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What to do about a problem like Badoer?
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What to do about a problem like Badoer?
Posted By: James Allen  |  22 Aug 2009   |  7:01 pm GMT  |  42 comments

Pity poor Luca Badoer; he pounds around test tracks at the wheel of championship winning Ferraris for years, dreaming of his chance to race one of the blood red cars in a Grand Prix. When the call comes from President Montezemolo he has ‘no choice’ in his words but to accept and travel to Valencia, to a track he does not know, to qualify and race a car for the first time in ten years when he hasn’t been able to test. The dream turns into a nightmare.
Picture 13

In third practice, the last one before qualifying, he was just under two seconds slower than his team mate Kimi Raikkonen and a second slower than Jaime Alguersuari in P19.

But instead of moving closer in qualifying he went backwards, dropping to an embarrassing 2.6 seconds behind Raikkonen and 1.5 secs behind a 19 year old in only his second Grand Prix.

Where do you start to try to work out how this situation arose and what Ferrari do about it? To start with, if the excuse is that he hasn’t driven a car for almost a year, then why not stick him in the 2007 Ferrari which Michael Schumacher drove at Mugello and let him shake off the rust. If the excuse is that he is race rusty, scan the racing calendar, pick up the phone and stick him in a race somewhere.

Most of the ex F1 drivers I have quizzed about this say that they would have said yes if Ferrari had called, because that is in the nature of a racing driver; you want to race and to race a Ferrari is, litterally, a dream. But beyond that they are all agreed that the decision, by Montezemolo – and it was him, not Stefano Domenicali, who made the call – is a mistake and that of the available active drivers Nelson Piquet would have been the best choice to back up Raikkonen. It would also have provided some useful data on the relative performances of Raikkonen and Alonso, but that’s another story. Marc Gene, the team’s other test driver is active, he won Le Mans, but the feeling is that he is not as fast as Badoer.

Montezemolo was quoted in the Italian media on Friday as saying that Badoer could win this race, “We will win with a man from Veneto (a region of Northern Italy)” he said.

I went to Badoer’s press briefing this afternoon and he was putting a brave face on it, saying that “This track is new for me and it’s very difficult. So our expectation was more or less where we are today. I need to drive, to get confidence with the car. I ask you to be patient, because I’m not a robot or Superman. I’m human and I need time to get quick.”

The team has been very supportive and the feeling I get is that he will indeed treat the race as a test and then at Spa and Monza, which he knows like the back of his hand, he will be expected to be closer. The pressure at Monza, though, will be pretty intense.

The German media continues to ramp up the talk of Michael Schumacher making his comeback at a later stage in the season, possibly after Monza, but sources close to the driver say that it’s unlikely. It doesn’t do Schumacher any harm commercially to be the centre of attention again and as he always says, “Never say never.”

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42 Comments
  1. Chris says:

    Placing Piquet in the car would be a bad political move for Ferrari. For a marque such as themselves to take a driver that has been essentially dropped from a lower ranking team (regardless of the support he lacked) only to be ‘scraped up’ by Ferrari would be a PR disaster. I’m not sure the Tifosi would like that one.

    Further – the Badoer move IS a disaster, now he has (unfortunately) put Ferrari in the ignimonious situation of receiving their lowest and worst-possible ranking of their history… plum last.

    This situation highlights the need in F1 for an ‘acclimatisation’ program for exactly these situations (Alguersuari, anyone?), though as a Mclaren fan… the notion of watching a mobile Ferrari chicane at tomorrow’s race is simply de-lish!

    1. Pay The Piper says:

      Ferrari are currently contemplating burning tens of millions of dollars to prise Kimi out of his race-seat … the idea of getting Alonso’s most recent team mate in the other car up-against Kimi, should have been a no-brainer.

      As we all saw from the Badoer horror-show, figuring-out any driver’s relative performance is still not straightforward. Any extra chunks of calibration data would have helped the team with their 3-into-2 calculations, to better figure out the respective “right” prices for all concerned.

