Rubens Barrichello is confident that his recent performances in F1 have 'opened up his chances a lot' regarding the possibility of prolonging his record-breaking career at the highest level into 2010 – as the veteran Brazilian continues to go 'flat-out' in a bid to achieve his dream of world championship glory this year.
With no fewer than 281 starts under his belt in the top flight approaching this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, Barrichello is the most experienced driver in F1 history, and stands to break the 300-race barrier should he secure a seat for next season too.
The word 'retirement' has been mentioned in connection with the 37-year-old on many occasions, but the man himself – whose career looked to be over when Honda pulled the plug on its F1 project at the end of last year – is adamant that he is driving better than ever, and as such is in demand more than he has ever been into the bargain.
“One hundred per cent,” he replied, when asked by Reuters
how optimistic he is about extending his F1 career into an 18th campaign in 2010, having made his debut for Jordan Grand Prix all the way back in 1993. “Or 99.9 [per cent], maybe it's better to say that. I wish to be driving next year in a competitive car and I think I will be driving a competitive car, but so far that's all I can say.
“I am in much better shape than I have ever been, winning races and just being on the top of the paddock's mouth. I have opened up my chances a lot.
“You are as good as your last race – that's how I see F1 – and this is a good demonstration for anything in life, that if you are determined and dream you can have what you want.”
The chances of Barrichello remaining at current employers Brawn GP next year, however, appear to be slim to non-existent, barring a complete breakdown in salary negotiations between the Brackley-based outfit and world championship-leading team-mate Jenson Button. Williams has been mooted as a potential destination – perhaps in a direct swap for highly-rated young German star Nico Rosberg, who would be sure to please engine-supplier Mercedes-Benz – and the São Paulista has admitted that the situation is still 'fairly open'.
In the meantime, he has a title battle to focus open, sitting 15 points in arrears of Button in the drivers' standings heading into the final three races of the season, but having out-scored the Briton by 34 points to 23 over the last six outings, and having invariably both out-qualified and out-raced the driver of the sister BGP 001 of late, triumphing twice to just a sole podium finish for the Frome-born ace.
Should Button finish five points ahead of Barrichello at Suzuka – a circuit around which 'Rubinho' is a former winner, for Ferrari in 2003 – the duel will be over, but the oldest man on the starting grid is insistent that he will not let that happen.
“It's winning, winning, winning,” affirmed the eleven-time grand prix-winner of his end-of-season approach. “It's pretty simple. People asked if I was going to change my tactic and go flat-out because I need to win – but I have been flat-out for a long time...”