After 19 seasons in Formula 1, many expected Rubens Barrichello to be an immediate force in the IZOD IndyCar Series, but the Brazilian's first (but not “rookie,” as IndyCar labels it) season has been something of a disappointment to those with lofty expectations. On Sunday at Sonoma, however, Barrichello an his KV Racing Dallara-Chevrolet were a consistent top-five runner, and came home fourth – his best result to date.
“It was a good day. Obviously we had a car that was solid,” said Barrichello. “I don't think we had the quickest car out there. We could see that on the restart with Dario [Franchitti] and the two Penskes, because they opened up quite a big gap on us.
“But it was solid. It was one day that the strategy didn't mean a lot. I was able to play basically the numbers that the team was telling me to play, consistently fast.
“I think that we deserved to be probably, in terms of speed, sixth or seventh. But I was lucky I got away on the first crash and overtook a few people.”
Barrichello credited his pre-race test at Sonoma with helping him get a had-start for this race, something he says has been a limiting factor for him this year.
“I kept on saying I've been struggling with some of the tracks this year just because I haven't got the knowledge,” he said. “When you go there, there are some red flags, so you don't have the flow. I tested here, although not last week. I think I could use a little bit more of my knowledge of the car to improve it.
“I mean, on an Indy weekend, the car evolves a lot, the track evolves a lot. When you start the race, at least this year, I didn't know if we made the good choices or not. By the end of the day, the track grips up, sometimes it doesn't. But I still haven't got the balance that I wish to have. I think I had a good car today, but there was a little bit of understeer. I was able to just push, push, push. But I think it's more to do with the fact that I knew the track a bit more.”
Although Barrichello indicated earlier this month that he would not stay with KV Racing next season, he again gave notice that he fully expects to be back in IndyCar next year, and expects to gain from the experience.
“I thought that I would get familiar quite easily with things. But it's quite a lot different, just the driving,” he admitted. “Some of the tracks are very, very different from Europe.
“If we had eight races on new tracks, then eight races again on those tracks, I think I would have done much better. It's the way forward to come back next year. Just the fact that you know where you're going to brake – take Baltimore, for example, I watched the race a couple times already, but it's the first time I go there. I don't know if it's slippery. I don't know how it is. So, it's difficult.”