Luca Badoer
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Last updated: 17-February-2011
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Before Formula One Formula One, I Between Formula One
Formula One, II
After Formula One

Before F1

Luckless Luca a consistent winner in karting classes

Since 1999, Italian driver Luca Badoer, ranked as the man with the most number of F1 races under his belt without scoring a single point. It seemed a harsh record for a man who had walked off with the F3000 title at his first attempt, and who as Ferrari's tester had become the most prominent of his type in modern F1. But in mid-2009, when freak circumstances seemed to contrive to give Badoer the opportunity to shed that record by racing for Ferrari, the dream sadly became a nightmare.

Born in Montebelluna in north-eastern Italy and the son of wealthy parents, Badoer started off his racing career in the hurly-burly of Italian karts. He first competed in 1985, and in his rookie year scored two wins. In 1986, driving in the 100cc category, he became champion of Venice, and the next year was overall Italian champion for that class. Moving up in 1988 to the Super-100cc and International classes, he once again became Italian champion in his Birel/Sirio.


Suspicious F3 successes follow stunning serves of talent

Now it was time to move up, and Badoer made the transition straight into Italian F3. A learning year in 1989 in the Trivellato team, using a Dallara/Alfa Romeo, was followed by a move to the MRD team in 1990 to drive a Ralt RT33 Alfa Romeo. At the age of nineteen, he stunned the establishment when, in the last round at Vallelunga, he beat championship contenders Roberto Colciago and Alessandro Zanardi to record his first victory in car racing. With 13 points, he was equal 10th overall.

Badoer was now considered a genuine contender for the Italian F3 title in 1991 when he changed to the Supercars team to drive a Dallara 391 Alfa Romeo. After a slow start, he suddenly reeled off four wins in succession, and rival teams became suspicious. Indeed, the fourth of those wins was eventually scrubbed because his car was using non-scrutineered tyres. Perhaps justifying his rivals' suspicions, Badoer's season fell away after that, and he only managed to finish 4th overall with 33 points.

The start of something big. After points-scoring results in his first three F3000 races in 1992, Badoer started a winning streak that led him to the title in his rookie season.
The start of something big. After points-scoring results in his first three F3000 races in 1992, Badoer started a winning streak that led him to the title in his rookie season.


Takes it to the big names in F3000 with amazing early form

But it was enough to promote Badoer into F3000 in 1992 with the Crypton team, using a Reynard 92D with a Cosworth engine, as team-mate to 1991 Lotus driver Michael Bartels. Against a host of future F1 drivers, including Rubens Barrichello, Olivier Panis, David Coulthard, Andrea Montermini, Jean-Marc Gounon, Emanuele Naspetti, Hideki Noda, Olivier Beretta and Allan McNish, Badoer found his feet early, and took a 5th and two 6th places in his first three races at Silverstone, Pau and Barcelona.

Then, amazingly, at Enna and Hockenheim he completely dominated the opposition, taking pole, fastest lap and the race win. At Enna he beat Naspetti, Montermini and Bartels by over 20 seconds, and at Hockenheim he led home a Crypton 1-2 with Bartels almost 8 seconds adrift. He then backed that up with a third straight victory at the Nurburgring, where he again left the competition - this time led by Bartels and Barrichello - trailing in his wake.


Wins the Championship at first attempt, heads to F1

It was only at Spa, when a huge accident split his driving helmet, that he came back down to earth after such an incredible string of results. Bouncing back at once, he came second to Montermini at Albacete, and then took another trifecta of pole, fastest lap and victory at Nogaro, comfortably beating home Gounon, Coulthard and Montermini, to clinch the title at his very first attempt, with a race to spare. He had a 12-point lead over Montermini, with nine points awarded for a win.

In the final round at Magny-Cours, Badoer looked set to round off his triumphant year in style by taking pole, but an eventful race saw most of the title protagonists knocked out. Badoer maintained his gap over Montermini, with a further seven points back to Barrichello in 3rd overall. By the end of 1992 both Badoer and Barrichello had F1 contracts for 1993 in their pockets, but from there their fortunes would prove to be dramatically different.

F1, part I

Eric Broadly and Lola joins with BMS Scuderia Italia

While Barrichello found himself at Jordan, starred in the rain at Donington and scored his first points in Japan, Badoer joined the BMS Scuderia Italia team, which had used the Dallara chassis from 1988 to 1992. In 1992, using Ferrari engines, in the hands of JJ Lehto and Pierluigi Martini the Dallaras had proven capable midfield runners, but the car was incapable of any meaningful development. By the end of the year, Scuderia Italia and Dallara had parted company.

