By Steve Keating
TORONTO (Reuters) – Rubens Barrichello sees the family racing connection in his son Eduardo’s eyes but for the 17-year-old teenager it is all about the hands.
It is hardly a surprise that some of the genes that made Barrichello the Formula One ironman with a record 322 starts would be passed down to a son starting to find his way in a motor racing world where blood lines can open doors but do not win races.
“Honestly my passion is to look at his eyes when he is inside of the car just because I can see he loves it even more than I do and I have been racing for 40 years so it is just crazy,” the 47-year-old Barrichello told Reuters during a lull in action at the Toronto Indy on Sunday.
In 19 years racing Formula One, including six seasons with Ferrari when he played second fiddle to Michael Schumacher, Barrichello collected 11 wins, 68 podium places and twice finished runner-up in the drivers’ championship.
Such longevity is built on passion. Only time will tell if Eduardo possesses the same skill and temperament that made his father the consummate team mate and competitor.
Racing in the IndyCar feeder series the USF2000, Eduardo has caught glimpses of his father in himself when behind the wheel which for the young Brazilian are far more telling than the eyes.
“When we drive the same car we can see the onboard camera, our hands are always working the same, mine and his,” said Eduardo. “It is a pretty good thing to recognise.”
Starting grids everywhere are sprinkled with father/son stories; Jos and Max Verstappen, Keke and Nico Rosberg, Gilles and Jacques Villeneuve, Graham and Damon Hill, Michael and Mick Schumacher and Mario and Michael Andretti.
The genuine pride and bond shared by the Barrichellos is striking.
Aside from being a mentor, Barrichello is serving as Eduardo’s spotter this weekend and when his son crashed during qualifying on Saturday he got his hands dirty helping to repair the car.
Asked who was his favourite driver Eduardo did not hesitate, saying: “My father”.
While they are close when together there is none of the usual Brazilian father/son chit-chat about soccer or teenage trials and tribulations.
“We do not talk about other things, only racing,” said Eduardo, his father smiling nearby. “All I know is from him, I am his number one fan.”
Eduardo makes no secret that his ultimate dream is to race in Formula One but the path the Barrichellos have chosen is one less travelled.
The more direct route runs through the European Formula One feeder series but for the moment the Barrichellos, who call Orlando home, have opted for the Road to Indy, a North American development programme that takes young drivers starting with USF2000 through the Pro Mazda championship to Indy Lights and ultimately graduating to an IndyCar seat.
After racing last year in the F4 United States championship where he scored four top-10 finishes in 17 races, Eduardo moved to the USF2000 with Miller Vinatieri Motorsports, owned by Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri and Dr Jack Miller, the “Racing Dentist” who drove in the Indy 500 from 1997 to 1999.
Results have been mixed. He finished a season-best fifth in the second race of the IndyCar Grand Prix weekend in May but had no luck in Toronto, finishing 15th of 17th cars in race one on Saturday and last on Sunday.
Whether Eduardo will continue to climb the IndyCar ladder is uncertain.
When Max Verstappen was 17 he was already on the Formula One starting grid and the Barrichellos have not ruled out a move to Europe if the right opportunity presents itself.
“As it comes,” said Rubens, who raced one season in IndyCar after leaving Formula One in 2011. “Right now we are living in America, we are having a great time, the USF2000 has been good. We are searching.
“The most important thing is we enjoy being together, it is like a family weekend and makes it fun.”
(Editing by Clare Fallon)