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Spa celebrations for Barrichello and Webber 27 Aug 2010

(L to R): Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Williams celebrates his 300th Grand Prix with Bernie Ecclestone (GBR) CEO Formula One Group (FOM).
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Preparations, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Thursday, 26 August 2010 Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Williams celebrates his 300th GP.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Preparations, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Thursday, 26 August 2010 Frank Williams (GBR) Williams Team Owner (Centre) gives a speech as Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Williams (Left) celebrates his 300th GP Start.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Preparations, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Thursday, 26 August 2010 F1 drivers celebrate the 300th GP for Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Williams (from back row (L to R)):  Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Williams; Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari; Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Williams; Bruno Senna (BRA) Hispania Racing F1 Team (HRT); Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari; Sakon Yamamoto (JPN) Hispania Racing F1 Team (HRT); Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Lotus; Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren; Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes GP; Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren; Pedro De La Rosa (ESP) BMW Sauber; Sebastian Vettel Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB6 celebrates his birthday with a cake.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 27 August 2010

There was a nice little ceremony in a packed Williams hospitality area at Spa on Thursday, as Rubens Barrichello celebrated his 300th Grand Prix with all of his friends in the paddock. Everyone who was anyone was there, including most of his fellow drivers with the notable exception of Michael Schumacher… Bernie Ecclestone was there, and presented the Brazilian with a medal.

Team owner Sir Frank Williams told him: “I thought that your recent move down the inside of Michael in Hungary was the most amazing display of determination I have seen lately,” while Rubens himself said after a video presentation of highlights of his career, in which his wife Silvana admitted that she was outvoted by their kids who wanted the father to keep racing: “I couldn’t hold back the tears when the boys came out with their words, but then you’re all used to seeing me cry on the podium!”

Later he said of the milestone: “I feel great, it's a great honour 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 five years into Formula One, I 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 forever...”

It’s an interesting statistic, but he has competed in nearly a third of the world championship races ever held!

The big secret of his longevity, he claimed, “Is 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.

"And every year, at least for a month at the end of the year, I've got 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.”

Meanwhile, Mark Webber celebrates his 34th birthday on Friday, and the world championship points leader is feeling bullish even though in theory neither Spa nor Monza may suit the Red Bull.

“Always when you are running medium downforce on these cars, it's for a reason. And that reason is long straights. We know that it's not a strength of the car and hasn't been for quite a few years and we know why. But we work incredibly hard to make the car strong in other areas and when we go to those venues obviously we are strong.

“We can still keep up at these tracks, but whether we have an advantage remains to be seen. We still weren't uncompetitive in Montreal, but we weren't the pacesetters as we were in some other venues. I think if we had to have 17 races in a championship, we wouldn't choose Spa and Monza to have races at, but it's part of the calendar and we have to make the car quick everywhere.

“We were worried about Valencia, and Sebastian (Vettel) won the race. Last year we were very poor in Valencia and got blown away, but this year we were quick. Let's see how the top speeds are tomorrow in sector one and sector three and see where people are pitched. It's going to be interesting for the next two events.”

There was an amusing moment on Thursday when Vettel admitted that he didn’t know it was his team mates’s birthday and that he hadn’t got him a present.

“In the hotel they have free shampoos, this kind of stuff,” he said with a smirk. “Maybe it could be a last minute present… But don’t tell him!”

Like Button and Hamilton, they are getting on again these days. More so than Barrichello and Schumacher (who has a 10-place grid penalty here this weekend, don’t forget).

Schumacher admitted that, one month after their incident at Hungaroring, he finally got round to apologising to his former Ferrari team mate - by text. “I have no problem to speak to him,” he declared breezily. “There were two reasons, but the main one was that this is his 300th Grand Prix. We have quite a history, so today it was appropriate to congratulate him. He felt that I wanted push him into the pit wall, and I wanted to clarify that that was not my intention. If he felt that was case, I’m sorry for that.”

David Tremayne