There is a racing saying that you are only as good as your last race and as the winner of the final grand prix of 2003, Rubens Barrichello can savour his Japanese win until 7th March 2004, the date of the Australian GP. Rubens ...
There is a racing saying that you are only as good as your last race and as the winner of the final grand prix of 2003, Rubens Barrichello can savour his Japanese win until 7th March 2004, the date of the Australian GP.Ferrari Marlboro driver, who is back home for a few days in Sao Paulo. "The Japanese track is such a great circuit to drive and a challenge to find the right set-up. It is a very good feeling not only to have won the final race of the season, but also to win at Suzuka. I celebrated in style singing Karaoke with lots of other drivers and our own team of course. It was a fun way to end the season. And I managed to bring the winner's trophy back here to Brazil. This time it's intact, not like the one which got broken after Silverstone!"
All the tension of the past few weeks has now evaporated and Barrichello can reflect on ending the season on a high note. "It was a very good weekend from start to finish and I never felt the pressure people were trying to put on me," he recalled. "My qualifying lap on Saturday was one of my best ever and even if it had not rained, I think that no one apart maybe from Michael could have beaten me for pole."
Although he started from pole, Barrichello's race was not as clear cut as it looked. "The early laps were very difficult after a great start," he revealed. "The tyres were very cold on my first lap and then at the small right kink before Spoon corner, the surface was a little bit humid and I ran a little bit wide, getting really sideways. I kept going flat out, but Montoya had a much better run in my slipstream and came down the outside to pass me. Three laps later, my tyres were back to temperature and I was able to close the gap. I had a good car and it was just a question of catching him."
"When Juan Pablo had the problem, that allowed Alonso to close on me and that was when I began to have problems with my visor misting up. I got on the radio and told the team to get ready to block open my visor at the pit stop, which was coming soon. It was lucky I was on three stop strategy as it meant the team could keep packing it open. The team did a very good job to keep me ahead during the pit stops."
In order to avoid putting himself under any undue pressure with regards to the Drivers' championship situation, Rubens deliberately kept radio contact with the team to a minimum during the race. "You always pretend not to think about these things, but you just keep on hoping that the car keeps going," he said. "But I never asked where Michael was. I did not want to get involved with the pressure. I just wanted a clean race and by winning, I knew I was helping him anyway. Then, as I crossed the finish line, I finally asked the team what position he was in. If I had known about his problems in the race it might have affected the way I tackled my race."
With both championships going down to the wire, this has been a much tougher season for the Scuderia than the past few years. "We handled the pressure well," is Barrichello's assessment of that situation. "We did not get worse, it was just that the others got better. But we never stopped working. There were many tracks this year where the opposition seemed stronger than us. But we kept cool and turned the situation around in the final stages. Next year, we will have to look at what we have to do. Hopefully we will be in good shape."
"The problems we encountered this year helped to open the eyes of everyone in the team and also our suppliers such as Bridgestone. To get the car back on top, we needed to change our philosophy a bit and I think the tests we have been doing lately have improved a lot, especially on the tyre side in terms of speed and consistency. All that work we did helped us not only to win the titles this year, but will also be a big help for the long term future."
Rubens will be heading back to Europe for this weekend's Ferrari Maserati World Finals Day at Mugello. "I am looking forward to celebrating with all our fans," said the Brazilian. "It is always a very enjoyable and emotional event. Then, I will return home to relax for a few weeks, before coming back to Europe for a test session before the end of the year to get a feel for the car."