      I guess the fact it didn’t happen, we can probably conclude that Alonso is signed and sealed no matter what, Kimi is out no matter how expensive it ends-up (Massa recovery permitting), and if Badoer stays put, that Ferrari don’t particularly give a monkeys about the constructors prize-money.

      Nothing to do with testing, or learning the track, 1.5 behind Jaime, nearly 2.5 behind Roman, in a podium capable car, ouch, DeMontezemelo’s peanut-gallery pleasing Italianification project sure don’t come cheap does it.

  2. Sam98 says:

    Everything I’ve ever heard said about top drivers is “if you’re quick, you’re quick”…. be it Schumacher, Rossi, McCrae, etc.

    A prime example is how well Raikonnen did when he jumped into a rally car.

    Badoer isn’t quick and he never will be. He’s a great tester and Ferrari owe him a lot. Give it up now and be remembered for the right reasons.

  3. luca says:

    I have become ever more worried by the Italianisation of Ferrari under Montezemolo 2.0. Because if there was one thing that characterised the winning group led by Jean Todt it was a strong team ethic without a hint of national chauvinism.

    But ever since Montezemolo started running for Prime-Minister-of-Italy-in-Waiting a couple of years ago, he has clearly become more visible and interfering. Part of the process of maintaining his national profile in Italy involves a great deal of flag-waving, as in this case with the luckless Badoer — in an effort to appear dynamic & patriotic.

    Problem is the man is such a blue-blood that whenever Montezemolo tries a populist play it’s about as credible as a Gordon Brown You-Tube video. And his policy of placing Italian yes-men in all the key positions in the racing team does not seem to be paying off particularly well either.

    It’s time Montezemolo took a step back, dedicated himself to politics (national or F1, for that matter) full time, and stopped interfering. Let the racing team live or die by its own decisions and let Domenicali run the ship as he sees fit.

  4. Mark A. Stephens says:

    After a year without driving the red car who could do better? I would put any of the current drivers in the field in the same situation and get close to the same results. Practice makes perfect, no practice, no perfect.

  5. Luke Dalton says:

    It again highlights the issue of no in season testing, fair enough it cuts costs and the racing hasn’t suffered, but it can’t do any harm to allow a replacement driver a day or two’s testing to adapt to a new car. poor luca badoer indeed, sent into the boxing ring with both hands tied and his legs as well!

  6. Roberto says:

    I am a huge ferrari fan and to some point thought Badoer was an extremely capable driver, to the point he tested for thousands and thousands of miles chamciomship winning Ferrari’s.

    It is very difficult to understand what is happening, 2 – 3 seconds off the pace is a lot, maybe only one second and been around 12 – 15 place could have been expected, but at that pace he could end up almost 2 laps down.

    This morning watching TV you could see how slow he was going, how he braked at least 10 meters before the others and his exit from the kerbs was painfuly slow.

    Ferrari needs to fight for the 3rd place, therefore they should look at current experience drivers like Piquet or Bourdais, which aren’t winning material but are update with the cars and can run at a much better pace than Badoer

  7. Martin Collyer says:

    Who’s feeling is it James, that Gene is not as quick as Badoer?

    Why do they keep him, Gene that is, on as a test driver if he is considered not quick enough?

    He has raced more recently than Badoer, at Le Mans as numerous people have pointed out.

    1. James Allen says:

      My sources in and around the team

      1. Graham O'Reilly says:

        Blimey. Never thought Gene was THAT slow !

    2. Duds says:

      Conclusive evidence it mostly surely isn’t but it’s worth remembering that Badoer and Gene WERE teammates in F1 in 1999 in an actually pretty good Minardi car.

      In races they both finished the result was 3-2 to Gene but when it really mattered and points were on the line Badoer was the one running 4th ahead of McLaren and Ferrari in the European GP until the gearbox expired, allowing Gene to inherit 6th and his one point of the year.

  8. Marcus Redivo says:

    As a former Formula Ford driver who drove his first-ever race laps many years ago at age 24, I think I have some understanding of Luca’s pace deficit.

