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Drivers hoping Barrichello returns to F1 next year

Updated: November 26, 2011, 16:15

Williams driver Rubens Barrichello, from Brazil, center, shares a moment with Ferrari driver Felipe Massa, also from Brazil, right, as Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso, from Spain, stands next during a meeting to celebrate Massa's 100th grand prix as a Ferrari driver. The Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix will be held Sunday.(AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)

SAO PAULO(AP) If driver support counted, Rubens Barrichello wouldn't have a problem finding a Formula One team next season.

The veteran Brazilian is yet to secure a deal to race in F1 in 2012 but is getting plenty of backing from fellow drivers who don't want to see him retiring just yet.

"It would be a real shame to lose Rubens for the future, because he belongs here,'' said Sebastian Vettel, who has won his second consecutive F1 title. "He has been here for a long time. Pretty crazy to imagine yourself to be around that long.''

The 39-year-old Barrichello, who made his F1 debut with Jordan in 1993, could be participating in his final F1 race at the Brazilian GP on Sunday because Williams is yet to announce its lineup. There have been rumors that Kimi Raikkonen may return to F1 to replace the Brazilian, who would have to scramble to try to find another team.

"It's great that he still wants to race,'' McLaren's Jenson Button said. "I really hope he gets a drive next year. I hope he's racing next year. The hunger obviously is still there for Rubens.''

If Barrichello does reach a deal with Williams or another team, next season would be his 20th in racing's top level. He's made more friends than enemies in F1 and remains one of the most-liked drivers on the circuit.

Felipe Massa earlier in the week said Barrichello would be better off retiring, but claimed it was only because he thought it would be in his longtime friend's best interests.

Massa said he advised Barrichello to retire to avoid having to beg for a drive next season. Massa said Barrichello, one of his idols, shouldn't be in a position where he has to pay smaller teams to let him drive for another year.

Barrichello said he is not losing much sleep over next year because he knows he has had "19 lovely seasons'' in F1 and would not feel like a failure if he can't find a drive for 2012. He does want to come back, though, and feels confident he will get a deal soon.

In what could have been his last F1 qualifying session, Barrichello finished 12th on Saturday in front of his home fans, a result better than he expected.

"It was like a victory to me,'' he said. "Hopefully it's not the last time I can do something like this.''

Teammate Pastor Maldonado will start 18th in Sunday's season-ending Brazilian GP.

Barrichello has struggled in his second season with Williams because of the car's lack of competitiveness, and is only 17th in the drivers' standings.

"Obviously this year he hasn't had a very competitive car but it would be great to have him around again next year,'' Red Bull's Mark Webber said.

Barrichello has competed in more F1 races than any other driver. He finished second in the drivers' standings in 2002 and 2004, both times with Ferrari behind seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher. He was third with Brawn GP in 2009 after being outpaced by teammate and eventual champion Jenson Button.


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