At the conclusion of his 18th campaign on the grand prix grid in F1 2010 and upon receiving an accolade in recognition of his tremendous achievements in the sport, Rubens Barrichello has declared that he is better than he has ever been, quipping that 'I wish I was like this when driving for Ferrari'.
Written off on a number of occasions in recent years – even after finishing third in the world championship with Brawn GP in 2009 – Barrichello was handed an opportunity to prolong his career at the highest level with Williams this season, and if some had forecast it as merely a manner to swell his pension pot, the Brazilian swiftly proved them wrong.
With 13 top ten qualifying performances from 19 races and ten points finishes – including stand-out efforts in Valencia and at Silverstone mid-season – Barrichello was instrumental in securing Williams victory in its private battle with Force India F1 for sixth spot in the final constructors' rankings in 2010, and young rookie team-mate Nico Hülkenberg has similarly praised the Paulista's support and encouragement in helping to bring him along, too [see separate story – click here
]. Little wonder that a rejuvenated 'Rubinho' reckons he is now in better shape than ever.
“I think I have become better all the time,” the 38-year-old mused, speaking at the annual Autosport Awards
at London's Grosvenor House Hotel. “I wish I was like this when driving for Ferrari! This year has been my best physical year in terms of feeling my body and driving the car to the limit. I've enjoyed it fully.
“Next year there is KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) and people at my team are asking me to lose weight – and I am fully ready for it, I am fully ready. I'm giving my all, and that is how it should be. Now I am doing the running, doing the playing and hoping that I lose the weight.”
Barrichello was at the awards ceremony to pick up the prestigious Gregor Grant trophy in honour of his extraordinary career – one that passed the 300 starts mark at this year's Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps. Having become the longest-serving driver in the history of F1 two-and-a-half years ago, in 2011, the eleven-time grand prix-winner is now preparing to embark upon an incredible 19th season of top flight competition.
“I'm so proud to get this trophy,” he enthused. “I have had such a long life in the sport, which has involved a lot of passion and a lot of speed. To hear so many kind words, especially from people like Sir Jackie Stewart, and to have my friends from Brazil there as well, made the night very special.”