Rubens Barrichello was Michael Schumacher’s teammate during Ferrari’s golden years, the pair spearheaded a remarkable period in which they won ten Formula 1 world titles – five F1 constructors’ titles and the German legend bagging five drivers’ crowns during those five years.
It was no secret that Barrichello was the ideal wingman in a team built around, and by, Schumacher. The Brazilian scored nine grand prix wins while Schumacher bagged 72 victories over the same period.
In a recent interview on Beyond the Grid, Barrichello provided fresh insight into one of the most potent partnerships in F1, only usurped by the Mercedes run of success with Lewis Hamilton.
Like Hamilton with Mercedes, Ferrari at the time was under the leadership of Jean Todt and Schumacher – who joined the Italian team in 1996 – was the chosen one and everything gravitated around the goal of winning the title with Schumi.
The 47-year-old from Sao Paulo recalled, “He was super, super on high speed like very courageous. The way I drove on the low speed was actually I was taking more speed out of it than him.
“I remember so many times Ross (Brawn) telling him that he had too do something different. I became so much better on the high speed because of him. I think we both went to another level of pushing each other so it was good. It’s not that easy to make Michael Schumacher go to another level.”
It’s not that easy to make Michael Schumacher go to another level
“Mine had to be mental. How do you go to a racetrack knowing that you have a B option of a pit stop and this and that and still be ready to win,” explained the Brazilian who quit the top flight at the end of 2011.
“If you put myself against Michael I think it was a 70-30 split, lets put it this way he was better than me. He was more complete and Michael didn’t have bad days, whenever he had a bad day or he was vulnerable the team around him prepared him to be back up. They knew how to affect him positively.
“But if it was run straight, just the same strategy for everyone I might have won at least one championship … at least one. It doesn’t make a difference now, it’s part of the past. I didn’t and I’m happy with that because I tried.”
“I’ve always made friends and had a great relationship with my teammates. I do (include Michael), but he was never supportive … it’s not the right word. He would never be there to offer help so I never asked because there are teammates to go and ask.”
In the end Ferrari was Michael’s team
“For example Eddie Irvine, you ask him and he says: I don’t know which gear I take that corner. I got pissed one day because I couldn’t understand how the hell he doesn’t know what gear and he doesn’t really know, he just doesn’t think, he did it naturally.
“So you have to learn people, with Michael, it was different, he was a bit naive in a way that he worked his way. So many times I left my chair because the meeting was already finished and then they started another meeting with just Michael there and I said hmm this is funny. I took my chair and I just would sit there, say nothing and just stay there.”
“Eventually I felt that (it was Schumacher’s team), eventually I felt that the team was his. But it never dropped my emotions, seeing as I had to overcome my emotions to get better and to race against the best it wasn’t that: oh ok this engine was for him and this engine is for Rubens.
“I think they’d done such a good job on the year 2000 already that the engines had the same amount of power, but one is special and would have a choice to go to Michael but I think at the end of the day it was not a problem for me to race the same car as him,” concluded Barrichello.