On the other hand, Eric Broadley's Lola concern had tried to succeed in F1 on numerous previous occasions, such as with the Carl Haas Beatrice team in 1985-6, and with Larrousse from 1987 to 1991. After Larrousse dumped Lola in favour of the Venturi chassis in 1992, Broadley regrouped, and for 1993 linked up with Scuderia Italia. On paper, it looked a decent combination. With undeniable pedigree in motorsport, the Lola T93/30 chassis should have been a good one.


The young and the ageless combine for a difficult season

Despite the fact that the Ferrari customer engines were getting old, they were still powerful. Apart from the money pumped in by Italian magnate Beppe Lucchini, the team found sponsorship from Chesterfield. In the driving department, there was the combination of the young charger - Badoer - and the experienced hand in Michele Alboreto, who had just enjoyed a fine season with Footwork in 1992. But for all the promise on paper, the year would prove to be an utter disaster.

In a year that saw the most technologically advanced F1 cars up to that point, with the leading cars displaying semi-automatic gearboxes, active suspension, traction control and ABS brakes, by comparison the Lola was very bulky and basic and it was mired to the back of the grid. It was hardly an atmosphere in which Badoer could learn his trade, and it would only be fair for us to compare his results with Alboreto's, to show what Badoer did in fact achieve.

This off-road excursion to retirement in Hungary pretty much summed up Badoer's 1993 season in the Lola/Ferrari. Having said that, he had the better of his veteran team-mate Michele Alboreto.
This off-road excursion to retirement in Hungary pretty much summed up Badoer's 1993 season in the Lola/Ferrari. Having said that, he had the better of his veteran team-mate Michele Alboreto.


New rules cause Lolas difficulties, misses a point at Imola

For his debut in South Africa, Badoer found the going very tough. The Lolas filled the back row, with Alboreto some 6.2s off Alain Prost on pole, and Badoer some 9s off the Frenchman. Gearbox problems forced Badoer out after 20 laps. Then in Brazil, a new rule was introduced whereby the 26th fastest in qualifying would not make the grid. Badoer got in comfortably in 21st, ahead of both Tyrrells and Fabrizio Barbazza's Minardi, while Alboreto just beat Ivan Capelli's Jordan for the last grid spot.

After a pit stop for a new nosecone, Badoer finished 12th and last, just behind Alboreto, and 3 laps down. At Donington, Badoer fell victim to the new rule when he was just 0.2s off Andrea de Cesaris' Tyrrell in 25th spot. Then at Imola, Alboreto was the man who missed the cut, while Badoer was 24th ahead of Barbazza. But in a race of attrition, while the Minardi came 6th to score a point, Badoer was tantalisingly close in 7th, 3 laps down. This 7th would remain his best result in F1.


FIA ruling makes the Lolas temporarily the only legal cars on the grid

This shows the arbitrariness of the "most races without a point" statistic, for in 1993 only the top six were awarded points, whereas since 2003 it has been the top eight (and since 2010 the top ten). In Spain, Badoer once again outqualified Barbazza and the Tyrrells, and was 1.1s faster than Alboreto, but he retired just after halfway. Monaco was poor, with Badoer last by miles having lapped at over 9s slower than Prost, but in Canada he beat Alboreto to the last spot by 0.025s and finished 15th.

Just prior to the Canadian race, the FIA had declared electronic devices such as traction control and active suspension illegal, effective immediately, which caused an uproar from just about every team, since only the Lolas did not have any gizmos at all. According to Tom Prankerd, at one stage it looked as though the Lolas would be the only cars to pass scrutineering in Montreal, but the FIA relented and the devices would only be banned at the end of the year, consigning the Lolas to tail-end misery.

Badoer failed to impress the Benetton hierarchy at the end of 1993 in this test, and lost the chance to partner Michael Schumacher in 1994.
Badoer failed to impress the Benetton hierarchy at the end of 1993 in this test, and lost the chance to partner Michael Schumacher in 1994.


Consistently outperforms Alboreto, but reliability proves a downfall

In France, Badoer outqualified both Minardis and de Cesaris, while Alboreto was left on the sidelines again. Britain also saw Badoer beat Alboreto for the last spot by 0.3s. At Hockenheim he was a full second faster than Alboreto (despite a set of four accidents throughout the whole weekend), but by now all 26 were allowed to start again. This meant Badoer did race in Hungary, although he was slower than his team-mate by 1.1s, but he was still leading the qualifying head-to-head by 7 to 4.

