There was a running joke at last weekend’s European Grand Prix regarding Ferrari substitute driver, Luca Badoer – on the television coverage, Badoer’s name is abbreviated to “Bad”. However, I doubt even Ferrari in their wildest dreams (or nightmares) could have though that Badoer could be that slow. The Italian driver was regularly 2 seconds slower than Raikkonen during practice and qualifying and 1.5 seconds per lap slower than the Finn throughout the race.
To be fair to the chap, to be “with it” 10 years after his last competitive drive was never going to be easy and Badoer was never the fastest driver when he was in Formula 1 first time around – however, it is clear that he is simply one of the best test drivers in motor sport; arguably along with Alexander Wurz and Brian Herta.
A very major problem for Badoer is that the current in-season testing ban has left him completely out of the car without any other drives at all; whereas Ferrari’s fourth driver, Marc Gene, has taken up sportscar racing to keep himself race-fit. Badoer has one more race to acquit himself – this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix – but I can’t see him do anything other than drive around at the back.
Obviously the big story during the summer break was the possible return of Michael Schumacher, something that was eventually ruled out a neck injury. It was such a shame that the great Schuey could not make it back, but those that criticised the German for bottling it seriously need to be hit with a giant stick to store some sense.
The number of armchair experts claiming that he “only had motorbike accident” and that 10 minutes in the car would be fine, quite simply know nothing of the sport and its physical pressures. Schumacher, who as early as 2005, was complaining of a bad back of muscle strain had simply done too much damage when he crashed in February with reported ligament finally nailing any chance of a come back.
There has always been a lingering feeling that Schumacher left the sport too early and his immediate desire to jump straight into the car made those feelings even more pronounced. The 7-time World Champion may have “retired”, but realistically Ferrari had Massa in place for 2007 and signed Kimi Raikkonen from McLaren (to make way for Lewis Hamilton). Unless Schumacher fancied rounding up his career at a mid-field squad, his only other option was to leave…
But what now for Schuey? He is now approaching three years out of the sport and is 41 years old next January. Should he recover from his neck injury, he could be well into his 42nd year before he gets an opportunity to return and it is conceivable that at that stage it may really be too late for him to get back into a Formula 1 race seat. As for the IRL, he has stated on many occasions that he will not oval race for safety reasons and he drove sportscars nearly twenty years ago, so why would he return to that?
A couple of weeks ago, I noted that Ferrari boss Luca Di Montezemelo might be interested in putting out a third car if the rules could be amended, which is an interesting idea. Technically, the previous set of rules regarding this regulation stated that two cars could score Constructor’s points, yet a third vehicle could not; however all three drivers’ point’s would be eligible for the Driver’s Championship, but with Fernando Alonso nearly certainly heading to Maranello in the next year or two, would Ferrari bother?
This situation with Luca Badoer and Michael Schumacher was also the realisation of another very real problem for Ferrari – they have no genuine replacement drivers and no youth system in place with their teams. Whereas Renault, McLaren, Red Bull and Toyota have young, race-fit drivers going back to GP2 and Formula 3 (and in Red Bull’s case, all the way back to go-karting) ready to jump in if necessary, Ferrari have no-one lined up – especially when you consider that Ferrari have spent most of their existence plucking drivers from other teams to compete for them. Even Williams have a young driver (Nico Hulkenberg) ready to step in needs be, although there are strong rumours to suggest that he will have a full time seat next season though. The theory used to be “why should we? Let drivers come to us.” Once again the Scuderia have been found wanting…
In the meantime, i have a busy weekend ahead of me. I will try to get a couple of reviews in, but I shall be standing at a gig tomorrow as well as catching up on the Formula 1 practices, qualifying, the race as well the IRL 300 from Chicagoland and the GP2 and IndyLights races. It is going to be a long weekend staring at an awful lot of things.