Rubens Barrichello reluctant to say farewell
Sao Paulo: Rubens Barrichello prepares for his home Brazilian Grand Prix this weekend knowing it could be the final milestone in a Formula One career in which he has started more races than any other driver.
With both world championships wrapped up by Sebastian Vettel and his Red Bull team, who will be looking to end the season on a record-breaking high, Brazil`s own record man will be in the spotlight.
The 39-year-old yearns to continue for a 20th season but Williams have been talking to possible replacements for 2012 and there are few, if any, vacancies that do not require funding as part of a deal.
Compatriot Felipe Massa, who celebrates his 100th start for Ferrari on Sunday with his own future uncertain beyond next year, has already advised Barrichello to go out with his head held high even if his friend is reluctant to give up hope.
"I gave him some advice: to stop," Massa told Brazilian website www.totalrace.com.br of a man who will be starting his 323rd race in a career that started in 1993 and brought him 11 wins with Ferrari and Brawn.
"It wasn`t in the sense of `you`re old, stop racing`. I was thinking about what`s going on in F1," said the Ferrari driver. "Today you have 12 teams in F1 and five or six are asking for money from the drivers to race. This is an absurdity, in my opinion.
"What I told him is that I would not want to see `Rubinho`, after the career he has had and all he has achieved, chasing sponsors to be able to race.
"I told him `Stop, use this last race, make it a proper ending`. Of course he is going to do what is best for him."
With Williams enduring their worst season, and having started the previous Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with both cars on the back row, Barrichello cannot hope for more than to challenge for a point or two at his home circuit.
Massa, twice a winner at Interlagos for Ferrari, will be looking for more and he needs to end the year strongly after receiving a thinly veiled warning from Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo that he needs to raise his game next year to have a hope of staying at the team.
Sunday will also be a big day for Bruno Senna, the third Brazilian in action, who may be making his last appearance for Renault and has nothing guaranteed for next year even though Poland`s Robert Kubica has delayed his return.
At the sharp end of the grid, Vettel will be chasing a record 15th pole of the season having already equalled Nigel Mansell`s 1992 milestone of 14.
If he does it, Red Bull will stretch their team record for most poles in a single season to 18.
The 24-year-old German cannot match Michael Schumacher`s record of 13 wins in a season after suffering his first retirement of the year in Abu Dhabi but he will want to wrap up a triumphant year with a 12th victory.
He faces tough opposition from a McLaren team determined to do what Red Bull have done for the past two years and end the campaign with at least two wins in a row.
Lewis Hamilton was triumphant in Abu Dhabi and both he and team mate Jenson Button, tied on three wins each, have fond memories of a circuit where they won their championships in 2008 and 2009.
Button`s love of Interlagos, a dilapidated venue oozing character and motor racing passion, remains undimmed by an attempted armed hold up outside the circuit as he left after qualifying last year.
Red Bull`s Australian Mark Webber has one last roll of the dice to secure his first win of the season while Ferrari`s Fernando Alonso is also battling Button to end the year as overall runner-up.