But in all four of these races he failed to finish, twice due to suspension failures. At Spa, Badoer was once again a second up on Alboreto, and came home 13th. By now the Lolas were finally getting some reliability, and in Italy, having started 25th, Badoer ran ahead of Christian Fittipaldi (who eventually flipped over the line in 8th) and had a good dice with the Brazilian's Minardi which attracted the attention of the television director for several laps before dropping back to finish 10th.


Poor Benetton test leaves Luca with limited testing duties for Minardi

Then in Portugal, Badoer started last and finished 14th out of the 16 classified, but he was the final car running. After Estoril, seeing how pointless the season had become, the team decided against making the fly-away trips to Japan and Australia and folded altogether, announcing that it would be joining forces with Minardi in 1994, although in reality it was a case of Minardi assuming Scuderia Italia's remains. But Luca had done enough throughout 1993 and had attracted the attention of the Benetton team.

In fact, Benetton had both Alboreto and Badoer in their sights for 1994 as team-mate to Michael Schumacher, but after both Italians disappointed in tests, the team chose Lehto instead. Alboreto found his way into the Minardi line-up alongside Martini, while Badoer only got himself a very limited testing role with the same team. But if you consider their relative performances throughout 1993, during which the rookie had largely outshone the veteran, there appeared to have been no justice in that.

With a front wing design ahead of its time, Badoer was sensational in the wet qualifying at Buenos Aires in 1995, earning a 13th place grid slot.
With a front wing design ahead of its time, Badoer was sensational in the wet qualifying at Buenos Aires in 1995, earning a 13th place grid slot.


Gruntless engine hinders performance, Martini gives way for cash

But come 1995, Alboreto had retired from F1, and Badoer was promoted into the Minardi race team alongside Martini. It was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, for Minardi had just had a Mugen Honda engine deal snatched from under its nose by Ligier. With the Japanese engine the M195 chassis would have been dynamite, but instead the Italian team had to settle for the relatively gutless Ford ED V8s to power a typically useful chassis from the Faenza outfit.

Badoer generally qualified in the lower midfield (six times he started 18th, and only once did he miss the top 20), and was fairly evenly matched with his team-mate. On tighter tracks, though, where the Minardi's power deficiency didn’t matter as much, Badoer put in some marvellous performances to ensure that at mid-season, when the team was really starting to run out of cash, it was their stalwart Martini who had to give way to Portuguese driver Pedro Lamy.


Makes life difficult for those lapping him, more pointless lowly finishes

But on the whole, after a year on the sidelines Badoer was somewhat rusty on race days, and his manners while being lapped didn't always endear himself to others. He started the year with a gearbox failure in Brazil, but in the wet qualifying in Argentina he scored a mighty 13th spot. But at the first corner, when Jean Alesi spun, Badoer clouted the back of Mika Salo's Tyrrell, and later around the lap smashed into Barrichello's Jordan as well.

The red flags came out, and without a spare chassis in the garage Badoer did not start the restarted race. Although he recorded a 14th place finish at Imola, he had been something of a mobile chicane, and he retired in Spain and Monaco before reeling off an 8th, 13th and 10th in Canada, France and Britain. In Germany he had more gearbox problems, before finishing 8th in Hungary (where he had started a fabulous 12th) and spinning off in Belgium. In current-day terms he would have scored numerous points.

One of Badoer's best weekends in 1995 was in Hungary, but not every race went as well.
One of Badoer's best weekends in 1995 was in Hungary, but not every race went as well.


Sends Ukyo into orbit, but comes back to earth when dumped for point scorer Lamy

The next two races he would rather have forgotten. At Monza, he had a huge practice accident that saw him overturn his car. Then at the first start, Massimiliano Papis spun right in front of him, triggering a multi-car pile-up, but Badoer just managed to avoid the Arrows. It mattered little, because he crashed after 26 laps. Then at Estoril, his was the car Ukyo Katayama clipped before flipping wildly mid-air seconds after the start. A shaken Badoer took the restart in his spare and came 14th.

11th at the Nurburgring was followed by 15th and 9th in the two Japanese races, but having qualified 15th in Adelaide, he failed to start after electrical problems hit just before the race. In that race, Lamy scored a precious point for Minardi, and come 1996 the Portuguese driver was the one retained, while Badoer was forced to make way, initially in favour of the sponsorship of Taki Inoue, before eventually Giancarlo Fisichella and others got the drive.

Forti Corse

Signs up with minnows to do battle with new 107% qualifying rule

On the seat of his pants, Badoer threw in his lot with cellar dwellers Forti for 1996 as team-mate to former F3000 sparring partner Montermini. Here was a team that was also struggling for money after Pedro Diniz had left for Ligier, and despite fitting a Ford Zetec R V8 engine into a revised 1995 chassis, the new 107% qualifying rule was always going to be a tall order for both Italian drivers as they waited for the new FG03 chassis to arrive.

