Rubens Barrichello has again told his employers Honda that they would be doing the wrong thing to ditch him at the end of the 2008 Formula 1 campaign – insisting he is 'driving better than ever' and revealing he is 'talking to other teams as well'.
Many in the paddock are suggesting this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix – Barrichello's home race, and one in which he has in the past finished up on the rostrum, claimed pole position and set fastest lap – will be the 36-year-old's swansong in the top flight, at the end of a record-breaking 16 seasons that have seen him become the most experienced driver in F1 history, with no fewer than 269 starts under his belt.
Though the São Paulista has notched up eleven of Honda's 14 points this season – including its only podium, courtesy of an inspired wet-weather run at Silverstone – the Brackley-based concern has repeatedly refused to issue any confirmation regarding its driver line-up for the 2009 campaign, with persistent rumours it is interested in procuring the services of GP2 Series Vice-Champion Bruno Senna – most likely at the expense of his countryman.
It has also been suggested that under-fire Renault rookie Nelsinho Piquet and the Régie's
test driver and another GP2 Series front-runner Lucas di Grassi are in the frame, as new sponsor Petrobras stipulates the presence of a Brazilian driver next year. Barrichello insists he remains 'hopeful', and that Interlaogs will not prove to be his valedictory appearance.
“It is on-hold, obviously, as Honda wants to try some other people, test them in Barcelona,” the nine-time grand prix-winner told reporters at the Autodromo Carlos Pace. “I don't want to stop; I won't stop, because I think I deserve better.
“I am driving better than I used to when I finished second in the championship behind Michael [Schumacher]. The aim is not to stop.
“The job done this year has been quite good. If it wasn't for minor problems, I think I would have more than 20 points with a car we can see is not good at all.”
Barrichello reflected that he would be willing to hang up his F1 helmet when he feels he is no longer capable of delivering what is expected of him – but not before. He added that a trump card in his favour, given the raft of sweeping regulation changes coming into play next year, is his experience – and, even more importantly again, his still brightly-burning motivation.
“If they want to win next year they need someone who is very experienced with my qualities to do it,” he stressed. “I am hopeful. I am talking to other teams as well, so hopefully it will be fine.