Rubens Barrichello has done little to play down speculation that his Formula One career may be extended by at least a few races, even though he admits that he had been preparing himself to bid farewell to the top flight. sources confirmed Tuesday that the Brazilian veteran was now favourite to partner Jenson Button in the team likely to rise from the ashes of Honda F1 [see separate story HERE], having seen off the challenge of countryman Bruno Senna - who now appears to find himself in something of a wilderness with leading rides in other series having been snapped up in advance of the 2009 season.

Now, Barrichello himself has lent credence to the suggestions that he will be reunited with 2006-08 team-mate Button, having told the O Estado de Sao Paolo newspaper that he anticipates being handed a lifeline by new owner Ross Brawn.

"I have faith," he revealed, "and my faith says that, next week, I'll be driving a competitive car in the Barcelona test, although I don't have a document in my hands that assures me of that. I've had four months of waiting [to hear if he would still be in F1], and I'm not going to celebrate before crossing the finish line."

Little has been heard from either parent company Honda or the prospective buyers of the F1 operation since rumours emerged last week that the management buy-out option headed up by former team principal Brawn and CEO Nick Fry had succeeded in taking charge [see separate story HERE], but a 2009-spec car is now expected to hit the track at Silverstone this week, before heading for the final group test of the winter, at the Circuit de Catalunya, next week.

While Senna may have been Honda's driver of choice at the end of 2008, having apparently seen off both Barrichello and GP2 Series rival Lucas di Grassi for the seat alongside Button, the Japanese marque's decision to pull out of F1 left all three Brazilians in limbo while the team's future was settled.

Even then, Senna was expected to get the nod, as he was believed to come complete with a sizeable - and therefore valuable - sponsorship portfolio, but sources have already claimed that this strength was overplayed [see separate story HERE], allowing Barrichello's greater F1 experience to come into play. With the Barcelona test and the Friday at each grand prix realistically presenting the only chances for the 'new' team to hone its car - which Brawn would have overseen in design during 2008 - on track, the man with the record number of F1 appearances and a proven development record suddenly becomes a precious commodity.

An announcement confirming details of the programme, including its driver line-up and expected use of Mercedes engines, is being tipped for tomorrow [Thursday].

"If I am asked to drive, I believe that we can have a good championship," Barrichello continued, "I know the ability of Ross Brawn, and I am sure that he will know how to make the car faster."



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