After much disagreement over the date, Rubens Barrichello will officially overtake Riccardo Patrese's long-held record for number of grand prix starts when the lights go out in Istanbul next month – making him the most experienced driver in Formula 1 history.
Despite various sources stating he will break the record – held since 1993, when Patrese retired from the uppermost echelon at the end of his 17th season and a young Barrichello made his debut – in either Turkey, Canada or France, the amiable Brazilian himself has elected to mark the achievement on 11 May, date of the third Turkish Grand Prix.
His Honda outfit had him down as having started 249 races back at the beginning of the 2008 campaign – meaning he would pass Patrese at Magny-Cours in June – whilst the annual Grand Prix Guide compiled by F1 statistician Jacques Deschenaux put the 35-year-old's tally at 250 races prior to Melbourne this year, making Montreal the milestone.
Deschenaux argues that a driver is only considered to have taken part in a race if he takes the first start, which would exclude the tragic San Marino Grand Prix weekend at Imola in 1994, when Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger were both killed and Barrichello was injured in practice.
Barrichello also failed to begin the 2002 Spanish and French outings, when he encountered problems on the formation lap, but he is counted as having participated in the 1998 Belgian Grand Prix, a race which was re-started without him after he was involved in a multi-car first lap collision in sodden conditions.
To cloud the issue even further, Patrese's own career statistics are somewhat open to interpretation too. The Italian's resumé includes the 1981 Belgian Grand Prix, a race that re-started without him after he stalled and was hit by Arrows team-mate Siegfried Stohr on the initial opening lap.
"In view of the lack of consensus regarding which specific race marks Rubens' 257th grand prix, Rubens will celebrate the milestone at the Turkish Grand Prix," a Honda statement read in an effort to try and clear up the confusion.
Since making his F1 debut with the now defunct Jordan Grand Prix concern back at the start of 1993, Barrichello has gone on to register nine victories, 13 pole positions and 61 podium finishes in the top flight, predominantly with Ferrari, with whom he raced from 2000 to 2005. Despite not having scored a point since his home race at Interlagos in October 2006, and rumours linking him to an IndyCar Series switch next year [see separate story – click here
], the man from São Paolo is adamant that he has no intention of hanging up his grand prix helmet just yet
"As a boy, when I looked over the wall at Interlagos to look at Formula 1, I always wanted to be there and to be a race winner," he is quoted as having said by the BBC
. "I never thought I was going to be the longest driver in F1 history."