    After a certain age, a sense of consequences develops. All my own race pace was due to skill; my sense of consequences at that age was sufficiently developed that there was no question of bravery entering into the equation.

    I came within 2 seconds of the Formula Ford lap record of my home track. Perhaps if I had started ten years earlier, I would have set that record instead.

    My hat is off to Ferrari for giving Luca this opportunity to remove a “what if” from his life. I hope the openness at Spa is less intimidating than the concrete tunnels of Valencia, and that he gets to demonstrate the skills he assuredly must have.

    1. Werewolf says:

      It is not every day you see Spa referred to as “less intimidating”!

      If, as has been suggested, part of Badoer’s lack of pace is down to an age-related heightened awareness of danger, this can surely only become accentuated in full race conditions with the proximity of other (faster) cars. Throw in the speed of Spa, its potentially changeable weather and reputation for ‘no small accidents’, even Belgian cuisine seems a healthier option!

    2. rpaco says:

      Marcus
      It often used to be said in FF, sports 2000 and like series, that the drivers had their brains taken out before a race thus allowing them to go faster with no fear of the consequences.

      One only has to think of the things done when young, to appreciate your luck in still being alive. (motorbike riding with little brakes and duff front tellys comes to mind in my case and driving cars (ends knocking) on bald second-hand tyres with the canvas showing, all at impossible speeds weaving through the traffic from North Kent to Croydon and back every day in all weathers).

      For an F1 driver to develop an awareness of consequences is in itself almost an end to his competitiveness. He must have absolute faith in the car up to it’s limits on any particular surface and set of conditions. He must be prepared to find those limits safe in his own skill to bring the car back from the edge. Schumi was always so good at finding the limit, he very often went off in practice finding the edge and pushing the envelope just that impossible bit further, but then was able to use the edge all the time,I don’t doubt he still has the skill, but maybe not the brainspeed. (Can you still beat your kids at video driving games)

  9. One useful outcome of Badoer’s lamentable pratice and qualifying is that it nails the claim that it is just the car and little to do with the driver. I am still holding out for a triumphant Schumacher return at Monza. Until the great man himself rules it out categorically, I am going to savour the dream.

    1. David Turnedge says:

      Great point. The winning hardware is essential to winning a race, but so is a winning driver.

    2. Racing not politics says:

      I came on here to post exactly that comment but you beat me to it. Badoer has no doubt helped all the other drivers in their negotiations as they go into silly season!

  10. Fausto Cunha says:

    For me Shumi was the best choice because there wasn´t nobody else available to drive the F60 and do a good job.
    When they bring the notice about Shumi not driving the car and Badoer to take the place at the F60 i couldn´t believe.
    He was never fast on his career why would he be fast after 10 years without racing.I think ferrari fans deserved more respect from the team management.
    I agree with James, maybe Piquet could do an
    ok job and give the team som references between
    Kimi and Alonso.

    Ferrari is paying the price of not having a young driver f1 programme. They have two test drivers with 35 and 38 years and they don´t race regulary.

    1. Racing not politics says:

      MS has broken boens in his neck following a bike accident and doctors told him it was unsafe for him to drive in F1. How can you possibly think that was “the best choice?” That would mean putting him at risk of further injury and perhaps worth. Why would you want that?

      1. Fausto Cunha says:

        Man,I was saying that MS was the best choice if he was fit to race.

        Because he wasn´t fit to race i said that Badoer was a bad choice and maybe Piquet could do an ok job.

  11. Carl says:

    Give Anthony Davidson the drive, he deserves the chance. If not then Marc Gene.

  12. Steve Evans says:

    I take my hat off to Ferrari for giving Luca his chance. I think David Coulthard would have been a better choice however.

  13. Robert McKay says:

    My own tuppence is that Gene would at least be faster than Badoer. Probably still not fast enough to challenge Raikkonen and try win at least one race to salvage a decent amount of respectability for Ferrari in 2009, but enough to at least be in the middle of the field and not nailed to the back by a distance.

