Earlier in the year I posted about Rubens Barrichello becoming the most experienced driver in Formula One, his renewed contract with Honda meaning he’d break Riccardo Patrese’s record number of race starts at some point during the 2008 season. However, after looking at the numbers a little more closely, it became apparent that the number of races Rubens has started is not entirely obvious. For sure, the Brazilian will break Patrese’s record this year, but exactly when was a matter of debate. However, I said in the comments on that post that whatever race Barrichello decided would be the race that he does indeed manage the record. And the Brazilian driver has chosen. The Turkish Grand Prix will see Rubens become the driver who has contested the most grands prix to date.
Italian driver Riccardo Patrese set the record of 256 starts before retiring to the good life. Although even that number is questionable, it is what is written in the record books, and therefore the number that Barrichello has been aiming for. A few bones of contention have arisen during Barrichello’s career, these races providing for the excellent debate that occurred on that post back in January.
- San Marino 1994 – Barrichello suffered a big accident during practice. He therefore didn’t qualify and didn’t race. This is considered by the vast majority to be a non-start
- Belgium 1998 – Qualified and started the race. A huge pile-up though meant Barrichello didn’t get much further than the first corner. However, in my opinion Rubens crossed the start line and initiated lap one before retiring. Thus, I consider this to be a start.
- Spain 2002 – Again, Barrichello qualified, but retired just prior to the formation lap commencing. He did not cross the start line, and thus I do not consider this to be a race-start. However, many others do because he was on the circuit during race day, having left his garage with every intention to start the race.
- France 2002 – As with Spain, Rubens was left stranded on the grid as the formation lap commenced. His Ferrari was actually left on its jacks and after the cars passed, the team weren’t able to restart his car. I also do not consider this to be a start, but as with before, others feel that it was for the same reasons as his Spanish Grand Prix incident.
This tally puts Barrichello on 249 at the start of the 2008 season, and thus the record will be broken in France later this year. However, due to the confusion, Rubens and Honda have chosen Istanbul to be the record-breaker, and the 36-year-old is looking forward to the celebration. Whether or not he is able to surpass 300 starts rests mainly on Honda’s shoulders. The younger talent coming through would likely mean that another team wouldn’t necessarily want an older driver on their books.
In view of the lack of consensus regarding which specific race marks Rubens’ 257th Grand Prix, Rubens will celebrate the milestone at the Turkish Grand Prix. Honda Press Statement.
As a boy, when I looked over the wall at Interlagos to look at Formula One, I always wanted to be there and to be a race winner. I never thought I was going to be the longest driver in F1 history. Rubens Barrichello.
Not content with just breaking the record though, Barrichello wants to carry on and is aiming for 300 starts. His current contract with Honda expires at the end of this year, and it is largely thought that the Japanese team only kept him on because of his relationship with former Ferrari technical director and now Honda chief, Ross Brawn.
It is no secret that my contract expires at the end of the year. I want to extend it, because I think that with Ross Brawn a new and promising era has begun at Honda. 2008 is definitely not my last season – now I want to finish with more than 300 Grands Prix. Rubens Barrichello.
Presuming Turkey will now be Barrichello’s 257th race start, and there are ~18 races per year (which will of course vary, but not massively), his goal of 300 would come at some point during the 2010 season, if he can remain in the sport as a driver, that is.