Formula One driver Rubens Barrichello drove an IndyCar for the first time on Monday. Whether it leads to a ride in the open-wheel series remains to be seen.
Barrichello tested Sebring International Raceway on Monday with KV Racing Technology. The two-day test was organized by fellow Brazilian driver Tony Kanaan, who is so close to Barrichello, the two refer to each other as brothers.
"I've come in as an invitation from my brother, Tony, and I am enjoying this time with him at the track and with a new car," Barrichello, who is godfather to Kanaan's son, told The Associated Press in a phone interview from the Florida race track.
"But right now, I am here purely to help the team out and to enjoy myself. I just have no idea right now what this could lead to, if anything."
Barrichello has no seat lined up at this time for 2012 in any series. He split with Williams earlier this month when the F1 team gave Barrichello's seat to Bruno Senna. But Barrichello is not ready to walk away from racing just yet.
"I have been a racer for too long to just give it all away right now," he said. "I have a lot of speed in myself. I know that and I want to continue to race."
The 39-year-old Barrichello, who made his F1 debut with Jordan in 1993, has spent 19 seasons racing at the top level. He is one of the most-liked drivers in F1, and has competed in more races in that series than any other driver. He finished second in the drivers' standings in 2002 and 2004, both times with Ferrari behind seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher.
Should Barrichello decide he wants to run in the Izod IndyCar Series, the logical fit is with Kanaan at KVR. The team last year fielded cars for Kanaan, E.J. Viso and Takuma Sato. Kanaan finished a team-best fifth in the final series standings.
Kanaan said he talked a little over the winter with Barrichello about coming to IndyCar, and tried to lure him after the Williams announcement by posting a photo of the DW12 on Twitter. Kanaan, who is godfather to one of Barrichello's sons, took Barrichello to dinner in Sebring with fellow IndyCar drivers Helio Castroneves, Will Power and Oriol Servia.
"It's great to have a guy I can call a brother with us. (His future) is in his hands," Kanaan said. "Right now, it's just an invitation for him to help us out as far as his feedback. Nineteen years in Formula One, the guy has so much knowledge we need to take advantage of. What goes beyond that, it's up to him.
"Knowing Rubens, his timeline will be pretty short. By the time he gets out of the car (Tuesday), he'll have a pretty good idea what he wants to do. You can tell by his face he's having a lot of fun."
But there are issues to be addressed, most importantly an oft-repeated theory that Barrichello has a standing promise with his wife not to race on ovals. Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon was killed in the Oct. 16 IndyCar season finale racing on the oval at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The current 2012 IndyCar schedule has four ovals on it: Indianapolis, Texas, Iowa and California.
Las Vegas was dropped as the series investigates the compatibility of the new car with high-banked ovals. A fifth oval race — likely at Milwaukee — could be added as IndyCar officials seek a 16th race for this year's schedule.
Barrichello didn't discuss the oval issue in much detail.
"It is something to talk about," he said, "but it is not an issue I'd call a 'concern.'"
He also said he was enjoying getting to know the new IndyCar, which will debut this season. Barrichello ran roughly 150 miles on Monday, and will be back at the track Tuesday.
"It's a different car, it's a different beast, but it is a beast," he said "It has good power, though, and I am enjoying driving it."
Barrichello is wildly popular in Brazil, and IndyCar has raced there since 2010. The 2012 event is scheduled for April 29 in Sao Paulo. So even if Barrichello did a one-off and ran only the Brazil event, his participation would be a huge boost to a series trying to regain the momentum it had before Wheldon's accident.
Just agreeing to test with Kanaan had piqued interest around the world, and Barrichello's name buzzed around the Rolex 24 at Daytona endurance race all weekend as drivers wondered if the Brazilian will end up in IndyCar.
IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard seemed hopeful, rattling off Barrichello's career statistics as argument why he'd be good for the series.
"He's a champion, a driver who would be a tremendous addition to our series. IndyCar would love to have him," Bernard said. "His record alone is the type of excitement that we want to build within the series and give our fan base.
"When you look at the history of IndyCar and the greats such as Nigel Mansell and Emerson Fittipaldi, it only helps the stature of IndyCar. If there is a transition, I want him to know that we're here to help him."