Rubens Barrichello has insisted that in the wake of his superb European Grand Prix success in Valencia at the weekend – his first victory in Formula 1 in almost five years – he is still very much in the mix for the world championship crown and wants to stay for an 18th consecutive season in the top flight in 2010, barely a month after admitting that this could be his last year.
Not only did the result mark the 100th Brazilian triumph in F1, but it also ended an 85-race drought for Barrichello, who has endured a trying campaign in the second Brawn GP entry to-date, having had to watch as team-mate Jenson Button stormed to six early-season wins and a commanding lead in the title chase.
Such has been Barrichello's consistency, however – with five podium finishes from eleven starts, and four further top six finishes – that the most experienced driver in the sport's history remains just 18 markers in arrears of Button in the standings with 60 points remaining up for grabs. What's more, he has undeniably been the in-form Brawn driver in recent outings, tallying 19 points from the last four grands prix to Button's eleven. It is, he asserts, game on.
“It's very important in life that you don't just dream but that you believe in yourself and you believe in your work,” the São Paulista stressed. “I think I've done a lot of this, but there has not been a time in my life that I have loved more than racing and driving now, and I think I'm doing a really good job.
“At 37 I think I have reached the peak of my driving. There have been ups and downs this year, sometimes very happy, sometimes a little bit unhappy, but it would be very, very, very nice to win the championship at 37. Trying to win is all that matters to me, [and] I hope that these last six races are good enough for me to get back all the points to get in front.
“[After the summer factory shutdown] the team has had a fantastic approach. It was an excellent job by the team when the doors were open to the factory; sometimes in life, you know, you really need to go back in order to go forward, and we were able to evaluate a lot of stuff. It was a nice break for a good comeback and a good second half to the season. I'm very happy being able to be competitive, I'm driving well and I'm going for the wins.”
Confessing that he 'wishes next year's rules were already in place as I was fastest in Q2' in Valencia – alluding to the impending end of the format whereby drivers go out in Q3 with the fuel load on-board with which they intend to start the grand prix, and re-instating qualifying as a contest purely about raw pace once again in 2010 – Barrichello dropped a number of hints that he has no intention of hanging up his helmet come Abu Dhabi in late October.
Only recently the ten-time grand prix-winner had raised the prospect of retirement, admitting that for the first time in his long F1 career, 'five per cent' of him is unsure about continuing. What's more, his very public post-Nürburgring spat with his team – accusing Brawn of having 'made him lose the race' – was reckoned to betray the anger and frustration of a man who knew he no longer had a drive next year. However, having defied predictions by returning to fight for another day in 2009, it now appears he is keen to do so again.
“I wish to carry on,” Barrichello stated. “It's early, there's lots of talking because of [Fernando] Alonso and this and that but it takes me 15 minutes to get out of the circuit because I talk to everyone and I love to talk to everyone, so I'm really leaving my chances open for next year.”
Team principal Ross Brawn would concede only that the Brackley-based outfit is currently 'in discussions with our drivers', adding: “We are obviously very happy with their performance this year, and it is not appropriate for me to talk about what we are doing with our drivers at the moment.”