Rubens Barrichello is set to reach another milestone this weekend at Spa as he becomes the first man to start a 300th Formula 1 grands prix. His Williams team hosted a celebratory event tonight which was attended by the majority of the field, many teams' top brass plus Bernie Ecclestone. Shortly beforehand, Barrichello chatted with the media.
Q. How do you feel at 300 grands prix?
Rubens Barrichello: I feel great, it's a great honor to be racing in such an event. It's brought me some good stuff, such as my first pole position. 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 and when I was within five years of Formula 1, I've always felt that the holidays were not big enough, I wanted more time. Right now, I don't know why, it feels different. After one week I wanted to be driving the car again. I think my wife is terrified because she thinks I'm going to be driving the car forever...
Q. Someone pointed out that you've competed in nearly a third of all the World Championship races...
RB: Wow, that's quite impressive. It's going to be a weekend for all those kinds of phrases. Someone said to me, 'You'll be the guy who's crossed Eau Rouge more than anyone else,' That makes me feel good.
Q. What's the secret to your achievements?
RB: The biggest secret is the fact that you never enjoy the difficulties, but you smile through it, and then you learn from it. We have difficulties to overcome, to learn from and just become better. I've made steps every year making myself better as a person and 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 why I have this longevity.
Q. What steps have you made over the years?
RB: Things that bother you during the weekend, you have to overcome those things and enjoy it more than ever when things don't bother you and you can just get on and drive. At the beginning of our careers, the traveling was quite tough. Some of us were in a better situation than others, but it was still a long way. But the fact is that every year, at least for a month at the end of the year, I've gotten better physically for what the car needs and made myself mentally ready for a new season. I think that's what makes me go better all the time.
Q. Are you surprised that you still have the appetite?
RB: It's magic. I am surprised that I've gotten here so enthusiastic. I cannot tell you why it's happened. 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.
Q. Would you have a story to tell about all these 300 races?
RB: I have a phrase for all of them. I have a good memory. I've been watching my 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.
Q. You've already mentioned that your wife's worried you're going to race forever. How about you?
RB: She's never mentioned anything to say she wishes I could stop. The kids definitely think I'm going to race forever. I feel that it's going to be a hard decision to say I'm going to stop. I've been so honest with myself, that the day I don't feel there's such a big pleasure in taking the corners will be the day I know it's time to shut down.
Q. Is there anything you regret from your career?
RB: No, I don't regret anything. It's been part of making me better. You say, '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. I think in life you have to become better all the time. The reason I'm still working in Formula 1 with so much pleasure is because I still aim to be World Champion. 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, but I did. We have to dream of the impossible and it becomes reality.
So I don't regret anything. People say, '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, 'OK, 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. 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 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.
Q. Do you think you could have been World Champion at Ferrari if things hadn't been so weighted in Michael's favor?
RB: We cannot say that, because first of all it would be a word that is too easy to say – you'd say, 'Yes.' We're never going to go back there, we're never going to find out. I can see people saying 'Oh, yeah, if it wasn't for this failure he would have won the race' – but he didn't, so it doesn't matter. It doesn't change my life. 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.
Q. You never wake up and think 'I drove well enough and I had the car, but he had the contract'?
RB: No, I think I've become a better person by living in my own world, concentrating on the present. It would be too easy for me to say, 'Oh yes, I would have been twice World Champion already.' It wouldn't change anything and it wouldn't make me better. I'm still fighting for it. There's yet a chance.
Q. Has Schumacher ever apologized for Hungary?
RB: He did today. I just received a message from him today, funnily enough. An SMS. I received a message from him today. Somebody said to him and he was under the impression that I thought he'd pushed me into the wall. He said that wasn't the case and he apologized for that. OK?
Q. Did you reply?
RB: I just said, 'Thank you, no problem.' Life goes on.
Q. Is that the first time he's ever apologized to you?
RB: I can't remember... By SMS, most probably...
Q. Did you accept that apology?
RB: Yes, absolutely. I just replied saying, 'Yeah, no problem.' I wish him a good weekend.
Q. Is it possible to drive a Formula 1 car at the age of 41 these days?
RB: How did you feel when you were 38 and then 41? Did you feel a change? From the outside – obviously I don't know Michael from the inside – when he was 30, he was well in shape and he was doing so well. He doesn't sweat a lot, he does a lot of training and so on. I am better today physically than I was when I was 18. When I was 18, I felt a lot of back pain and I think my body has got used to the car and so on. I feel I can get to 41 on the same level, but you never know.
Q. If you stopped now for three years and then came back...
RB: That's something that I don't know how to answer. But definitely, when you stop for three weeks and you come back, the body feels that. So I imagine three years might have felt even worse.
Q. Has there ever been a time in your career when you were thinking about retiring?
RB: 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 '96, when I didn't have a contract with Jordan anymore. I landed a good contract with Stewart. That was the only time I talked about racing in IndyCar. Apart from that, I've been Formula 1 all the time.
Q. Which corner gave you the most excitement, and in which car?
RB: I don't know, I have so much excitement for everything... But 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 think of just one, because I've had pleasure in so many. The two corners in Malaysia are amazing, Copse corner at Silverstone is amazing.
Q. In the incident with Schumacher in Hungary, when you were that close to the wall, did that not make you think, 'Maybe I should stop before something serious happens'?
RB: I never saw [the wall]. I just saw it coming, but the wall honestly I saw for the first time on TV. You give so much in overtaking, my measure was Michael, it wasn't the wall. I saw that he was coming and coming and 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, so I didn't care what was coming.