"News to me," came the response from Andretti Green Racing spokesman Al Larsen as told exclusively to Motorsport.com this morning. Thus reports that Honda Formula One driver Rubens Barrichello, set next month to become the series' longest-serving driver, will finish his career in the United States would seem to be at least premature.
A story attributed to German newspaper Bild and reportedly confirmed by Speedtv maintains that Barrichello will drive for Andretti Green Racing in 2009. The story suggests the Brazilian will swap places in Indy car racing with AGR driver Marco Andretti. The common link is Honda, whose engines power Indy cars. The third-generation Andretti racer has tested Honda's F1 car.
Larsen told Motorsport.com that the rumor "absolutely blindsided" him.
"I've not seen that," he said. "Nobody here's got a clue. The only thing official is he's not here. Nobody is confirming it."
A multiple kart champion and winner of British Formula Three and Formula Opel titles, Barrichello first raced in F1 at South Africa in 1993 for Jordan F1. He spent four seasons racing for Irishman Eddie Jordan before moving to Stewart Racing to work for former World Driving Champion Sir Jackie Stewart. Three seasons later Barrichello joined Ferrari, where he partnered seven-time World Driving Champion Michael Schumacher. Barrichello's points totals with the Italian team took him to two second-place finishes and a third-place driving result. He joined Honda F1 in 2006, where he has enjoyed less success as the Japanese car maker has struggled to produce a competitive car.
Barrichello, 35, is set to celebrate setting a record 257 starts in F1 at the Turkish Grand Prix on May 11. He will surpass the longstanding mark of 256 established by Italian Riccardo Patrese. Barrichello has won nine races, reached 61 podiums and earned 13 pole positions. He is the only currently active F1 runner to have raced with four-time World Driving Champion Frenchman Alain Prost and three-time driving titlist Brazilian Ayrton Senna, whom Barrichello regarded as hero.
Barrichello maintains a close friendship with Andretti Green driver and countryman Tony Kanaan. The two formed the Barrichello Kanaan Institute, which works with social organizations to help children, young adults and senior citizens in need, and to promote family relationships.
Andretti, 21, made a mark on American racing through nearly winning the 2006 Indianapolis 500 (he lost to Sam Hornish by .0635 seconds after passing his father Michael Andretti for the lead with three laps left), and later winning an Indy Racing League IndyCar Series event in his rookie season.
Andretti has tested the Honda F1 car twice. He has made no secret of his interest in Formula One. His grandfather, Mario Andretti, winner of the 1969 Indianapolis 500, won the 1978 World Driving Championship for Lotus.
Marco Andretti drives Indy cars and sports cars for Andretti Green Racing, co-owned by his father, who also raced in F1 and who won a CART title as an Indy car driver and the Indianapolis 500 as an owner. Like his father and grandfather, Andretti was an Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year.
Andretti lists Barrichello, Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa as the current drivers beyond Indy cars whom he most admires.