Rubens Barrichello can fight for race wins and the IZOD IndyCar Series championship in his first season, according to his KV Racing teammate Tony Kanaan.
The two Brazilians were confirmed at KV Racing on Thursday, joining EJ Viso to complete a three-car lineup for this year. IndyCar has confirmed that Barrichello will not be classified as a rookie this season, although he will be eligible for Rookie of the Year honors at the Indianapolis 500. Kanaan expects his close friend to be a front runner in the series straight away.
"If Rubens didn't believe that he could win, he wouldn't have come to the team," said Kanaan. "We've got to be realistic about the experience that he's going to have on the ovals, but I have to say, I don't expect any less than for Rubens to be right on top of the game right away.
"With his experience and his talent, and the way the series is competitive, giving equal chassis and this year with different engines, I believe he has very good chances to be fighting for race wins and championships this year."
Fellow Brazilian Helio Castroneves, who stays with Team Penske for 2012, backed up Kanaan's belief.
"The entire series will get a boost with Rubinho's presence," said the three-time Indy 500 winner. "It's another great name added to our grid. He will be fighting for the title, and the championship will only gain from that."
Barrichello moved to play down the expectations, but he admitted that his Formula 1 experience means he cannot claim to be a complete novice at this level.
"I'm definitely not starting from zero because of all my experience," he said. "But I have my feet on the ground. It's still not natural for me because I only had a few tests with Tony's car. I don't know if I'm going to be well prepared for the first race, but what I can promise is that I will push to the very limits.
"[Whether] that's good enough for us to do what we want, which is win, we will have to wait and see."