    I see Coulthard is making interested noises in it in his latest column on the BBC – doubt it’ll happen, but I think just reinforces the point that there’s an army of good drivers out there who would jump at the chance to drive the Ferrari and are (a) much more familiar with recent Formula 1 and (b) nowhere near so race rusty.

  14. Jason Jackson says:

    I’m a little surprised no one has mentioned Bruno Senna as a short term option. Surely this would benefit both parties? Ferrari would be the ones to cash in on the publicity & marketing of bringing the Senna name back to f1 & Bruno would get his best shot at showing he has true f1 pace in a better than average car. If he performed (and imo he’d at least alert kimi he had a team-mate!) then he would surely have offers for 2010. Worst case scenario for Ferrari is he’d still be quicker than Luca!

    Can you tell me James, is his name still talked about in the pitlane? With him not doing GP2 this year i wondered if it was a case of ‘out of sight out of mind’

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes he’s linked with the new teams, but apparently he’s talking to some of the existing teams too.

  15. Goncalo Carvalho says:

    It’s clear Luca Badoer is the lesser of all evils. Schumacher’s return was the master plan but it backfired and Luca’s slowness may have surprised the team. I’m sure they would expect him to be closer to Kimi.
    If he happens to be last tomorrow, or even a strategic retirement to avoid embarassment, must mean that Spa is his last chance. A team like Ferrari can’t really afford such bad performances. The whole aura around it relies on its strong race pedigree. But let’s face it, there are no real alternatives. Bourdais and Piquet are not quick either. Ferrari should either look at a youngster or give the chance to another even if from a different series.

  16. Kirk says:

    Ferrari took the easy way out of the MS failed comeback when they asked Badoer to step in – and they will pay the embarassing price for it, as this is the first time in a very long time a car from Maranello starts dead last on (lack of) merit. And they will humiliate Badoer in the process, as the world media digest his poor lap times, poor lines around the track and quite boring interviews.

    Badoer (or BAD as the TV captions so accurately list him) is a driver that in effect retired 10 years ago. And Marc Gene isn’t much better I’m afraid – he was never top F1 driver material in his peak, let alone today. In simple terms, if either of these two was rated in F1 circles they wouldn’t be just test drivers for all these years – and they both resigned themselves to that role knowing that was probably as good as it was ever going to get. Harsh but true.

    I think Ferrari should have taken a gamble, knowing Massa may not return to the seat until next season, and gone with Piquet, Bourdais or even someone like Bruno Senna, who have all driven this Valencia track before (in F1 or GP2). Even Coulthard could do a better job! They would have been closer to Kimi, much closer, that is for sure!

  17. Human says:

    Thanks James for this amazing coverage, I find myself spending more time reading your blog than reading other F1 websites.

    I must say that I don’t understand Ferrari nowadays!! They want to compete for third place in the standings, yet they give a drive for a totally unprepared driver and put another well established driver under huge pressure by running into negotiations with his replacement and discussing ending his services before his contract actually ends.

    I think that they are very lucky to have a driver like Kimi onboard; he races because he loves to race and gives no attention to politics. I remember that he recently said that Alonso will race for Ferrari next year, yet is still 100% committed to racing this weekend. I can’t think of any other racing driver, thinking about quitting the sport all together and continuously questioned about his abilities, capable of doing that. The simple fact is that Massa, who I wish for him a speedy recovery, was faster that Shumi when he was allowed to race him. He is lighter than Kimi and the Ferrari absolutely suits his driving style and it is Ferrari who failed to produce a car to suite Kimi.

    Ferrari should have contracted Nelson until the end of the season. From one angle, he has fresh experience with race weekends and keen to have a chance to prove him. From the other angle, he can provide better assessment for Kimi’s and F60’s performance and will show what’s what. I can’t see Alonso doing miracles for them if he faces the same situation they put Kimi’s under. I am very concerned about a repetition of the McLaren-Alonso situation coz Alonso certainly expects a number 1 status in the team. They should also make it clear for Kimi about his future in the team rather than the current situation where nobody, including him and Ferrari, are certain about what’s next but expect him to keep them third on the standings!! Alone!!

