SportF1In defense of Luca Badoer, author of the most...

In defense of Luca Badoer, author of the most offensive record in F1

George Russell was devastated at the 2020 Sakhir GP , when a blunder by his team robbed him of his first F1 victory on his debut (and until this 2022 only race) with Mercedes. However, he was left with the consolation of adding his first points and avoiding taking the record in 2021 for the driver with the most grand prizes played without scoring.

That brand will be kept longer by Luca Badoer, a pilot that the youngest do not know and whose image the most veteran sometimes remember more blurred than it was.

The 1992 Formula 3000 International champion was a much better driver than his unfortunate three-letter prefix (BAD) suggests, and while he may not have been world champion fodder, he doesn’t deserve the badass reputation he grew up with. his disastrous two races in 2009 as a substitute for Felipe Massa.

In reality, Luca was a strong pilot, only circumstances almost always came in the worst possible way for him.

The fact that Badoer has an unbeatable record is largely due to the changing nature of F1’s points system. He managed to finish in the top 10 nine times during his career, which would have given him plenty of points under the current system and left Charles Pic (39 races without points between Marussia and Caterham) with the negative record.

Luca Badoer, Team Crypton Reynard 92D Cosworth

Luca Badoer, Team Crypton Reynard 92D Cosworth

Badoer’s career is perhaps defined by the lack of momentum following his breakout 1992 season, when he became Formula 3000 champion beating Rubens Barrichello, David Coulthard and Olivier Panis, among others.

Strictly speaking, that title cannot be considered the pilot’s sole merit. The F3000, unlike current Formula 2, allowed the use of various makes of chassis and their configuration. The Crypton team, with which Badoer competed, was the first on the grid to introduce a monoshock suspension (with a single shock absorber) during the season. With her, Luca won the next three races (including a brilliant 21-second win in a smashing display at Enna), which determined the outcome of the title fight.

He became one of only four drivers in history to become Formula 3000 champion on their first try. The others were Stefano Modena in 1987, Christian Fittipaldi in 1991, and Jorg Muller in 1996.

The following year, in 1993, Luca Badoer made his Formula 1 debut. The only seat he found was that of Scuderia Italia Lola, the weakest team that year. A team that designed the car for the new season with incredible haste: they never tested the chassis in a wind tunnel before taking it out on the track.

It was not the ideal car for a rookie to develop confidence. His veteran teammate, Michele Alboreto, runner-up in the world in 1985 and winner of five grand prizes, was also unable to keep up with his rivals with that red-and-white Lola.

The team was always behind and did not even attend the last two races. Before that, in the rest of the tests there was an interesting duel between Alboreto and Badoer, and the experienced only beat the young man 8-6 in classification.

At that time, only the top six were scoring, and although the overall reliability of F1 was gradually increasing, there were still races where very few cars finished. At the fourth round of the year, the San Marino Grand Prix , Badoer almost became the author of a small miracle. He was running seventh (and last) when Sauber driver JJ Lehto , who was running fourth, suffered an engine failure.

It looked as though the coveted first point would come for Badoer, but he was too far behind and simply didn’t have time to overtake the Finn in the remaining laps until the winner saw the checkered flag. According to protocol, he finished seventh, without scoring, and in fact Lehto finished fourth.

“I had two options at the time,” Badoer recalled in a 2004 interview with about his debut season. “I was able to join Tyrrell, which would have been a good move, or Scuderia Lola Italia. I was wrong.

“On paper it looked good. They had Lola chassis and Ferrari engines. Unfortunately the T93/00 was a bad car.”

Scuderia Italia merged with Minardi in 1994 and Badoer was downgraded to test driver, but returned for 1995 when Alboreto retired, partnering with team favorite Pierluigi Martini . There were other teams that were worse off than Minardi, Pacific and Forti , but that didn’t mean much.

For 1996, Badoer passed the Forti and again returned to the bottom of the grid. Interestingly, his longtime F3000 rival Andrea Montermini became his teammate. And while both struggled to qualify for the races, they watched with bitterness as Barrichello and Coulthard, whom they usually outperformed in the lower categories, were now fighting for podium finishes at McLaren and Jordan, respectively. Forti didn’t even finish the season.

Accidente de Luca Badoer, Forti FG01 95B Ford

Accidente de Luca Badoer, Forti FG01 95B Ford

However, after running out of place on the grid as a starter, the experience accumulated by the pilot interested his fellow Ferrari. There began a new page in the history of the Italian, linked to Maranello and waiting for an opportunity.

Back then, teams could do as many tests as they wanted, and Luca literally spent day in and day out behind the wheel of a Ferrari. As the official test driver for the Scuderia, the driver expected that sooner or later the team would need a replacement, temporary or even permanent. And that this position was for him.

In 1999, for the first time since the beginning of this story, things seemed to be slowly getting better. Giancarlo Minardi waited all winter to see which driver would be willing to pay more for a place in his team, and when no one was found, he turned to Badoer, who would once again be a starter in F1.

The car was still slow, but that was so much better than sitting on the couch at home. And in the European Grand Prix , on an autumn afternoon at the Nürburgring, the blow could come.

It was a completely crazy race, with problems for the leaders. Luca, who had started 19th, was coming back with 15 laps to go, occupying a surprising fourth position. It seemed like a miracle, until a few minutes later his Minardi blew out the gearbox housing.

Adding insult to injury, his teammate Marc Gené, whom Badoer outscored 10-5 in their races together, inherited the final point with sixth place.

The pilot’s offense and despair were so great that, as a grown man, he cried like a child…

Luca Badoer, Minardi crying

Luca Badoer, Minardi

That had not been the first blow of the year 1999 for Badoer. In the summer, fate dealt him an even more offensive slap. At Silverstone , Michael Schumacher suffered a serious accident which sidelined him for many weeks with a broken leg.

