Michael Schumacher may still be keeping mum on whether his F1 comeback will last into 2013 (see separate story
), but such concerns aren't getting in the way of his celebrating 300 Grand Prix events at the wheel, with the landmark fittingly coming at the same venue where he made his F1 début with Jordan in 1991.
"It's certainly an interesting, beautiful, nice number to be around," said Schumacher on Thursday. "A number that I didn't think about, that I would do that, at the time that I retired at the end of 2006. And now here we are and I'm counting the 300.
"At one point it was the talk about whether there would be somebody able to beat Riccardo Patrese's record of 250-whatever," he continued. "I said 'forget that, it isn't interesting for me', and here we are. And suddenly - it isn't anything that I'm challenging or looking for to have, just a number on my board. But being the 300 - it's a beautiful side-effect."
The only other driver to reach the landmark was his former Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello, who made it to 326 race starts before departing for IndyCar in the US.
"I have the same passion for what I am doing," he said. "There's been plenty of satisfaction that I've had over more than 20 years now and I still enjoy it."
And as of this weekend, Schumacher can now officially label the circuit as a home event this weekend: "This morning I had a beautiful welcome, becoming the honorary citizen of Spa, that is something very special to me," he said. "And that's why the 300 becomes special - because it's in Spa.
"It all happened to me here in Spa. First race, first victory, some beautiful victories and interesting races and 2004 the seventh title, last year the 20th anniversary and now number 300 and being honoured," he said. "It's a full package. Spa has always meant a lot to me. I always called it my living room - now I can officially
call it my living room!"
Asked for his favourite race of the 299 so far, however, Schumacher didn't hesitate in choosing a venue somewhat further afield: "I keep talking about Suzuka in 2000, both for the quality of the race, for the end of the race and for the whole meaning of that result," he said. "It was a total package of many circumstances, why that race turned out to be a very special one for myself and then for so many others."
Schumacher's compatriot and current successor as world champion, Sebastian Vettel, added his congratulations to Schumacher on his 300th landmark.