Formula 1: Rubens Barrichello and the emotional memory of his first victory

"I can't believe it, I just can't"declared Rubens Barrichello on the podium, who burst into tears and dressed in a Brazilian flag on the winners

“I can’t believe it, I just can’t”declared Rubens Barrichello on the podium, who burst into tears and dressed in a Brazilian flag on the winners’ podium.

Bad weather accompanied the weekend of the 2000 German Grand Prix and that situation was decisive in the development of that strange Hockenheim race in which a driver who started 18th won. It happened 22 years ago, and for Rubens Barrichello it was his first win in . That success, however, was conditioned, in addition to his talent, by two other external factors: a vindictive former Mercedes employee and the rain.

Barrichelllo reached his first victory after 128 Grand Prix contested, becoming one of the drivers with the most races before obtaining a victory. His tears will be remembered on that occasion, after much suffering with uncompetitive cars.


Michael Schumacher was leading the World Championship, followed by the two Mclaren Mercedes, with David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen who was the reigning champion. Barrichello knew that he was Schumacher’s squire. He went into qualifying looking for a good starting position, but lost control of his Ferrari on the first lap and was forced to return to the pits and use the reserve car. Arriving at the pit lane, he verified that the substitute car could not use it, since it was intended for Schumacher and had the correct configuration for the German’s driving, very different from that of the Brazilian.

Barrichello had to wait almost an hour for it to be ready and had no chance to put in a decent lap. He managed to rank 18th. He hadn’t started so far back on the grid since 1997.


In the first corner, Schumacher and Giancarlo Fisichella touched, and both ended up against the protections, and retired. Barrichello, with a powerful Ferrari and an aggressive strategy with low fuel load, began to climb positions, but had to enter the pits early to load. Until something unexpected happened.

With the McLarens largely dominating the race, a spontaneous crowd jumped onto the track and invaded it, crossing it, dressed in a sheet with messages about Mercedes. The Safety Car took to the track. The safety car was, as always, a Mercedes. The man who had provoked his presence was a former employee of the German brand who had been fired for health reasons, and who intended to be noticed precisely at the German Grand Prix. The most affected were the two Mclarens, the most powerful team with a Mercedes engine. They saw their advantage reduced to zero, and a new race began there. Barrichello had received the first external help from him.

The second appeared with just a few laps to go and it was rain, although there, in addition to luck, he needed a lot of talent. Most of the drivers entered the pits to change tires, since staying on the track with the dry ones was almost a utopia. But Rubens and Ferrari took a risk, and stayed on the German track. With impeccable driving, despite having the least suitable wheels for these conditions, Barrichello crossed the finish line in first position, for the first time since he made his debut in 1993. Historic comeback…


Barrichello thus achieved his first victory in Formula 1, which was not followed by many more (11 in total, 9 of them in Ferrari), and which was surely the most surprising, but also the most special.

A spiteful man and the sky had helped Rubens, but without his quality it would not have been possible to cry for the first victory.