  18. Duds says:

    I can’t honestly believe that Ferrari expected any better, or even this much, from him. My guess was always that they’d given up on the constructors and so getting their best, possibly the world’s best development guy to do 150 laps of testing in a season where that’s banned is a really, really good thing.

    Frankly I think he’s done astonishingly well to be that close, remember 3 seconds from pole would be ahead of the Aguris last year and midfield when Badoer last raced. But he’s never been a race win talent driver even in his prime.

    I like him getting this race, sentimentally and romance still has a place in F1. Whether he gets replaced tells us whether Ferrari want points or testing miles…

    1. Human says:

      Interesting argument, never thought about it this way.

  19. rpaco says:

    “Ferrari mobile chicanes” Ah that take me back! The turbo era, Mansell (in the Saudia Williams I think) absolutely flat and on it every single millimetre of Brands, (which I knew very well) and the Ferraris with about a 3 second turbo lag lumbering around getting in everyone’s way. At least two or three very impressive blow-ups every track session, huge plumes of white smoke obliterating the track occasionally with gouts of flame, doused by enthusiastic fire marshals who were subsequently cursed by the engineers, in those days the extinguisher foam did no good at at all to various parts of the car.

    What a dramatic difference in treatment between that of the conquering hero (no expense spared) to that of poor Badoer. Dont waste tens of thousands on Badoer getting him some track time on old models. Shut up, get in the car and just drive it.

    Re Montezemolo taking more and more control sadly it does begin to look more and more like Italian organisation in Ferrari. Don’t get me wrong, the Italians are lovely people, I had several suppliers in Italy over many years and was very fond of them, but you could absolutely rely on them never to meet a delivery deadline, you just grow to accept it after a while, its a more relaxed way of life.
    (A lot like here in Lincolnshire)

    Mind you, having been stuck along with about ten others and several pallets of assorted product, in a vehicle lift at the Messe during setting up for Automechanika Frankfurt, my experience of German organisation is equally biased. (If your lift breaks down you must have the correct paperwork, in fact you must have the correct paperwork to do anything and it must be signed and stamped)

  20. rpaco says:

    Ironic that Badoer has probably driven more mileage in Ferraris than Schumacher!

  21. CTP says:

    Unless there’s a substantial turnaround in his performance tomorrow, this should be the beginning and end of his comeback.
    Piquet was never treated fairly at Renault, so give the boy a chance; as someone mentioned, he would be a good benchmark against Kimi.
    Bourdais wouldn’t be bad either – he already has experience of the Ferrari engine, and I’m not sure life was easy for him at STR, either, due to a personality clash.

  22. Ben says:

    As a huge long time Mclaren fan I do enjoy seeing Ferrari drop the ball time to time, and while watching qualifying, I was enjoying having a good old chuckle at Badoer being plum last!

    With that aside I do have to say that Ferrari have made the right choice in giving Badoer the drive as a ‘thank you’ for his years of loyal service testing for them and contributing to their success in the Schumacher era, so hats off to Ferrari for letting him have a go! If they looked for someone else straight away for someone else Badoer would feel terrible and quite frankly more than annoyed to be cast aside.
    If we had some in season testing to give the test drivers some running, Badoer might be more up to speed, but no testing means that pretty much all the test & reserve drivers are a little race rusty, Badoer has,as in Luke’s earlier reply; “sent into the boxing ring with both hands tied and his legs as well!” either he is rusty, or just plain slow! and I have a feeling that he is a great test driver but not a racer.

    What would I do if I was in Ferrari’s shoes? I would keep Badoer in the seat for the next race at Spa, as Valencia is basically a test session for him,and if he hasnt stepped up to the job and delivered get someone else in to do tha job, because at the end of the day if you dont perform you’re out, just like Bourdais and Piquet.
    Ferrari are fighting to keep hold of 3rd in the constructors, and with Mclaren looking stronger and only 12 points behind, Ferrari cant afford to be running what can be seen as a one car team with Raikkonen and Badoer trailing at the back,they need someone that will deliver.

