It can’t be easy being the oldest driver in F1. Just ask the BBC’s commentators.
I remember Martin Brundle once describing how the fact that he was the oldest driver in the 1996 season caught up with him and began to define him as a driver. Despite having a reasonable season, by the following year he had switched to his new career in broadcasting.
Meanwhile, David Coulthard’s final season in F1 was littered with clumsy accidents. Didn’t his first corner coming-together in the final race of 2008 just sum up his season?
Now it looks like it might be Rubens Barrichello’s turn to have a rusty final season. Certainly, his Australian Grand Prix weekend was about as error-strewn as it gets these days.
There was an off during Practice 2. A further spin in Qualifying 2 ended his session early, cementing 17th slot on the grid.
Then on lap one of the race he went off at turn 4. Some time later, he steamed into Nico Rosberg at the same corner. It looked suspciously like a ridiculously optimistic overtaking move that was only ever going to go wrong. But Barrichello later blamed his tyres. This sounds like a tall tale to me.
Rubens Barrichello is not the oldest driver on the grid this year. That accolade falls to Michael Schumacher, who is probably seen by most as a separate case. Schumacher faces his own kind of pressure — the over-the-hill seven times champion who should have stayed in retirement while his reputation was still in tact.
Beyond that, Barrichello is the stand-out old guy in F1. He certainly has the longevity and experience in F1 that no-one else has. He has started a truly staggering 300 grands prix. That is an astonishing 36% of all Formula 1 grands prix that have ever been held! But the experience doesn’t seem to be doing him much good at the moment.
I hope it doesn’t turn out to be the case. It’s impossible not to have a soft spot for the Brazilian. But I fear already that he may be having his “Coulthard year”.