APRIL 3, 2001
Barrichello bad luck nothing special for Brazilians on home ground
TIME tends to go quickly when you're having fun, but Rubens Barrichello's misfortunes in the Brazilian Grand Prix were certainly not the first to befall a home-town hero at Interlagos. Back in 1972 when contemporary F1 visited the Sao Paolo track for the non-title GP de Madunina x a trailer for the following season's first world championship Brazilian GP - Emerson Fittipaldi spun out of the lead in front of his adoring crowd when the rear suspension of his Lotus 72 failed.
That race took place about six weeks before Barrichello was born. He was just a teenage kartist when Ayrton Senna's gearbox gave up on the starting line at Rio in 1988 and was just starting out in Europe when Ayrton's 1990 prospects of Interlagos victory were sluiced away when he knocked his McLaren's nose cone off against Satoru Nakajima's Tyrrell whilst lapping the Japanese driver.
None of this will be any consolation to the likeable Rubens who had a miserable time in his home Grand Prix on Sunday, the ultimate humiliation coming from Jaguar Racing consultant Niki Lauda who suggested that it might be appropriate that the Sao Paolo driver be banned for a couple of races simply because he's been involved in collisions in two or the three races held so far this year.
This is a hard and uncompromising verdict from Lauda which fails to take into account just what pressure Barrichello found himself under after his Ferrari F2001 rolled to a halt with fuel pressure problems on his first out-lap from the pits.
This was the latest in a long line of frustrations for the Rubens who had suffered an engine failure on Friday and then grappled with terminal understeer throughout qualifying and could only claim a disappointing sixth on the starting grid.
Abandoning his stricken car on the circuit, and in sweltering temperatures of around 35-degrees, Barrichello jogged back to the pits where he slumped exhausted on the floor while the Ferrari mechanics busied themselves changing the settings on Michael Schumacher's spare car so that he could take up his position for the start.
The task of changing pedal settings, adjusting his seat harness and fitting him into the car meant that it was touch and go whether Barrichello would manage to get out onto the circuit before the pit lane exit closed 15 minutes before the start. In the event, he made it with 26sec to spare, but it had certainly been an uncomfortably close call.
After three laps, the hapless Barrichello's bruising Brazilian GP ended when he slammed into the back of Ralf Schumacher's Williams-BMW under braking at the end of the long straight beyond the pits. The Ferrari's right front wheel was ripped off in the impact, but the Brazilian driver was thankfully uninjured.
The accident took place virtually outside the window of the family home in which Rubens had spent much of his youth. It was an acutely depressing way to finish a race where he had been widely tipped to challenge team-mate Michael Schumacher more strongly than ever.
However, as one cynic remarked; "Rubens should remember that the only reason he's driving a Ferrari is that the rules demand that the team enters two cars." A stupid sentiment by any standards, but one reflecting the dynamics of Schumacher's dominant relationship with Ferrari and how he has crafted the team around his every whim.
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