PHOTO CREDIT: Dave Lewandowski/INDYCAR
So who deserves credit for Formula One star Rubens Barrichello's decision to switch to the IZOD IndyCar Series?
The news of Barrichello's announcement made headlines around the world and was a hit on social media, with the 19-year F1 veteran trending worldwide on Twitter. But even more importantly, both IndyCar's level of competition and international credibility have been raised with his addition to the grid.
It's a potentially huge boost overall for the series, so somebody needs to get the props for this, right?
You can certainly make an argument in favor of former series champion, Tony Kanaan, Barrichello's close friend and new teammate at KV Racing Technology. After all, Kanaan was the one who reached out to Barrichello after he received word that he would not return for a 20th F1 campaign, having lost his ride at Williams to Bruno Senna.
Kanaan also has graciously curtailed his own track time in two preseason tests to let Barrichello learn the basics of driving an IndyCar in his own ride -- then proceeded to work on his bosses at KVRT, Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser.
"I was with Rubens when they kind of gave him the phone call that his deal was not going to happen at Formula 1," Kanaan recalls. "And I said, 'Hey, why don't you test my car to help me out. It's a new car. With your experience, I think it's going to be great to have your feedback.' And I go to [team co-owners] Kevin and Jimmy, and I said, 'Hey, he wants to race. He has a full sponsorship. He's ready to go. He just wants to give a couple laps in the car, and he'll make his decision.'
"So now they're expecting Rubens to make his decision, and then Rubens says, 'Yeah, yeah, let me think about it.' Rubens asked, 'Do you guys have a sponsorship?' I said, 'No, I thought you had it.' Then Jimmy kind of gave me a dirty look, and they realized it was a setup, but I think it was a good one. At the end of the day, we're all happy now."
Indeed, they are. But another group of people also have an argument going for them: Barrichello's wife, Silvana, and his children, who have given him their blessing to race in America.
If you've followed Grand Prix racing for some time, you know about Barrichello's promise to his wife that he would never consider racing on an oval. That's a pretty big promise to make for a driver of his caliber, and Barrichello had his reasons at the time.
"What happened was that one day we were watching an oval race, and there was a crash, and she looked at me and said, 'You're never going to do this, are you?'," Barrichello remembered. "I said, 'Well, I don't plan to, because I hope that I'll be racing Formula 1 forever, like 25 years, and then I'll probably stop.'"
But Williams' decision to go in another direction meant that the Brazilian would come up six years short on that prediction. That also meant Barrichello would have to do some of his own convincing.
Luckily, his two boys, Fernando and Eduardo, were ready to help.
"They want to see Daddy racing on the oval, and we had fun together the one day when ‑‑ it was a setup," said Barrichello. "I briefed the boys, and then we went to mom. Eduardo asked her if it was true that she didn't want me to race on oval, and she said, 'Well, I would rather have him racing on just normal circuits,' and then we had like a quorum and we said all three of us at the same time, 'Luckily, mom doesn't tell us what to do.' It was kind of funny. But she was fine. She knows I'm so happy.
"She can see in my eyes how much I'm happy, so she's happy for me."
And that was that, apparently. Now Barrichello will look to tackle several different learning curves at once in his inaugural IndyCar campaign. He's getting used to the DW12s, but he'll still have those ovals to figure out. We could also mention the new culture he'll be in -- a looser environment compared to the highly pressurized world of the F1 paddock -- but his genuine, good-natured demeanor should ensure that he'll get over well with everyone.
The biggest challenge will be his competitors, who will all be looking to test themselves against the most experienced driver in F1 history. It'll be a constant storyline wherever the series goes. But as Kanaan said on Thursday, Barrichello wouldn't be here if he didn't think he could be a contender.
"I want to help myself, Tony, EJ [Viso] and the team to get to the very top, and I'm excited," Barrichello added. "I'm really excited. I want to promise that I'm going to give it my all. If that's good enough for us to do what we want, which is win, we will have to wait and see."
One thing that's assured is that many more people will be waiting and seeing with Barrichello on the scene.
So, again, who gets the credit? Kanaan or Barrichello's family?
Maybe it doesn't matter so much.