He might have more than 300 grand prix starts under his belt, and 2012 would be his 20th consecutive season of F1 competition, but Rubens Barrichello clearly still has no intention of hanging up his helmet just yet awhile - and if Williams doesn't want him next year, he has revealed, then he will look elsewhere.

Barrichello and Williams have endured a desperately disappointing start to the F1 2011 campaign, with just two points-scoring finishes from the opening eight races - and only a brace of ninth places at that - as the Cosworth-powered FW33 has proven to be frustratingly uncompetitive at most circuits. The team presently languishes just ninth - bottom of the established contenders - in the constructors' standings, and you need to go all the way back to the end of 2004 to find its most recent victory.

The most experienced driver in the history of the sport - a man who will turn 40 next May - has made no secret of his eagerness to prolong his career into another season, and after arguing that Williams would need to raise its game in order to secure his signature for 2012, he has been encouraged by the announcement earlier this week that the Grove-based outfit will renew forces with former engine-supplier Renault from next year. And if terms cannot be agreed, the Brazilian veteran concedes, then he is keeping his options open.

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"I am fully determined to be in F1 next year," underlined the eleven-time grand prix-winner, whilst cautioning that it is not a foregone conclusion that he will remain with Williams. "[After Honda pulled out] in 2008, I did not know what to do. [Felipe] Massa came to me and said, 'You should stop, because you've done enough - Brazil recognises you and you have so many fans'. I said, 'So what? I don't do this because of all you said, but because the speed and the passion that I have to drive the car is still too high. I definitely want to be racing next year. We are in conversations with the team."

"It's good to have a powerful engine behind you and I'm convinced that with Renault we will take a quantum leap," he added, speaking to Italian magazine Tuttosport, "but the team needs to show their interest just as I am showing mine, and then we can agree. I do not exclude the prospect of switching to another team, if Williams doesn't offer me a reasonable solution - but it's not a priority. If there are other people willing to have me next year, and Williams do not want me to continue with them, then yes, I would look elsewhere."

"I can't say anything about our drivers until we have made up our own minds," team co-founder Sir Frank Williams is quoted as having said by Reuters. "Rubens is very highly-regarded and is truly a treasure trove of information and experience - and that's something that will not be thrown away lightly. I think if we had given him a better car he would have been very close to the front [in 2011], if not at the front. He is a superb driver."

Meanwhile, Barrichello has been quick to praise the role played by Pirelli in spicing up the spectacle in F1 this season, describing the action and unpredictability as 'better than ever' and arguing that the tyres have contributed far more to that than has DRS (Drag Reduction Systems).

"We're never going to be happy with all the stuff, [but] I think F1 is better than it has ever been," the Paulista told F1 Fanatic. "All the overtaking taking place this year is more to do with the tyres than the actual DRS. I think with the tyres having some issues on longevity, it will end up with [some] teams wearing the tyres more than some others - and that's the overtaking opportunity. The DRS only comes into play because of the tyres. Having said that, I still think it's good for the show."

"Of course there are going to be people who say, 'there's too much overtaking now, it seems false' - but it's the same guy who six months ago was saying, "F1 is no good anymore because there's no overtaking'. There are too many gimmicks on there and too many buttons to press, but I think it has made the racing better. It has made it more of a show."

Speaking after a wet first day of practice at Silverstone ahead of this weekend's British Grand Prix, finally - a race that he dominated for Ferrari back in 2003 - Barrichello conceded that although he wound up in a superb third position behind only Mark Webber and former team-mate Michael Schumacher in just the kind of conditions in which he traditionally excels, 'there's more to do'. Whilst almost one-and-a-half seconds slower in the sister car, Venezuelan rookie Pastor Maldonado professed himself pleased with early progress.

"It was quite difficult today, because the track changed quite a lot and we were going between the full wet and the intermediate tyres," reflected the 26-year-old. "We also had limited running, especially this afternoon because of the rain and because we wanted to save our intermediate tyres. We look competitive, though, and the car is feeling good so I'm positive. I have spent a lot of time here and I love the track, so I'm looking forward to qualifying tomorrow."

"All of today's running was done on wet or intermediate tyres," concluded Williams outgoing technical director Sam Michael, explaining that comparison runs using new aerodynamic parts and engine-mapping and set-ups were all on Friday's agenda in Northants. "We still managed to get through our test programme, however. That included evaluating diffusers, exhausts, front wings and revised engine settings following the regulation changes. We're now going through all of the data before we make our decisions on what race specification we will run."