Beyond the public face of the Ferrari F1 team, the behind the scenes crew are the ones doing all the hard work that allows the lead drivers to do their job. Between 1998 and 2010, one man worked harder than most to develop each year’s car: friendly and unassuming Italian driver, Luca Badoer.
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For many fans, Luca Badoer will primarily be remembered as the first stand-in for Felipe Massa after his 2009 accident. He was drafted in for the European and Belgian Grands Prix where he failed to impress. In his defence, he had no experience of that particular car, and had not raced for nine years. Those two races are in no way indicative of the work he did for the team over the years, which even Michael Schumacher called invaluable.
Winner – and in some style – of the 1992 F3000 Championship, Badoer made the leap to F1 with the short-lived Scuderia Italia team. It was a season that would be typical of his career: a small team, limited budget, uncompetitive car, and a driver becoming ever-more frustrated knowing the talent he possessed.
He hadn’t gone unnoticed, however, and secured a test with Benetton at the end of the season. The seat went to JJ Lehto, although Luca Badoer recorded a favourable performance in testing. Stints with the Minardi and Forti team followed with similar lack of success, and he opted to take the job of full-time test-driver for Ferrari. As this was in the days before the in-season testing ban, Badoer covered many thousands of miles developing new parts and ideas for the car and was a key member of the team.
Badoer’s early career was one that showed clear talent, and his success in karting – a category in which is son Brando currently competes with promise – and F3 and F3000 marked him out as a potential star of the future. There are many who agree that he did not get the breaks he deserved, and he remains a man with the dubious record of the most Grand Prix starts – 50 – without scoring a point.
His contribution to the successful years of the Schumacher era should, however, not be overlooked, as he was highly regarded in his ability to fine-tune a car to perfection.