Rubens Barrichello makes no secret of the fact that one of his life's ambitions has been to drive for Williams. So, after finally achieving that dream, it was little wonder to find Barrichello so happy and motivated when he caught up with the media after the first day of action at Valencia on Monday. Here is what he had to say about the new FW32, new F1 regulations, his brief talks with McLaren – and some interesting advice for Nico Rosberg.
Q. During your long career you've had many different cars and many different rules. What do you expect from these rules?
Rubens Barrichello: Well, it is early days. It is a tough task to just say how is it going to be by the first day of impressions. But purely on the driver side, it is not going to be much fun starting the race on 160kg of fuel, and going through the first few laps. Obviously, you are talking about being four seconds slower, and the one thing a driver doesn't want is to go slower. But, it is a different technique, a different approach to it. In that, there is a challenge – and a new challenge for everyone.
I think it is very different because people say that I was the only one, and now Michael coming back – he also has the experience of driving full tanks. That is very, very different to 1993 when we drove that, so it is a new experience. I am up to the challenge. I like it, but I like better the fact that qualifying is going to be zero fuel and then you just drive flat-out – more than the expectations about the first lap after the start.
Q. Why will it be different from 1993?
RB: It is a different car to drive. It is heavy – the same amount of fuel is there. You did not have more downforce, because the cars improve all the time, but the tires differ. As F1 went on, the cars meant you had to be a bit more on line. A few years back you used to have more slides. But now you are so dependent on the aerodynamics that you are not able to.
So, I presume with that, there should be more overtaking if people are able to follow – especially with this rule of new tires [only] from 11th back. There will be some overtaking coming with that, in the same that 11th last year could have a real benefit on 10th, ninth and eighth, just because it was different fuel and a different strategy. It is difficult to go back to 1993 and have a feel for what the cars used to do, but it was a lot easier to slide the cars, definitely.
Q. So, what is it going to be like in the wet with all that fuel?
RB: I don't know. You don't go fast in the wet by braking late and by over-driving. You do by making right calls on line and getting back on the throttle. It may be that we are talking about it being a bit more dangerous because the car is lower and bottoming out – but it could be that the car is easier to drive in the wet too because the pace is going to be so much slower.
Q. What can you say about the new Williams car today?
RB: It is the first day at school. I enjoyed being out there with them. You look at the times and say, 'Wow, we are almost two seconds faster than a Ferrari,' and you can wish that you had that time, but to be honest with you, you cannot predict much nowadays. If you take 10kg of fuel, or full tanks, you are talking about almost four seconds – so it is going to be dead easy for someone to get a sponsor and say that the car is faster in a way.
We do have a balance problem with these new tires. We are having some understeer on the car, so with that amount of fuel we were running, and the lack of balance, I kind of liked the day. We were struggling a bit too much with the under steer, but just trying to dial it out. It was a very good first day.
And it's funny what a coincidence it is, but my two sons went to a new school today. So today they have a new school, and today I feel exactly the same. I am feeling like, 'Hi, what is your name?' It is exactly the same feeling. But I am feeling good. I had a fun day, and it was very, very good to work with Sam [Michael] back again. I don't know if you guys know but we worked together back at Jordan. He worked on my telemetry and he was very, very clever. I was sure he was going to go on to a much bigger level, so it was good to be back with him.
I don't know when I'm going to stop because I am so enthusiastic about it. I am so motivated, and sometimes I scare myself with that. It is 75 laps. No physical problems. I am just flat-out, hoping for the best and trying to sort it out. We have to wait and see. I don't think I can give you an idea – we will have an idea eventually, but it will be Bahrain Saturday we will see who is fast and who is not.
Q. Last year you drove the benchmark engine. Can you say anything about how the Cosworth feels?
RB: For the first day, it was very good. We could quite clearly say that we were not running on our limits, because it was the first day out of the dyno running on the track. So we are not running on full power and there is lots to be gained. So I am keeping myself fairly open and my feet on the ground. There is lots to be gained from the car and from the engine as well. So far we ran reliably. We did have a small technical issue with the throttle late on, which stopped the engine, and it was too late to make a change and go again. But it was good.
Q. With Michael Schumacher and Pedro de la Rosa back, are you happy that people will stop asking you when you will stop?
RB: It is something that I never cared. I look myself in the mirror and I feel myself that I am competitive. As long as I feel that – I've been so honest about myself to people. The day I feel I have gone a bit too fast, I am going to stop quite soon after that. But when in the days before I drive the racecar I drive my road car a bit fast to pump it up, it means I still want to drive.
But it is good to see them back. I think after last year, when I drove a competitive car and almost won the championship, it honestly gives some of the people from the paddock a different sensation. Because five years ago it was all about Kimi Raikkonen and new drivers – F1 wanting new drivers all the time. With [Robert] Kubica it was all the same. Now with the lack of testing, no testing, it makes the older drivers attractive.
Q. Was there any time after Jenson Button signed for McLaren that you thought, maybe if things had been different, I could have been in the Mercedes?
RB: To be honest with you, when I had conversations with McLaren it was: Do you want to do that or not? It was something that we could talk with Williams if you want to do that. But it was clear in my mind, I made a decision much before and started to talk to them much before, so my head was clear to drive for Williams.
I am not saying that, yes, I could have signed for McLaren, because it was only two conversations. But they asked me if I wanted to talk to the team, and I have to think about it. But it wasn't clear to me that, as I said before, it has always been an ambition to drive for Williams since I was a kid. It was always something, and my decision was made on the whole work they have been doing, plus the Cosworth. I do think that that power unit could be good.
Q. No, I meant when Mercedes was looking for a driver...
RB: Obviously you look at it, and the car is always going to be a fast one. McLaren is always similar to a Ferrari type of thing, in that they are going to build a good car, but as I said, when we had those conversations in November, it was already done for me. So I am happy where I am.
Q. What do you think you can achieve at Williams this year, as you have been quoted recently as saying you feel you are closer than ever to the championship?
RB: No. It is again a Brazilian quote that is a wrong one. The fact was, the journalist asked me if I thought Brawn was my last chance of being champion. And I said, I don't think so. In my mind I have to think that the championship is closer than ever – that is where they got the quote.
Q. So, realistically what do you think you can do here?
RB: You have got to aim for the best. I am a person who keeps my feet on the ground. I am a hard worker so, if the car is capable of doing good, I will do good. If the car is capable of doing regular positions and then improving, then that is where I am going to be. It all depends on what the car is capable of doing. I am up to it. I am very motivated. And my experience will count – so I am going to give them all the feedback possible for us to be winners. But if that is going to be the case then we have to wait and see. It is too unpredictable.
Q. What do you think about the move to change the points system?
RB: It doesn't change much. At the end of the day, as human beings, we will always think: Oh, if it was the other points system then someone else would have won it. But it is just because we want perfection and if the guy was Brazilian, or the guy was Irish, you will see it different. But at the end of the day, being the same for everyone is the best solution.
Q. Is there any advice you can give Nico Rosberg as Michael's teammate?
RB: Yeah. Get out of there! That is the only thing I can tell him. He needs to drive fast and don't crash: Ross will always tell you that before the race.
Q. So he has a difficult job ahead of him?
RB: I think so, yes. He is a great talent and I wish him all the best, and maybe tomorrow you will see the newspapers saying, 'Rubens tells Nico to get out of there,' but I am not being bad about it. Knowing what I know, and seeing how fast Michael went today, it is going to be a tough job. I wish him all the best because I think he is a talented boy who can be World Champion. If he has the chance of being World Champion in the same team as Michael, then he can be World Champion anywhere. Let's put it this way.