The Rookie Orientation Program for the Indianapolis 500 isn’t just for the young fresh face up and comers anymore. During Thursday’s program at Indianapolis Motor Speedway a number of former Formula One drivers got in their first laps on an oval in an IndyCar.
39-year-old Rubens Barrichello is a full-time driver for KV Racing in the IndyCar series this season, before that he made a record 322 starts in Formula One.
“I feel like I am a beginner here, it’s completely new thing. From the noise inside of the helmet to the level of the feeling you have on the steering wheel. I was able to go flat through the corners. It’s such a buzz,” said Barrichello.
Barrichello passed ROP with flying colors, he took 83 laps on the track with his fastest at 214.083 miles per hour. It also helped he got some insight from his teammate at KV Racing, Tony Kanaan, who served as a driver advisor for all of the rookies.
“Tony was telling me everything I wanted to know. I told him I felt that the white line today when I touched it that the car was a little bit on the nose and he said it’s because everything has been repainted and it’s brand new. He’s been a great coach today and in a couple of days we’re back to a brother’s rivalry,” said Barrichello.
Things didn’t go as smooth for 47-year-old Jean Alesi. The French driver has made more than 200 starts in Formula One but Thursday marked his first time driving on an oval. Alesi was the slowest of all of the rookies, he was the only driver that didn’t top 200 miles per hour.
“You have tension when you go out of the pit. But, when you change gears and go up with the speed you feel in a good place. I’ve been in motor sports for a long time and I didn’t drive on ovals at all so this is the first time so I’m very happy.”
Alesi didn’t pass ROP but he gets another chance on Friday. The track opens for all of the drivers on Saturday.