Learning curve affects all

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis 500 will have a completely new look when the field of 33 rolls off the starting line shortly after noon Sunday.

But part of that completely new look will be very familiar to worldwide motorsports fans — this year’s rookie class includes the driver with the most Formula One starts in history, and one who already has a history with the yard of bricks.

The other part will be completely new — the Dallara DW12 chassis will see its maiden voyage on an oval this weekend. The cars have a significantly different look than previous generations of IndyCars, and with turbocharged motors, huge sidepods and small rear wings, drive significantly differently than their normally-aspirated predecessors that had been used for the previous nine years.

So, every driver has a learning curve, from the most grizzled veteran to the greenest rookie. One of the drivers in the field is both. Rubens Barrichello started 322 Formula One races and won 11 of them over a 19-year career and drove for the world’s most-decorated team, Scuderia Ferrari, during his tenure. This year, he signed with KV Racing Technology and became the most-decorated Formula One driver to move to IndyCar racing since reigning world champion Nigel Mansell did so in 1993.

Yet, he’ll have the (R) next to his name on the entry list, signifying he’s an IndyCar rookie. But that suits Barrichello just fine. Of his 322 starts and his four in an IndyCar, none came on an oval. So not only is he learning a new car — as is the rest of the field — he’s also learning a new driving style.

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