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GP Week : Issue 4
24 why I’m so proud I’m still here, still enjoying most of it.” From the outside, the Formula 1 of 2008 is a far cry from that of 1993. But Rubens admits that the same underlying principles that were true when he made his debut are still apparent today. “Honestly, it’s the normal changes that we have in life. The world goes into the way that everyone goes and Formula 1 is the same. I just feel it’s a lot safer. The strategy was always to keep the cars not so quick, but the engineers have always been able to work to make them go faster, so it’s been an incredible ride.” It’s also been an emotional ride for the Brazilian. At the time of his debut, Ayrton Senna cast a big shadow for any Brazilian in the sport. But Rubens was only to race with the great master for a year before tragedy stole the triple world champion away. “Ayrton was a friend more than anything,” he smiles. “He was a hero, someone I admired very much driving the car. It wasn’t that he came to give me advice as in you drive a corner this way or that way, I think it’s more from the perception that he was a determined guy and if I wanted to succeed in Formula 1 I had to be determined.” That determination came to the fore in the years immediately following Senna’s death as Barrichello graciously and humbly accepted the affections of the Brazilian nation, and the weight of expectation which came with it. “When Emerson Fittipaldi was there and Nelson Piquet came in, Emerson was still doing well, then started to do a little less and got out by the time that Nelson was doing well. The same thing happened to Nelson and Senna. Unfortunately we lost Senna too soon, but I think it would have been the same [for me.] It was almost like the Universe was prepared for that, but unfortunately he was gone much earlier and I took the pressure upon myself. “I was a young boy, only 22, and it was a tough business to realise the car wasn’t fast enough and wasn’t doing well. I can’t even lose at cards! People think, OK, well how did you lose to Michael all those years? But I worked my balls off! You can ask Ross Brawn how much of a pain in the ass I was. I was just searching my way around and that’s why I left [Ferrari], because I wanted to find a space for myself and win for myself and that’s what is the proud moment. “It’s achieving what I have achieved from a position where I have refused to throw in the towel and have just carried on going with a healthy experience.” There was a time when Rubens would have been forgiven for throwing in that towel. For a man who admits he can’t even lose at cards to have to accept clear and unashamed deference speaks volumes about just how mentally tough the Brazilian must have been throughout his time at Ferrari. “I look at it that I am only here now because of those times,” he reflects. “Hard times are good in Formula 1 because they teach you how to behave. Honestly the team was actually built to make both drivers succeed but it was almost a case that ‘OK he arrived first so we’re going to give him the best option.’ I had the same engine, gearbox and car, but he had the best strategy. So how do you beat him? “The wins that I had I am so proud of because I had to play with it. You say, OK, three stops, four stops, just give me something that at the end of the day if I am good enough I will prove to you that I can win. “All my wins were like that. Although they [Ferrari] were very equal and very determined to make both cars finish first and second, there was a preferred one to finish first.” “I like Michael as a person,” he continues.