Things did not bode well at the opening race in Melbourne, where Luca was almost three seconds faster than Montermini, but he was also three seconds slower than Diniz’s Ligier and more importantly 107.4% of the pole time, therefore missing the race. But at Interlagos Badoer started 19th after both Diniz and Tarso Marques recorded no time (but were allowed to start anyway). Badoer limped home in the rain, 4 laps down, in 11th. Then in Argentina, he started 21st, but tangled with Diniz in the race.

Badoer upside-down in Argentina 1996 after his Forti touched Pedro Diniz's Ligier. This was rather indicative of Forti's fortunes.
Badoer upside-down in Argentina 1996 after his Forti touched Pedro Diniz's Ligier. This was rather indicative of Forti's fortunes.


Upturned in Buenos Aires, suspended ban after Monaco

The result was an upturned Forti in the gravel. Astonishingly, the Argentine marshals refused to come near the car, possibly for fear of a fire, and Badoer spent agonising moments freeing himself from the car. When finally one marshal reluctantly offered an arm to help, in sheer frustration Badoer shoved him aside. The teams then returned to Europe, but the European GP at the Nurburgring was a lost cause as Forti looked forward to the impending new car, and neither driver qualified.

At Imola, only Badoer had the new car, and Luca proceeded to go faster than Montermini by 1.6s, making the grid whilst Andrea missed out. In the race, Badoer came home a fine 10th, albeit the last of the runners; under the 2010 points system, that would have earned another point. Then in the demolition derby at Monaco, Badoer tiptoed around at the back before chopping across Jacques Villeneuve's Williams at the Mirabeau, putting both cars out. For that, Badoer earned himself a suspended one-race ban.


Dwindling finances cause trouble, eventually leads to premature closure

Neither Forti made the cut in Spain, but in Canada, Badoer actually managed to outqualify Ricardo Rosset's Footwork, starting 20th before retiring with gearbox problems. By this stage Forti had attracted some purported sponsorship from the mysterious Shannon Group, and it was hoped that an injection of funds would help the team move up the ranks, as it was obvious that the FG03 was a decent car, which could become competitive with some development.

Unfortunately, the Shannon Group never paid up, despite having actually taken control over the team. In France, Badoer got off the last row only after Eddie Irvine was relegated to the back, but retired with fuel pump problems. In Britain neither car qualified, and by the time the teams got to Hockenheim, Forti was out of money and in dire straits. The cars didn't venture out onto the circuit, the team folded immediately, and Luca was down and out yet again.

The new Forti FG03 was a large step up in performance, not that that meant much. This new livery, seen here in Spain, came a few races later, but it didn't help save the team.
The new Forti FG03 was a large step up in performance, not that that meant much. This new livery, seen here in Spain, came a few races later, but it didn't help save the team. Picture from Forix.

Between F1

Dabbles in a bit of GT racing with Mimmo in a Lotus

Once more, Badoer's talent was left to waste, and in 1997 apart from some testing for Minardi once again, it seemed as though he had little on his plate. That was until he managed to secure himself seven outings in the FIA GT championship, driving both a GBF Engineering Lotus Elise Turbo, and a Lotus Elise GT1. It was a toe-in-the-water exercise for the famous marque into sports car racing, and truth be told the cars were not very competitive at all.

At Hockenheim and Silverstone, sharing the car with Mimmo Schiattarella and Mauro Martini, Badoer was forced into retirement. Things improved at Helsinki, where with Schiattarella he finished 20th, but a whole 30 laps down. Continuing to partner Schiattarella, there were two more retirements at the Nurburgring and Zeltweg, while the pair came home 12th at Donington having completed 151 laps. There was also an outing at Mugello where Badoer retired with loose bodywork.

Badoer shared a Lotus GT1 with Mimmo Schiattarella in several races of the 1997 FIA GT championship. Here he is in action at Mugello.
Badoer shared a Lotus GT1 with Mimmo Schiattarella in several races of the 1997 FIA GT championship. Here he is in action at Mugello.

F1, part II

Todt picks him up as Ferrari's tester

However, in 1998 he was thrown a lifeline of sorts. With Nicola Larini leaving the role as Ferrari F1 test driver, which he had occupied since 1992, Jean Todt looked to Badoer to fill the role, recognising him as skilled in both racing and development. That season, Badoer was the unsung hero as Ferrari slowly clawed back McLaren's initial advantage, and Schumacher was able to launch a challenge (albeit unsuccessful) to Mika Hakkinen for the World Championship.

