A COUPLE of Germans, Finns and a Briton have been running things in the F1. And Rubens Barichello believes it's time for the samba boys to make their mark in the F1, starting with the Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix race.
Over the last few years, the Shumacher brothers, Michael and Ralf, Finns Mika Hakkinen and Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren's David Coulthard have been hogging the spotlights while the 31-year-old Rubinho has been playing second fiddle to Michael in Ferrari.
This year, team orders are a thing of the past, there are three Brazilians in F1, and Barichello feels it is time for Brazil to produce winners and bring back the glory days when Ayrton Senna ruled the roost.
“It is good to have many Brazilians competing as long as they are winning. Brazil needs winners. My country always had good winners,” said Barichello, who hails from Sao Paulo.
The late Senna, a racing legend, was world champion in 1991. Barichello last won at the US Grand Prix in Indianapolis last year. He has five F1 race wins under his belt.
This season has not started well for him. He spun out after five laps in Melbourne but has come to Sepang prepared to be the first Brazilian to take the chequered flag in Malaysia.
The other Brazilians featuring in the F1 this season are rookies Cristiano Da Matta, who is driving for Toyota Panasonic and “Jungle Boy” Antonio Pizzonia of Jaguar.
“I see good life ahead for Cristiano. I lived with him in England when I was racing the F1 and he was then in the F3000. He is talented and so is Pizzonia,” said Barichello.
He pointed out that last year’s Sauber Petronas rookie Felipe Massa, who is now the test driver for Ferrari, was another talent from his country.
“I strongly feel he should be racing this season. However, it will do him good to work closely with Michael (Schumacher) and me with the Ferrari. He should learn everything he can. With the experience, I see him having a bright future.”
On his ties with his other compatriots, he said, “We are very close and this is something that I appreciate. When I was 20 years' old, I met Senna and it was a special occasion. It is more fun for all of us to be sticking together.”
A gloom hangs over the world now as the US has begun its attack on Iraq. But Barichello hopes the F1 can lift some of it with a good performance.
“Despite the war, we have to go on. By doing what we love most, we can at least divert the attention of the world and give them something to lighten up. I just hope all this will finish soon,” said Barichello. “This is going to be my F1 year. I made a small mistake in Melbourne. I had problems there and I have sorted it out. I am just out to give my best in Sepang.”
His best race in Sepang was a second place behind Michael in 2001. With team orders out, Barichello could be the one to bring the Schumacher reign in Sepang to an end. Michael won in 2000 and 2001while Ralf won last year.