In the eight races in the 2009 Formula One season so far, Rubens Barrichello has come second behind his Brawn team-mate Jenson Button seven times.
The veteran Brazilian has a litany of excuses for the apparent performance deficit, but you wonder if, privately, he does not fear the same thing happening to him now as when he was Michael Schumacher's stooge at Ferrari between 2000 and 2005, while Button prepares to clinch the world championship.
It's been a bruising year thus far in some ways for the 37-year-old. He was faster than Button all the way through practice for the first race in Australia, but not when it mattered in qualifying, and had to recover to second place behind Button. In Malaysia a week later he was fifth after a gearbox change earned him a five-grid-place penalty. In China he outqualified Button but finished behind him, after brake problems. Bahrain brought only fifth after technical problems in qualifying.
In Spain in May he had the legs of his team-mate but lost out when Button won after being switched from three- to a two-stop refuelling. Barrichello was visibly upset afterwards that his strategy was not also changed.
But ask him how he has maintained his motivation while everything has been going Button's way, and his answers give an insight into why the man who came into F1 back in 1993 at the tender age of 20 remains such a popular, but now seasoned, figure in the paddock.
"We had such a bad car for the last couple of years," he says, "but the motivation was always very high. You change your approach. When you have a bad car you know that for you to win is gonna be pretty much impossible, so you've gotta think that things happen for a reason. You gotta keep on going.
"There are things happen to you in life where you've got to keep on learning. Life is altogether a learning thing. Right now Jenson has done the winning, and he deserves it." He then cites the reasons he sees for the Englishman's superiority.
"Technically, I couldn't run the wheel covers which give downforce because my rear brake callipers were altered. And because he's taller he can run with the weight distribution further forward than I do. So there is an explanation for the tenth of a second that doesn't happen when I have a full fuel load. I beat him more than he does me on light tanks and then he beats me when we run race fuel.
"So I could say, 'What do I do?' The answer is you do nothing, you just keep on working and eventually good things are going to come your way."
The story of Button's winter is familiar: the decision to keep his faith in Brawn's ability to rise from the ashes of Honda, the willingness to take a pay cut. But what of Barrichello who, it seemed, would have been replaced by younger fellow countryman Bruno Senna had Honda continued?
"I talked once a week to Ross [Brawn]. He kept on saying, 'I'm doing all I can'. It was almost like he was saying, 'I want you,' but he didn't quite say that. He just said, 'Keep fit,' that's all. But that 'Keep fit' gave me my dream, and my dream was to have a car to race. And that wasn't going to be a bad car because it had a different engine, the whole team was motivated, and it was going to be the car of my dreams.
"I tell you, I almost thank God for the situation I had. I didn't have the contract, but I thank Him for what I believed in. It was such a mentality game."
So how does he cope with the situation now? The one time he beat Button, as he promised he would at Silverstone last month, he himself had to follow the two victorious Red Bulls home. It seems he still can't win in a winning car.
"It's easy!" he says. "I just remember that some months ago I didn't even have a car. I have a good team-mate who is doing quite well. If it is for him to win the championship, that's fine, but I will do my very best until the very end.
"My day is definitely gonna come, isn't it? It's impossible that for someone who worked so hard for the whole time, it won't happen. I think my technical input to the car is very high, probably higher than what Jenson's is."
He remains adamant that he hasn't given up on winning the championship this year. "23 points behind? Yeah, that's very hard. But it was very hard as well not having a car in the first place. That's maybe a bit too philosophical, but in the end that's what keeps my motivation. And I'm not gonna give up until the points gap cannot be overcome."
My Other Life
"For fun I play golf but there is nothing better than being with my sons, Eduardo, seven, and Fernando, three. Eduardo's swing on the golf course is fantastic! He can hit a drive 110 yards.
But when I'm in the car, for example, and I say for fun, 'I'm gonna overtake this guy,' the first thing you hear is the little one say, 'Go, go, go!' And the big one say, 'Don't do that, it's a bit dangerous to overtake now'. Eduardo has a kart and I think maybe Fernando will do it, and I will encourage him if that's what he wants."Reuse content