At first, Badoer's deal as both Ferrari's test and reserve driver was meant to preclude him from returning to Grand Prix racing in his own right, but for 1999 the Ferrari management relented, as the opportunity arose for Badoer to pursue the dual roles as Ferrari tester on one hand, and as a race driver back at his alma mater of Minardi. By this stage, however, it was a new-look Minardi, with Fondmetal's Gabriele Rumi having taken the majority share in the team.


Signed to race for Minardi in a balanced pairing with rookie Gene

The new car was even designated the M01 to show that the team was making a new start, although the chassis was still burdened by the old Ford Zetec R V10 engine. Luca was actually a last-minute choice to join the ambitious effort, but he was a clever choice. With rookie Marc Gene in the other car, Badoer provided balance as the experienced old hand. More often than not, Badoer and Gene would give a good account of themselves, but for Luca the season would once again turn into a 'what might have been' story.

Though he never managed to qualify above 19th, he could quite regularly be found in the midfield in Friday free practice. And he would have absolutely no luck whatsoever in the races themselves. It started in Melbourne, where a dynamite start had him as high as 11th, and then as cars fell he actually got into the points, before gearbox problems struck. He had been running in front of the Arrows cars, and Pedro de la Rosa in one of them eventually did score a point for 6th.


Snubbed by Ferrari as replacement for injured Schumacher

Then, prior to Brazil, a testing accident left Luca with a broken bone in his hand, and Stephane Sarrazin took his place at Interlagos. Back for Imola, Badoer's hand still gave him problems, but he soldiered home bravely in 8th. After gearbox problems and a spin in Monaco and Spain respectively, in Canada he managed to pass both Zanardi and Panis in the race before he and Panis were given stop-go penalties for baulking, dropping him to 10th at the finish.

Another 10th place followed in France, but at Silverstone, he made up 5 places at the start before Michael Schumacher's accident. At the second start, Toranosuke Takagi pushed him off the track but he recovered only for his gearbox to pack up. But with Schumi having broken his legs, Badoer seemed certain to get the chance of his life to race the Ferrari, but in a shock move, and one that hurt Luca deeply, Todt opted for Mika Salo. While Salo may have been faster, undoubtedly Badoer knew the car better.

Badoer showed that he could mix it with the midfield at times during 1999. Here he battles with Pedro Diniz's Sauber in Austria.
Badoer showed that he could mix it with the midfield at times during 1999. Here he battles with Pedro Diniz's Sauber in Austria.


Salo stars, then bombs - what would Badoer have done?

There was to be more disappointment. Improved aerodynamics in Austria, plus a better engine, saw Badoer move his way up to 15th in the race, before Damon Hill took him off and forced him into the pits for repairs, dropping him to 13th. At the time of the clash, Badoer had been running in front of Diniz who eventually came 6th in his Sauber. At Hockenheim, Badoer outqualified Jean Alesi's Sauber, but fell back to last in the race before passing the Arrows, team-mate Gene, and even Zanardi's Williams.

He eventually finished 10th, but with Salo having gifted the win to Irvine at the front, Todt's decision seemed to have vindicated. How Luca would have relished it, then, when he qualified 19th in Hungary, only to see Salo one measly spot ahead. In the race, Badoer even got ahead of the Ferrari, but eventually came home 14th while Salo finished 12th. But that was to be Badoer's last finish. At one stage in Belgium he challenged Villeneuve's BAR before over-zealous kerb hopping damaged his suspension.


The tears flow as totally deserved fouth place goes begging at the Nurburgring

Then in Italy he was taken out in a ridiculous attempt at a passing move by Takagi's Arrows. But the European GP would prove to be the ultimate heartbreak. Starting 19th, as the weather started playing havoc with track conditions, he made all the right calls on tyre choice, and as others fell by the wayside found himself in an amazing 4th with only a dozen or so laps left. But then his gearbox seized, and as he parked it, Badoer burst into tears. There was no-one in the pits who didn't feel sorry for the luckless Italian.

In Malaysia, Badoer received a tap on the first lap as Hill and Fisichella tangled, and later was forced off the track by Diniz. The excursion sent dirt into his radiators, and eventually the engine overheated. More engine problems then sidelined him at Suzuka. And so the 1999 season ran out. Not only was it a year in which he would have scored points under future points systems, but he almost scored half a dozen points under the existing system, and a Ferrari race drive had slipped through his grasp.


