself to Barrichello during the brief lunch break.
"I was very glad he came," Barrichello said of the meeting, in which Bernard promised the series would help however possible should Barrichello move to IndyCar.
"We had a nice chat, and I appreciated him coming to meet. I really thank him for that gesture."
Should Barrichello make the move, it would be a huge boost to IndyCar, which had terrific momentum leading into last year's season finale. The series was working hard to gain steam for 2012, when it will debut a new car and three new engine manufacturers.
Then two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon was killed in an accident during the Oct. 16 season finale, and IndyCar has struggled to regain its footing. But Barrichello considering a move to the series has sparked some new attention for IndyCar.
It's also been a boon to KV Racing, which last year fielded cars for Kanaan, Takuma Sato and E.J. Viso. A deal for 2012 has only been announced for Kanaan, who finished a team-best fifth in last year's standings. But Viso was testing for the team Wednesday, an indicator he's finalized a deal to return.
That still leaves one seat open, and it appears it's Barrichello's if he wants the ride.
In addition to helping the team with the new IndyCar, Barrichello could push Kanaan both on and off the track. The two are so close they refer to each other as brothers, and Barrichello is godfather to Kanaan's son, while Kanaan is godfather to one of Barrichello's boys.
Kanaan, the 2004 series champion, has just two victories in the last four seasons and went winless in 2009 and 2011.
"If I say today I can help Tony, that maybe would sound like I have a contract and I do not," Barrichello said. "But it's no secret I am part of his family, socially, personally, professionally. I know what he likes to go fast. I know it would be rewarding to be teammates, and we could be pushing each other together."
There are several scenarios in which Barrichello could compete in IndyCar this season, but it's not clear how he'd address the four scheduled races on ovals. It's no secret he long ago promised his wife he would not race on American ovals. Wheldon was killed on an oval.
Although Barrichello said the ovals "are not a concern" earlier this week, it's possible KV Racing could use another driver during those races. There's also speculation that Barrichello would do the Indianapolis 500, and not the ovals at California, Iowa and Texas.
It's all up for discussion.
"I'm a lover of speed and a lover of motorsport," he said. "I still have a lot of speed in me. I enjoyed this car, and I am pleased I adapted to it so quickly. But we will see."