Rubens Barrichello was magnificent this weekend at the Italian Grand Prix.
But whatever happens from now on, whether he is able to beat Jenson Button to the world championship or not, the whole season has been a win for him.
He didn’t have a drive in January and yet his stunning performances in the second half of the season, including two wins, have more than done enough to cement his place in F1 next year, for an unprecedented 18th season! As Ross Brawn said to me recently, he sees no reason why he wouldn’t retain Barrichello for next year.
Of course, since he said that he appears to have sold a controlling interest in the team to Mercedes and there are suggestions that they would like to have a German driver in the car, possibly Rosberg.
But even in that unlikely eventuality, Rubens has shown that he is still capable of sitting at F1′s top table and Williams and several others would have him in a heartbeat. His maturity combined with his lasting passion for the sport mean that he is able to calmly put together complete race weekends one after another. Not too many drivers in F1 can do that and it’s one of the key requirements in my mind. He is also as good as anyone out there technically, at setting a car up.
His Achilles Heel is braking; he has to have a car with good braking stability and suffers if he doesn’t get it. Luckily for him the Brawn is very strong in that area.
Looking at him this weekend without his beard he looked younger again, rejuvenated by a competitive season and by his ability to get the best from himself and his car.
Barrichello is on target to make a real piece of history; he is already the most experienced driver by far with 279 starts and that means next year, if the calendar has 18 races as we believe it will, he’ll break the 300 Grand Prix starts barrier before the end of the 2010 season!
“I think it is a winning year whatever happens, ” said Barrichello this afternoon. “We have got to remember that it is not long ago we had no jobs. We did not know what is going to happen, so we are finally driving a fantastic car with a fantastic engine. The team are doing a fantastic job. I must thank them for all of their efforts.”