Concentrates on the Ferrari testing role

Leaving Minardi for 2000, Badoer returned to concentrating on his Ferrari test role. In that year alone, he completed some 15,000 to 20,000 kilometres in developing the championship-winning Ferrari F1-2000. The great irony is, the man whom he comprehensively beat in F3000 in 1992, Rubens Barrichello, is one of the men whom his hard work benefited throughout the year. Much of Ferrari's competitiveness had to be attributed to Badoer's hard work, which went largely unnoticed and unsung.

Towards the end of the 2000 season, Badoer claims he rejected offers of race seats from several midfield teams in order to continue as Ferrari tester into 2001, on the promise that he would indeed be Ferrari's reserve driver should anything happen to Schumi or Rubens. But it was thought that, should Kimi Raikkonen not have been granted a superlicence, then Badoer was favourite to take the Sauber seat. As it was, Raikkonen did get the superlicence, and Luca remained in the Ferrari test role.

The Nurburgring, 1999, and Luca drove brilliantly to be in 4th place with a few laps to go. When his gearbox gave way, he burst into tears.
The Nurburgring, 1999, and Luca drove brilliantly to be in 4th place with a few laps to go. When his gearbox gave way, he burst into tears.


Luca becomes a key to Ferrari's decade of dominance

It was a role he would make his own as he became the archetypal test driver of the current era, showing that it was a viable career path for a technically-minded driver. As Ferrari and Schumacher steamed towards unprecedented levels of championship glory in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004, including record-breaking seasons in 2002 and 2004, one of the bedrocks of their success was in being able to test, develop and refine their package more than anyone else, and Badoer was at the forefront of that.

Whether it was tyres, engine configurations, aero parts or electronic systems, Luca kept pounding away, lap after lap, kilometre after kilometre, year in, year out. With the role came the inevitable risk of testing parts to breaking point, and there were some occasional big prangs like at Barcelona in 2001 and 2006, Imola in 2004 and Jerez in 2005. But ultimately his feedback came to be something that Schumacher, Barrichello, Todt, Ross Brawn and the whole of the Ferrari team came to rely upon and trust.


Rewarded with starring role in Winter Olympics opening ceremony

Badoer became an integral part of the Ferrari family as others came and went. There were other testers, like Luciano Burti and his former Minardi team-mate Gene. Barrichello departed; Felipe Massa took his place. Schumacher retired at the end of 2006; Raikkonen stepped in and walked off with the championship in his first season for the Scuderia. Massa almost repeated the dose in 2008. Throughout the whole golden decade, there was one constant in the line-up at Maranello, and that was Luca.

Even the leadership of the team changed, with Todt and Brawn eventually departing and Stefano Domenicali taking over, but Badoer remained the loyal team player. He was content with his role and didnt look to pursue other race drives or different categories. And he was rewarded when, for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, he got to take part in the torch relay and, better still, drove an F1 Ferrari into the opening ceremony to perform several donuts.


Massa and Schumi's injuries conspire to make Luca's dream come true

It was just about the only time that Luca took centre stage - until the middle of 2009. That season had seen Badoer's role diminished for the first time. With pre-season testing significantly reduced, and in-season testing banned, Luca's main raison d'etre within the team had disappeared, and the Italian had to be satisfied with simply being the main reserve driver. But in qualifying for the Hungarian GP, a spring fell off Barrichello's Brawn and struck Massa in the helmet, causing the Brazilian a serious head injury.

Initially, it was announced to great fanfare that Schumacher would make a comeback to be Felipes replacement, and it appeared as though Badoer had missed out again, just as he had ten years earlier. But after a test, Michael discovered that a motorcycling neck injury had not healed properly. Belatedly, at the age of 38, Luca finally had his Ferrari race call-up. He would be the first Italian since Larini in 1994 to race for the Scuderia, and after all these years of loyal waiting, it seemed as if his chance had finally come.

A familiar sight during the 2000s: Luca at work on a test day, like here at Jerez in 2003.
A familiar sight during the 2000s: Luca at work on a test day, like here at Jerez in 2003.


A daunting task at Valencia after ten years without racing

There were other factors that seemed to bode well. Luca was to drive car 3, the same number he would have had in 1999 if he rather than Salo had been given the nod. His first race would be the European GP - the same event that cruelly robbed him of major points for Minardi back in 1999. But leaving the romantic notions aside, on paper the odds were stacked against him. For starters, he had not raced competitively - aside from a few karting events - for almost ten years since the last Grand Prix of1999.

At 38, Badoer would also be the oldest man on the grid. He had also not driven an F1 car at all since December 2008, and apart from a brief promotional run at Fiorano in the week before Valencia his only taste of the Ferrari F60 was in a simulator. But he was undaunted in the lead-up, saying: "Since I've been a child I always wanted to race for Ferrari and now I've got the possibility to make this desire come true. I will give it my best ... for all the Ferrari fans, who - I'm sure about that - will give me their support."


