Just as quickly as Michael Schumacher took Felipe Massa’s ride as his replacement, he gave it back. An injured neck, sustained in a motorcycle crash back in February, will keep the German away from the track in Valencia.
While the shock of Schumacher’s non-return is making headlines, what isn’t is the driver who will step in and fill the void while Massa recovers: Look no further than tester Luca Badoer, a driver with the dubious distinction of having driven the most races without scoring a single point.
I’ll go out on a limb and say he’ll end that streak in Valencia. This year’s Ferrari may not be a race winner, but it'll definitely get into the points, or even on the podium.
So, just how will Luca Badoer do in his role as driver? Of course, this will not be his first go around as an F1 race driver; he raced for Scuderia Italia, Minardi (twice), and Footwork, before taking the role as tester for the most famous of F1 teams.
A simple look at F1 Rejects will tell you the stories of those teams, so it comes as no surprise that Badoer couldn’t score points with any of them.
Plus, luck hasn’t exactly been on his side either. Case and point: Look back to 1999. Schumacher broke his leg at Silverstone and would miss a nice chunk of the season. Badoer, who had just signed as their tester, looked to be set for a drive in (arguably) that season’s best car.
But, as you well know, Mika Salo was given the ride, and Badoer had to keep his role as test driver. And people say Johnny Herbert had the worst luck of an F1 pilot.
It seems only fitting that the Italian (a nice bonus for Ferrari I’m sure) will finally get his chance. Even Luca di Montezemolo admitted the loyalties of the veteran tester, and that he deserved a chance to race.
“We have 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,” said the Ferrari president.
So, what could be a realistic result for Badoer on his return to a race seat? Given that the car is not for it, and that we’re unsure of his own capabilities as a racer, a win is a little too much to expect of him, especially on his first outing.
However, as I said earlier, points should definitely be in the cards. The Ferrari F60 has improved greatly through the year, and has turned into a solid points scorer, if not a podium contender. A finish up in the top eight would do very well.
Of course, what happens if he sets the world a fire in this stretch to end the year? Where would that leave the injured Felipe Massa? Fear not; Massa’s ride should nicely secured for him. Badoer, while deserving of a chance, is not a young, hard charger whom Ferrari is looking to offer experience. Nor is he likely going to be a long-term race driver.
If he does impress, there’s the possibility he’ll take on the seat beside Massa for next year. This, of course, is based on the truth in the rumors of Fernando Alonso’s move to Ferrari. Still, no matter what, Massa’s drive should be safe, regardless of how Badoer does.
The story that lies here is not of a driver looking to set the world ablaze and steal a ride from a potential title contender. It is one of a driver who has waited patiently (albeit very patiently) for his chance to compete…even staying put after being passed over at least once.
While the Brawn team has offered the best field-good story of the year, Badoer can certainly offer up one of equal quality, and that’s only if he does as expected and scores points. If he can somehow pull an upset and win (especially if it should occur at Monza), it would easily be the biggest Cinderella story this year.
Again, I can’t be sure of his ability as a race driver, but something tells me that a killer instinct must lie deep within him somewhere, otherwise Ferrari would not have wanted him in the first place. If the car is up to it, and if he has a talent the general public has not seen, we might be seeing the beginnings of yet another Cinderella.