Rubens: 'I'll see you next year!'

2011-11-29 08:55

SAO PAULO, Brazil - Rubens Barrichello's parting words after the final GP of the season in Brazil offered no acknowledgement that he might have competed for the last time in F1.

"See you next season," the smiling Brazilian told reporters on Sunday, offering a handshake.

His Williams team could offer him no such certainty but the man who has started more races than any driver since the championship began in 1950 - and well over a third of all grands prix held - was not saying any final farewells.


Instead, the 39-year-old held up a drawing, coloured in by his six-year-old son Fernando, that he had shown Brazilian TV.

"They asked me 'Are you going to stay next year?'. I said "Look, I have my helmet for next year already painted. If I sign the contract, that's going to be my helmet for the first race. I'm not ready to finish just yet. I'm really hopeful."

Barrichello has driven for Jordan, Stewart, Honda, Ferrari and Brawn.

"I feel like I am at the peak of my performance, I get on with the team very much ... the only thing lacking now is a more competitive car which I am pretty sure williams will have. I want to drive the car," said Barrichello.

"I don't need a big contract. I just need something that tells me I am driving next year in a competitive car. I'm not asking for any favours and I don't want to be driving just for the sake of driving."

Asked whether he might race for free, he quipped: "I'm almost doing it for nothing already."


Barrichello, who started with Jordan in 1993, remains one of the most popular members of the paddock. The fact that F1, if Sunday indeed was his last race after 19 seasons, had not given him a proper send-off troubled some but not the man who grew up near Interlagos.

While compatriot Felipe Massa performed 'doughnuts' for the crowd, revving his engine and spinning the Ferrari around in a circle of smoke, Barrichello held back.

"I'm trying to race in 2012," he said. "If it were my last race I would have done donuts everywhere. I knew on my slowing down lap that I could have said goodbye to the fans but I was just waving. I know I will be back."

In some respects Barrichello has been there before. In 2008, when Honda pulled out, his career looked finished until Ross Brawn, his former Ferrari technical director, threw him a lifeline at the renamed team because he needed his experience. The situation at Williams, a team not known for sentimentality, is different. There are rivals, such as Germany's Adrian Sutil, who may also bring substantial funding.


On Sunday Barrichello simply focused on the racing. The only fun part of the race, he said, was when the team advised him his old Ferrari team mate Michael Schumacher, who had gone to the back of the pack, was catching up.

"I said 'No way'," grinned the man who spent six seasons with Schumacher at Ferrari, winning nine races there but more often reduced to the role of riding shotgun for the seven-times World champion.

That time at Maranello, on top of the anguish he suffered in 1994 when friend and mentor Ayrton Senna died at Imola after he himself had survived a huge crash, have only increased the feeling of goodwill towards him in the paddock.

"I heard so many things about how you don't win in F1 if you're not a bad guy. That if you are a nice guy you don't win it," said Barrichello. "I think this is nonsense. You need to be tough inside the race track and win for yourself and be hard with the team to do things for you. But socially, what's the matter?

"We are human beings and we need to lead with the passion of helping others and having a good heart. That's what I am. People coming in my support means I have been a good guy to F1 and that's nice."