It's official - it's Barrichello

FERRARI has confirmed that Brazilian Rubens Barrichello has signed a two-year contract with the team and will replace EddieƊIrvine at Maranello next year. Barrichello is the first Brazilian to have a works Ferrari drive in F1 and the 27-year-old says that he will have equal number one status to Michael Schumacher.

Barrichello told a Sao Paulo newspaper last week that he would not have signed for Ferrari if "I have to allow Schumacher to pass me". Whatever the contractual situation Barrichello is going to have a hard time beating Michael Schumacher and may come to regret the $5m a year deal.

Barrichello - who is descended from Italian settlers in Brazil - has yet to win a Grand Prix despite having raced in over 100 Grands Prix. It is significant that when he was Eddie Irvine's team mate at Jordan he was not much quicker than the Irishman.

"If I'm fast enough," said Rubens, "I don't believe that team orders will come into play."

Irvine is still fighting for the World Championship for Ferrari and the team has confirmed that it will "put all its efforts and determination into tackling the decisive four remaining races of the World Championship".

Irvine said that his time at Ferrari has been "a marvellous experience" but added that having scored three wins with the team this year it would have "impossible" to stay as Michael Schumacher's number two for another season.