BAR Honda has confirmed a "multi-year" deal with Rubens Barrichello. The Ferrari driver will join the Brackley-based team from next year, but does the move herald the beginning of the end of Rubinho's F1 tenure - or a renaissance in his career?

BAR Honda has confirmed a "multi-year" deal with Rubens Barrichello. The Ferrari driver will join the Brackley-based team from next year, but does the move herald the beginning of the end of Rubinho's F1 tenure - or a renaissance in his career?

Barrichello has helped Ferrari win five of its six consecutive constructors' championship titles since 1999. The Brazilian made his F1 début with Jordan in 1993 and drove for Stewart Racing before joining Ferrari. He's won nine races and claimed 61 podium positions in his 12-year grand prix career.

"I am very excited to confirm that I will be joining BAR in 2006," Barrichello said. "I wish to thank everyone at Ferrari for six fantastic years. However, my target remains winning the drivers' title and to achieve that I felt that I needed a renewed motivation.

"I have been watching BAR Honda's progress for some time and have been struck by the spirit and determination of a team that has all the right ingredients to win races and go on to win world championships. I am very happy about the fantastic times that I know still lie ahead," the Brazilian added.

Barrichello clearly fulfilled his public relations obligation by heaping praise on his future employers. The Brazilian, many F1 insiders have suggested, will be relieved that he no longer needs to fulfil the role of Michael Schumacher's contracted subordinate. Barrichello also relishes the opportunity to join forces with his compatriot, former Indy 500 winner Gil de Ferran, who recently became BAR's sporting director.

However, in 2003, Jenson Button also proclaimed BAR Honda the team with which he could achieve his aspiration of winning the F1 world championship. However, the Briton infamously failed to defect to Williams-BMW for the 2005 season and now faces the prospect of having to move to Grove against his wishes next year.

Will Barrichello suffer Irvine's fate?

Recent F1 history suggests Barrichello may have inadvertently entered the twilight of his F1 career by signing with BAR. Former Ferrari driver Eddie Irvine, who narrowly lost the world championship to McLaren's Mika Hakkinen in 1999, fell into virtual obscurity when he joined the now-defunct Jaguar Racing in 2000 after faithfully serving the Scuderia for four seasons. Despite a few memorable moments with the Leaping Cat, Irvine never won again.

When Damon Hill fell out of favour with Williams-Renault during the 1996 season (reportedly over his salary - and team boss Sir Frank Williams' insistence on signing Heinz-Harald Frentzen), the newly-crowned world champion moved from F1's dominant team to Tom Walkinshaw's Arrows squad. Apart from a heroic drive in Hungary in 1997 (a grand prix he would have won had it not been for a technical problem in the closing stages of the race), Hill descended into the ranks of also-rans and was practically ushered into retirement, following a pair of lacklustre seasons with the Jordan team, in 1999.

Hill's former Williams team-mate, Jacques Villeneuve, never managed to build F1 newcomer British American Racing (BAR) into a race-winning team. Following a disappointing 1998 season, the 1997 World Champion left Williams to join fledgling BAR, only to become embroiled in team politics (most notably a spat with former team principal David Richards) and disappeared from the F1 grid before the end of 2003. Since his return in late 2004, Villeneuve has had to battle from the back of the F1 grid.

'A milestone in BAR's development'

Richards' successor, BAR chief executive Nick Fry, said: "Signing Rubens represents another exciting milestone in BAR Honda's development and in Rubens' own career. This is a strong and successful team that is determined to achieve its World Championship ambitions and we are confident that these will be realised soon. Rubens is not only an excellent driver, but he has the experience of building a race and championship-winning team and these skills are very important as we work to take BAR Honda to the next level.

"The fact that we have developed so quickly to become an attractive proposition to drivers of Rubens' standing is a fantastic credit to the team. We are delighted that Rubens recognises our enormous potential and wishes to help us realise our dream in the not too distant future. I would also like to thank Ferrari for all of their cooperation in allowing Rubens to join us next year."

Barrichello is notably the first grand prix winner to join BAR since Olivier Panis and, more recently, Villeneuve, left the team. And CAR deputy editor and F1 expert John Bentley views Barrichello's BAR move as a watershed in the Brazilian's F1 career.

Barrichello's chance to make his own mark

"Barrichello's very quick, arguably quicker than Button, and has the potential to win the world championship. The Brazilian has matched or outpaced Schumacher on several occasions in previous seasons. Because of his unofficial second driver status at Ferrari, nobody knows how often he's had to give way to the German.

"This year's United States Grand Prix was a case in point. Had it not been for a marginally less effective race strategy than that of his team-mate, Barrichello would have beaten Schumacher.

"Rubens will revel in having equal number one status at BAR," Bentley added.

Original article from Car