APRIL 25, 2008

Does Rubens beat the record?

There is some debate about whether or not Rubens Barrichello will beat Riccardo Patrese's record of the number of Grand Prix starts this weekend in Spain, because no-one can agree on how many races the Brazilian has taken part in. The problem comes because there is no official definition of what constitutes starting a Grand Prix. Some people believe that a race counts if you qualify and are listed on the official grid. Others say that only those cars that come under "starter's orders" count, but then there is a debate as to when that happens: as some believe that a driver must be on the grid (or in pitlane) when the man with the green flag runs across the back of the grid at the start and the starting light sequence begins. The FIA has never ruled on this matter and the universally accepted authority on race statistics was the annual guide produced each year since 1972 by Swiss journalist Jacques Deschenaux. He argues that Barrichello has entered 257 Grands Prix but has started only 254 because in Imola in 1994 he was injured in a crash in qualifying, in Spain 2002 he suffered a mechanical failure during the grid formation laps and in French the same year he retired with a mechanical problsm on the warming up lap. He argues that Monaco will be Barrichello's 256th start and Canada his record-breaking 257th.