    But who would you get to do the job if Badoer cant deliver?
    Alonso? most signs point to Fernando going to Ferrari for next season, why not buy him out of his Renault contract early and get Alonso in for Monza? It would be great to see the Tifosi go wild, but Flav wont allow it, or even David Coulthard! both wont happen, I’m just imagining things!

    What about Marc Gene, give the other tester a go?

    Its such a shame Schumacher has the neck injury, as he is the right man to step in to help Ferrari. Even tho I didnt like Schumacher when he was in F1, I was so excited when I heard he was coming back, and so was the whole world!

  23. Ray.C. says:

    This situation highlights an incredible lack of foresight from Montezemelo.
    It also highlights how ridiculous this in-season test ban rule is.
    Surely provision needs to be made for mid season driver changes in the interests of safety.
    If Badoer embarrasses himself even more this weekend, then Ferrari should drop him and go driver shopping on Monday.
    As a Ferrari fan, this is painful to watch, even more so, considering the hyped up Schu comeback, who I’m pretty sure would have scraped into the top ten…unfamiliar track ‘n all.
    James, two quick questions,
    Are Ferrari nurturing ANY young drivers?
    Do you know of any available guns for hire?
    cheers.

  24. Martin Collyer says:

    Here is something to consider, a comparison of Badoer’s times with those of Raikkonen.

    In FP1 Badoer 2.4 secs slower, not too surprising.

    In FP2 Badoer 1.3 secs slower, a useful improvement.

    In FP3 Badoer 1.9 secs slower, backsliding, disappointing.

    In Q1, Badoer 2.6 secs slower despite doing his quickest lap of the weekend!!!

    The situation here MAY be that Badoer, as a tester, is used to putting in consistent laps while Raikkonen, a racer, is familiar with the need to ‘bang in a quick one’ in qualifying.

    The question surely is, will Badoer be able to sharpen up at Spa, if he’s still in the car that is!

    Chris, comment number 1, makes a good point about the political aspect of putting Renault reject Piquet in the car, the same would apply to Bourdais.

    Perhaps Mirko Bortlotti should be given a chance, but he is backed by Red Bull in F2, that might be a problem.

  25. MichaelC says:

    This is what you get for not developing drivers. Let’s face it Ferrari have the money to do this but instead have a policy of ‘buying’ the best current driver they can.Indeed that seems to be what they are best at …buying success!

    So serves them right they are in this mess, and as for Monti’s quotes…
    What is he talking about?!

  26. Andy says:

    Put Trulli in the car for the remaining races of 09, as his contract at Toyota doesn’t look like being renewed. This would give Ferrari an excellent 3rd/Test driver for ’10 and beyond and an Italian to boot….

  27. Jon W says:

    I thought Domenicalli’s BBC interview before qualy was revealing, when they were pressing him on the Alonso situation, and he was trying to deflect all the questions about Nando but when they asked if he is a fast driver he replied: “All the drivers are fast…ALMOST all the drivers are fast” !

  28. Ian ||Curtis says:

    Hey James,
    Now the race is done, do you have the lap times for Badoer?
    Did he improve throughout the race or not?
    I think that will decide whether he’s racing or watching at Spa!

    1. James Allen says:

      Well he didn’t do the slowest race lap! His best was 1.3s slower than Raikkonen’s. But Grosjean’s F/lap was faster than Alonso’s!

  29. justin says:

    seriously, what do Ferrari pay Badoer for, he is a test driver that is not allowed to test, so he is basically being paid to be on permanent gardening leave (up until Valencia anyway)?

    I’m not a particularly fast driver, maybe Ferrari would like to pay me lots of money to hang around their pit garage at race weekends, I would bring my own food if necessary to help with cost cutting.

    James, please could you pass my details on to Ferrari if they are interested thanks?

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