The F1 community held its breath while waiting for a replacement at Maranello, just as it did before Mercedes announced Hamilton’s replacement for the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix. But while Badoer seemed like an obvious choice (he was a Ferrari driver) , the chosen one was Mika Salo . That season, the Finn had come to the rescue of the BAR team to fill in for the injured Ricardo Zonta and had performed well.

Salo was on course to win in Germany, where, for tactical reasons, he let team-mate Eddie Irvine (who was fighting for the title) overtake him, and then finished third in Monza. But in other races Salo’s results were much worse. The most significant test was the Hungaroring, where Salo could only qualify 18th, ironically one position ahead of Badoer’s Minardi, and finished 12th, two laps behind the winner.

It’s hard to tell if Badoer would have done better than Salo, but he knew how the team and the car worked, which would certainly have shortened his learning curve. But, as Stoffel Vandoorne discovered in 2020 (he was a substitute for Mercedes), the most logical option is not always the one chosen…

Jean Todt, Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello, Luca Badoer y Luca di Montezemolo celebran otro campeonato mundial de Ferrari

Jean Todt, Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello, Luca Badoer y Luca di Montezemolo celebran otro campeonato mundial de Ferrari

During the following years, Luca rode an unimaginable number of kilometers testing with Ferrari. Every year he did between 30 and 40,000 kilometers with Ferrari, a distance of 130 races! He played a hidden but important role in the crushing title run between 2000 and 2004 developing cars and tirelessly driving for Schumacher and Barrichello .

“Sometimes your priorities change when working in testing,” Badoer explained. “You start thinking about how to complete the task set by the team, and not how to drive as fast as possible. I’m not racing Michael or Rubens, but I’m very happy to see that my times are the same as theirs. That It means I’m also a good pilot,” he said.

“As a test driver, you have to be fast, otherwise you won’t experience what they do in the car. If you’re a second slower than your teammate, you can’t feel the same about the car, and you can’t figure out the problems. that can come up.”

Luca Badoer

Luca Badoer

In the early 2000s, several teams in the second half of the table called Badoer, but were always met with the same negative response: “I’ve been working at Ferrari for years and I still feel special emotions every time I get in the car. “.

In 2006, the team replaced Barrichello with the young Felipe Massa. A year later, before Schumacher’s withdrawal, he signed Kimi Raikkonen. Badoer remained a test pilot.

In the summer of 2009, a suspension spring from Rubens Barrichello ‘s Brawn GP blew up in the Hungary classification and ended up in Massa’s helmet, which suffered a shocking accident.

Ferrari decided to bring Michael Schumacher out of retirement to replace Massa. However, the German fell while testing a motorcycle and, with a damaged neck, was unable to return. Mika Salo had already put an end to his career a long time ago, so the Cavallino finally remembered who had driven their car for many years, although never in the race.

It was a sad story. At 39 years old, without having contested Grand Prix since the previous century (10 years), Badoer could not get rid of the psychology of the tests and adapt to the fight with real rivals. He only contested two races, in Valencia and Spa, and on both occasions he qualified last.

On his first Saturday at the wheel of the Ferrari, Luca lost 1.5 seconds to his closest rival Jaime Alguersuari in the Toro Rosso . A day later, he finished last while his partner reached the podium. In Belgium, history repeated itself: Badoer’s 14th place finish contrasted with Kimi Raikkonen’s victory in the same car.

If we objectively assess the situation, it was the most unfortunate time for that opportunity. The completely new aerodynamics of the cars, coupled with a ban on engine modifications, made that season’s grid one of the closest in history at that time of year (August).

If we analyze the data of all the grand prix, the fastest car at the end of the course ( Red Bull ) beat the slowest ( Force India ) by only 1.241%, that is, less than two seconds per lap. Not to mention the fact that Giancarlo Fisichella took pole position with Force India at Spa.

Ferrari, which had the best car in the previous two years, was only the fifth fastest team in 2009. Finally, from that season the number of private tests was radically reduced, and the KERS system appeared in Formula 1, for what the old knowledge of Badoer was no longer so relevant and useful.

He was replaced after two races, leaving the car precisely in the hands of Giancarlo Fisichella. His compatriot improved the numbers somewhat (he did not go beyond 14th place on the grid, and in Abu Dhabi he qualified last), and although he did not finish last in the race, he did not score points either.

Fans make their feelings known about Luca Badoer, Ferrari

A pancarta against Luca Badoer, Ferrari

Luca Badoer is remembered precisely for the absurdity of his return. Of course, the details of those grand prizes have long since faded from memory. Young F1 fans have never heard of Badoer, and to veterans, the Italian will forever remain a man who spent his entire career testing for Ferrari.

He got his long-awaited chance, but it came so late and at such an inopportune time that it would probably be better if he never had it. It is no coincidence that fans brought to his second race, at Spa, a huge banner reading: “Luca, my grandmother is faster than you with a Ferrari. Shameful” (photo above).

In recent years, Badoer has hardly appeared in the F1 paddock. In autumn 2019, Scuderia Ferrari organized a huge celebration in Milan in honor of its 90th birthday, bringing together all its drivers from previous years.

But the one who has driven a record distance with his single-seaters for almost all his life found himself alone in a modest place, in a little corner…

Kimi Räikkönen, Alfa Romeo, Ivan Capelli, Arturo Merzario, Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo, Jean Alesi, Mick Schumacher y Luca Badoer

Kimi Räikkönen, Alfa Romeo, Ivan Capelli, Arturo Merzario, Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo, Jean Alesi, Mick Schumacher y Luca Badoer

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