Rubens leaves his mark

Rubens Barrichello will leave Ferrari at the end of this season as the fourth most successful driver in the team's history. The Brazilian's current tally of nine wins puts him behind only Michael Schumacher, Niki Lauda and Alberto Ascari, but his strike rate over his six seasons at the scuderia  is inferior to a raft of pilots, including Giancarlo Baghetti, Patrick Tambay and Tony Brooks.

The Ferrari statement announcing his departure talked of a "fruitful and fortunate collaboration", yet the 33-year-old won just 9.18 per cent of his grands prix with the team, compared with team-mate Schumacher's 41 per cent. Should Barrichello fail to win one of the remaining six GPs this year, his strike rate will be behind 17 of Ferrari's 34 race winners since the start of the World Championship in 1950.

His contribution to the most successful period in Ferrari's history should not be overlooked, however. He has so far notched up 79 podiums and 378 points, helping the team to five consecutive constructors' titles and Schumacher to his five Ferrari drivers' crowns.

Barrichello now looks certain to join BAR after securing an early release from his Ferrari contract, which ran to the end of 2006.

Luca di Montezemolo, Ferrari's boss, said: "We gave Rubens the possibility of accepting an offer of a multi-year contract, longer therefore than the length of his relationship with us".

Barrichello's position alongside Schumacher will be taken by fellow countryman 24-year-old Felipe Massa, who is graduating from the Ferrari-powered Sauber team. Massa first tested for Ferrari back in 2001 and has been under contract ever since. He impressed Ferrari when he spent a full year out of racing as a test driver in 2003.