From "Bad"oer to Worse: Is This Where the Story Ends for Luca Badoer?
In one of the initial practice sessions for the European Grand Prix in Valencia last week a watching spectator commented on the unfortunate abbreviation used to represent Luca Badoer. His name was shortened to "Bad," and so it became a running joke that his name somewhat represented his perceived lacklustre display of on track action.
His performance in Spa was so far removed from his teammate Kimi Raikkonen’s shining victory it will be considered an embarrassment, further adding to his record of being statistically the worst Formula One driver of all time.
As a result it now means that a decision for Ferrari to keep him in the seat for the Italian Grand Prix would seem rather dumbfounded. His only chance of a points finish based on his two Grand Prix of this season would be the event of him finishing last in a field of eight or less finishers.
But is it entirely his fault that his performance in the vastly improved Ferrari is beyond poor?
This season has seen the ban on almost any in season testing in an attempt to further reduce the costs of running Formula One. The budget cap was placed and teams had to rely on their main two drivers analysing the cars in pre-qualifying practice sessions.
This was an alternative to what we had seen in recent years where the team’s third driver provided most of the required information by running more laps in these sessions.
Luca Badoer may have been stated on paper as a test driver for Ferrari alongside Marc Gene and it is true that he did feature in a lot of preseason testing for the Ferrari team.
However as any Formula One fan will know, the development of each and every team’s cars is so rapid and vigorous throughout the season that only the main drivers now will be given the opportunity to enable these changes to produce better results. The main drivers theoretically take on the role of test driver as well.
Therefore the new rule has failed test drivers in such an event as we saw in Hungary where Felipe Massa suffered such horrific injuries, leaving his team having to fill the void with a replacement driver.
The FIA, in this respect, seem somewhat clumsy in initiating the in season testing ban. In hindsight maybe they may not have been so determined to ban in season testing if they could have foreseen the dramatic accident which some feared had destroyed Massa’s career.
Luca Badoer was immediately slow in his Ferrari. He rarely featured higher than the back row in any sessions and managed somehow to hold off being lapped in Spa. But the gap to the rest of the field is all too evident for us to see.
He suffers from a complete lack of competitive pace and there is no visible aggressiveness to his driving. We are left to question how much he really wants it.
So has the FIA failed him into preparing for his unexpected return? Or should the Ferrari team have taken a more logical route of placing a driver in their second seat that has actually had recent racing experience?
Both Jaime Alguersuari and Romain Grosjean have fared better in the Toro Rosso and Renault teams, respectively, as they aim to stake a claim to future drives. This could be linked to their recent drives in alternative racing championships, resulting in their promotions to the top tier of motor sport.
Yet all three new drivers have not produced anything worthy of note as of yet. It is also worth pointing out that Luca Badoer’s fellow rookies are also under investigation due to the first lap accidents where they took both Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton out of the Belgium Grand Prix.
Their inexperienced mistakes will provide a valuable learning experience for both and hopefully provide a stepping stone for better things to come.
But by banning in season testing however the FIA may have left new drivers extremely vulnerable and unlikely to succeed if they have to play catch up as soon as they take to their seats.
After all it’s bad enough being the new kid in the field if the new kid then has to climb mountains just to reach the rest of the pack. Not all rookies are as lucky as Lewis Hamilton in landing a seat in a championship winning team.
Grosjean and Alguersuari will have to fight doggedly throughout the rest of the season to warrant themselves a drive for future years.
Badoer, on the other hand, is unlikely to keep his drive for the next Grand Prix with the rumours abundant that Spa’s hero Fisichella will replace him. And whilst it is true that Luca has produced a below par performance in his return you can’t help feel sorry for him with the lack of support he is getting from all directions.
He has definitely made progress in closing the gap in Spa but Ferrari obviously will not have the patience to wait for results as these seem too far away.
Would he really have been so far behind if he had been allowed some in season testing?
That is a question in the current Formula One climate that we cannot answer, and if the rule persists could just result in repeat showings of drivers struggling to force their way in.
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