Although it’s a disappointment that Michael Schumacher will not return to F1 in the European Grand Prix, Ferrari’s second choice of replacement – Luca Badoer – is an interesting one.
Not everyone’s happy about it, though – Spanish motorsport federation president Carlos Gracia has criticised Ferrari’s decision to pick Badoer over their other test driver, Spaniard Marc Gene, who has more recent F1 experience:
It is one of the most absurd things that the people in charge of Ferrari have ever decided. I consider Gene to be better prepared and would have though that winning the Le Mans 24 Hours in June – the first time that a Spanish driver has shown himself capable of racing for victory in the race – would have been an important factor for Ferrari.
Gracia is probably worried about the consequences for the European Grand Prix at Valencia next week: ticket sales were already poor and the suspension of Fernando Alonso’s team won’t have helped. Now the return of Schumacher has turned out to be a false dawn and many of the thousands who rushed to buy tickets for the race in the past week may now cancel. Had Ferrari chosen Gene that might have been different.
Luca di Montezemolo described his decision to put Badoer in the car as a thank-you for Badoer’s 11 years as a Ferrari test driver – but did not indicate whether he would only race as a one-off:
We have therefore decided to give Luca Badoer the chance to race for the Scuderia after he has put in so many years of hard work as a test driver.
Luca di Montezemolo
Badoer was passed over for a substitute role in similar circumstances in 1999 when Schumacher was injured.
Badoer and the records
If he remains in the car for further races, with Felipe Massa unlikely to return for some time, he might get the chance to do something very special: become the first Italian to race for Ferrari at Monza since Ivan Capelli in 1992.
The Italian Grand Prix at Monza is on September 13th. The last Italian to race for Ferrari at an Italian round of the world championship was Nicola Larini at Imola in 1994.
There are some other interesting records attached to Badoer. He is currently the driver to have competed in the most races without scoring a point. He started 49 events between 1993 and 1999. Brett Lunger is second with no points from 34 starts.
He made his debut in the hopeless Ferrari-engined Lola of 1993. The car was entered by the Scuderia Italia team, who packed up before the end of the season. Badoer did manage to drag the car to seventh at Imola in 1993 – but there were no points for seventh back then.
His tour of Italy’s least successful F1 teams continued with Minardi (1995) and Forti (1996). He returned to Minardi in 1999, dovetailing his race programme with test duties for Ferrari. Badoer is still best-remembered for bursting into tears after his Minardi broke down while he lay fourth in the 1999 European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring.
When Badoer, 38, returns to racing at Valencia it will be nine years, nine months and 24 days since his last Grand Prix at Suzuka in 1999. That will be the second longest ever gap between consecutive appearances for an F1 driver, beaten only by Jan Lammers. The Dutchman returned after an absence of ten years and three months when he raced for March at Suzuka in 1992.
Having not competed for so long there will inevitably be doubts over how well Badoer will perform. How do you think he will get on?