Well off the pace in free practice

Luca was also buoyed by the understanding that the drive was his until Massa recovered, and so he could treat Valencia as an acclimatisation run with minimal pressure. Or so he believed. Right from first practice he was under immense scrutiny, especially when he was last on the timesheets, some 3.4s off the pace, and when he was caught speeding in the pit lane four times, due to not being used to the 60 km/h speed limit and misjudging his braking distances, earning him 5,400 Euros in fines.

Second practice on Friday was better; he outpaced Jaime Alguersuari's Toro Rosso and was only 2.7s down, but come Saturday morning he still languished around 3s off the pace and was back to last. It was as if he had hit his personal glass ceiling with qualifying looming. In the first segment of qualifying, despite going 0.6s faster than he had all weekend, he was unsurprisingly 20th and last, almost 1.5s slower than Alguersuari in 19th, and 2.882s behind Jenson Button's fastest time.


His rivals are sympathetic - maybe except Romain Grosjean

The impatient and demanding world of F1 being what it was, with millions of viewers able to instantly pass judgment on social media, the sharks were starting to circle. Some other drivers like Badoer's compatriot Jarno Trulli leapt to Luca's defence. Badoer himself asked for a grace period: "I ask you to be patient, because I'm not a robot or Superman. I'm human and I need time to get quick." But nothing short of a decent race showing was going to keep the critics at bay. Sadly, it was not to be.

Thanks to having KERS at his disposal, he made a tremendous start and after a few corners had made up six positions. But then he got tagged by Renault rookie Romain Grosjean, which dropped him back to the tail. After Grosjean and others pitted for new nosecones, Badoer ran steadily in 17th as Grosjean caught him back up, before they pitted together. Luca emerged in front, but in the hurly-burly of leaving his box he got spooked by seeing the Renault in his mirrors and moved aside to let Romain by!

Luca made up several places off the line at Valencia, but this was as good as it was going to get. Romain Grosjean is lurking ...
Luca made up several places off the line at Valencia, but this was as good as it was going to get. Romain Grosjean is lurking ...


The pressure builds after a nightmare comeback weekend

To add to that embarrassment, he then touched the white line on the exit of the pit lane and incurred a drive-through penalty for his troubles. Thereafter he ran solidly to the end of the race, recording a faster best lap than both Toro Rosso drivers, and lapping almost a second faster than he had in qualifying. He came home a lapped 17th, in front of Kazuki Nakajima who was three laps down in 18th, but to finish off his nightmare weekend he hit Adrian Sutil's Force India as he came into parc ferme after the race.

Perhaps it was not so much the lack of speed but the other amateurish moments that had some believing that Luca was simply not up to the job. By the next race, the Belgian GP at Spa, the pressure was on. Badoer could no longer use unfamiliarity with the car as an excuse, and he had at least driven at Spa before. Suddenly even Domenicali was not ruling out replacing Luca if he did not perform: "We are expecting a big jump from him and then we will see ... Ferrari cannot be satisfied with a car in last position."


Rumours of Badoer's impending demise gather pace, but on the track Luca isn't gathering pace

This talk of Badoer being replaced even before he had been given a fair chance was taking on a life of its own. Some wag in the crowd at Spa brought a sign declaring that his grandmother would be faster than Luca in the Ferrari. Journalists kept asking inane questions about his future in the seat and Badoer naturally became more and more frustrated and defensive, which only added fuel to the fire. He would have to let his driving do the talking.

In that regard there was certainly an improvement. He was 10th in first practice, but it was wet and times were unrepresentative. Although he was back to last in the second session, by Saturday morning he was 18th, faster than Nakajima, and less than 0.7s off team-mate Raikkonen. But qualifying was the acid test, and once again he failed it. Although only 1.855s off the best time, he was 0.6s slower than Grosjean in 19th, and he had crashed at Les Combes trying desperately hard on his last flying lap.


Luca begs for one more chance at Monza

The bad news was that Fisichella, who rumours suggested was being lined up to replace Luca, had taken a shock pole for Force India. And on race day, Raikkonen gave Ferrari its only win of the year, with Fisichella pressuring the Finn all the way. Badoer had taken advantage of first lap incidents to move as high as 13th, and then diced with Sutil, Barrichello and Trulli before winding up a lonely 14th as the last finisher, almost a full lap behind Raikkonen and 48 seconds behind Nakajima in 13th.

