• GP Week

Mr 300

Adam Hay-Nicholls September 5, 2010
Rubens Barrichello celebrated his 300th grand prix in Belgum © Sutton Images
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Rubens Barrichello talks to GP Week about reaching an important milestone 17 years into his F1 career

How do you feel at 300 Grands Prix?
I feel great. The bit that touched me is how competitive I am at 300 [races]. I think [Riccardo] Patrese was at 256 and started to drop down. I think he could have raced for longer. But I feel powerful. I've been back to Brazil for my holiday, and after one week I wanted to be driving the car again. My wife is terrified because she thinks I'm going to race forever.

Someone pointed out that you've competed in nearly a third of all the world championship races...
Wow, that's quite impressive. Someone just said to me, 'you've been the guy who's crossed Eau Rouge more than anyone else'. I never thought of that and it made me feel good.

What's the secret to your achievements?
The biggest secret is the fact that you never enjoy the difficulties, but you smile through it, and then you learn from it. The good thing in life is that we have difficulties to overcome, to learn from and just become better. I made steps every year, making myself better as a person and definitely as a driver. I've been honest with myself, always. When you make a mistake, you make a mistake and you say so. I think teams appreciate that. I think that's possibly the reasons why I have this longevity.

How surprised are you that the appetite and the hunger is still there?
You want to end the holiday early… I don't know why, but it's magic. I was back in Brazil for these weeks and since Monday I've been waking up one hour earlier for exercise because I've wanted to be on the [time] zone of Europe. I've always mentioned my wife because she's always beside me, but the last time when I woke up at four o'clock to go down to the gym, she said "You're damn crazy." These three weeks I've changed some of the video tapes of old races to DVDs and I've been watching these. I got back at five o'clock in the morning, the kids are sleeping, my wife was sleeping, I had to do something. They woke up at seven to go to school and I was already very much awake. It's been funny watching the races.

Which old races have you been watching?
Formula Ford, Formula 3 and Formula 3000 races on video, those are the races I've been watching the most. There were one or two where I said "hmm, what did happen?", because there was one race where I broke down and I can't remember what broke. It made me sad. But my memory's quite good for that.

How long do you think you have left? You've already mentioned that your wife's worried about you?
She's never mentioned anything to say that she wishes I could stop. The kids definitely think I'm going to race forever and they're happy. I feel that it's going to be a hard decision to say I'm going to stop. But it's going to be an easy one from that fact that I've been so honest with myself, that the day I don't feel there's such a big pleasure in taking the corners, it's going to be the day that I will know exactly what it means to shut down.

Rubens Barrichello spent six years at Ferrari © Getty Images
Is there anything you regret from your career? For example maybe spending all the time at Ferrari…
No, I don't regret anything. It's been part of making me better. You say, "yeah, you didn't win the championship yet". Yeah, I didn't. But I think I've learned so much and I became better all the time. The reason I'm still working in Formula One with so much pleasure is because I still aim to be world champion. Obviously people might say I'm crazy. But you would never have said that with a Honda in 2008 I would have finished on the podium, and I did. People say, "if you really had a bad time at Ferrari..." which I didn't, because I had a great time with everyone. Obviously I fought all the way to have the same treatment, and the day that I felt "okay, I don't, they're not going to give that to me" was the day I was going to have to find something else, and that's why I left the team one year before. But even in those years, the car was better than all the other cars. I had a chance to win still, even though Michael [Schumacher] was there. I've been on the other page, I'd been racing for Jordan and Stewart - and we had so much fun and pleasure, but the cars were not good enough to win races. So those years with Ferrari, I still had a great time.

Do you think you could have been world champion at Ferrari if arrangements with Michael hadn't been so weighted in his favour?
We cannot say that, because first of all it would be a word that is too easy to say - you say 'yes'. We're never going to go back there. It doesn't change my life to know. I know what I have given and how much effort I put into all the teams that I went through. And at all of them, I had a great time, honestly. So it doesn't really matter to me if we think now that I could have been champion. I'm still fighting for that.

Has there ever been a time in your career when you were thinking about retiring?
It's never been on my mind, no. I've always worked to keep my dream alive and to keep going. The most difficult period of my career was back in 1996 when I didn't have a contract with Jordan any more. I landed a good contract with Stewart. That was the only time that I talked about racing in Indycar. Apart from that, I've been Formula One all the time

As you have been in Formula One for such a long time, which corner gave you the most excitement, and in which car?
I've been through Eau Rouge so many times with the foot completely down in a V10 car. You're just in a cold sweat for the whole straight after that. It has some danger in it, but it gives you the pleasure, and I've been through that so many times. But I couldn't pin-point just one, because I've had pleasure in so many. The two corners in Malaysia are amazing, Copse corner at Silverstone is amazing. But Eau Rouge is a good example of adrenalin and the danger. It used to be more difficult with a V10 car. With a V8 now, it's almost close to flat, if not flat, in the wet, so it could give you that buzz. In the dry, maybe on 160kg you would get the buzz, but not on empty tanks.

In the incident with Schumacher in Hungary, when you were that close to the wall, did that not make you think "ah maybe I should stop before something serious happens"?
I never saw it [the wall]. I just saw it coming, but the wall honestly I saw for the first time on TV. You give so much for overtaking, my measure was Michael, it wasn't the wall. To be honest with you I saw that he was coming, coming, coming, but I would never have backed off. I didn't feel any fear through that moment because I was just going to make that happen, the overtake was going to happen, so I didn't care what was coming. In a way I never saw the wall. It was Sam Michael [Williams technical director] who sent me the first picture from the last moment where the wall disappeared and from inside of the car you can see the shade. It's possible one finger or two, but I never saw it coming luckily.