After what had been a second embarrassment, Badoer was now telling anyone who would listen that things would be better at Monza. "For me Monza is special," he said. "It is my home track and I have the lap record there in Formula 1. And like Mugello and Fiorano, it is the track that I have spent the most time in my life. For sure in Monza I will have the big step that everybody is waiting for." And, on paper, there was reason to believe that Luca had a point and deserved one final chance on home soil.

Luca diced with Trulli and Sutil early on at Spa, but again dropped back to last place.
Luca diced with Trulli and Sutil early on at Spa, but again dropped back to last place.


Fisichella takes over the Ferrari seat, but does no better than Badoer

But Ferrari could not afford to wait any longer. Who knows if the Fisichella murmurings had just started off as unsubstantiated gossip, but after Giancarlo's brilliant Spa showing the rumours became reality. Fisichella was bought out of his Force India contract to join Ferrari with immediate effect for Monza. And in worse news for Badoer, Fisi would also become the teams test and reserve driver for 2010, once Massa returned and Raikkonen was replaced by Fernando Alonso.

By the end of the year, though, even though for sure Badoer had not set the track on fire in his two races for Ferrari, to some extent his efforts had been seen in a more objective light. For Fisichella struggled almost as much as Luca had, qualifying 14th in Italy but missing the first cut in the remaining four races, finishing 9th at Monza but as low as 16th at Abu Dhabi. The reality was that the F60 was a difficult beast to tame, and throughout the year Massa and Raikkonen had been flattering the car.


The last word from Rob Smedley, in Luca's defence

The last and possibly fairest word, though, came from Massa's race engineer Rob Smedley, who had tried to coax Luca through his two weekends: "if Im honest I wasnt expecting a lot more than what we saw from him ... He was slated and it wasn't nice watching Luca go through that. His demeanour [was] not a very good representation of him because he is very interested in what's going on and wants to understand everything - to a level much higher technically than Felipe or Giancarlo, for example."
After F1

Luca calls it quits as he falls down the Ferrari pecking order

Afterwards, Luca blamed the media for his rapid demise as a Ferrari race driver: "The media played a fundamental role in the decision to replace me," he told Gazzetta Sportiva. But he was also philosophical in reflecting upon the fact that he had joined a select group of drivers who had raced for the Prancing Horse in Formula One. "I realised my dream," he said. "I will always be able to tell my kids I raced two races for Ferrari. Maranello had faith in me."

In 2010, Luca remained on Ferrari's books, but with so little pre-season testing and no in-season testing, he really had very little he could effectively do. Plus Fisichella was now the official third driver and Ferrari were grooming Jules Bianchi, so Badoer and Gene were quickly slipping down the pecking order. Prior to the Bologna Motor Show in late 2010, Luca announced that he would be leaving the role of Ferrari test driver after 13 years in the job.


Final appearance in a Ferrari on a frozen lake

He did a demonstration run in the F60 at the show, before Ferrari presented him with a Fiat 500 Tributo Ferrari, and a sculpture created from parts of all Ferraris he had driven in his testing role, at Christmas time. Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo was glowing in his praise: "Luca has been a key element in so much of our success, thanks to a job that is so vital, even if carried out far from the limelight, consisting of thousands of kilometres, suggestions and ideas."

Badoer made one final appearance at the wheel of a Ferrari at the team's traditional ski event in January 2011, driving an F60 on the frozen lake at Madonna di Campiglio. And on that note, Luca signed off. The question is, where to from here for the diminutive Italian? Whilst other drivers would look to other racing categories, like sports cars for example, you get the sense that Luca is more a technical and developmental driver these days rather than having racing in his blood.

Luca's last day as an official Ferrari test driver, at the Bologna Motor Show at the end of 2010.
Luca's last day as an official Ferrari test driver, at the Bologna Motor Show at the end of 2010.


Where to from now for Luca?

A relatively shy and private man who is never most comfortable in the limelight, it would not be a surprise if Luca walks away from motorsport altogether to pursue something else that appeals to his technical-mindedness. After all, he is also qualified in architecture, and he was also reputed to be interested in planes, boats and helicopters. He also liked dabbling in tennis, golf, skiing and horse riding, so undoubtedly he will be able to find something to keep himself occupied.

In the original version of this biography, we wrote that we "would not be unhappy if Badoer did get a chance to race for Ferrari, fulfil his dream, and ensure that this page gets taken off the net". Well, we got the first half of that, but rather than removing his profile we find ourselves rewriting it and adding another chapter. In some ways it is appropriate though, so that we can honour one of the most loyal servants Formula One has seen over the last two decades.

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