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In defence of 'Ferrari's worst-ever driver'

To remember Luca Badoer for the disastrous two-race spell with Ferrari in 2009 is a disservice to a driver who just could not catch a break in F1.

Luca Badoer
To news overview © xpb.cc

To simply refer to Luca Badoer by his three-letter prefix does a disservice to a driver whose two-race stint at Ferrari in 2009 has cast a shadow over what was a largely decent, if not outstanding, career.

Badoer is the holder of the dubious record of most Grands Prix started - 50 - without scoring a point, but he is a victim of circumstance and a driver who could never catch a break and whose strong junior career fizzled out once he reached F1.

After claiming the 1992 International F3000 titles in a dominant season against the likes of David Coulthard, Rubens Barrichello and Allan McNish (in a part-season), Badoer graduated to F1 but spent his time in affable back-marker squads such as Lola, Minardi and Forti.

Despite the lack of competitive equipment across his four seasons from 1993 to 1999, the Italian managed to drag his cars to 11 top-10 finishes, which if he was racing today, would have equated to a solid haul of 26 points.

But these were the days when only the top six cars scored points, so if the McLarens, Williams, Benetton or Ferrari cars both finished, the best a back-marker could hope for was at least ninth.

His best F1 finish was seventh in the Lola at the 1993 San Marino Grand Prix - his fourth race - in an attritional wet/dry race that had just nine finishers, with vastly experienced team-mate Michele Alboreto not even qualifying. Badoer even beat 1985 title runner-up Alboreto in their qualifying head-to-head across the year.

The rest of Badoer's F1 career in the 1990s was largely-spent toiling away in unremarkable equipment at the rear of the field whilst old rivals Coulthard and Barrichello moved themselves into race-winning cars or built their reputation up to warrant the call by Ferrari.

Badoer's day of days

After missing the second half of 1996 after Forti withdrew mid-season, Badoer found his way back to the grid for 1999 with Minardi.

While the ever-popular team struggled as ever, Badoer did haul the car to four top finishes that today would have earned him seven points, including eighth at Imola.

But his day of days came at the 1999 European Grand Prix - the famous race won by Johnny Herbert of Sir Jackie Stewart's team.

With just 13 laps to go at the Nurburgring, Badoer was running fourth and set for three points until the gearbox failed.

The Italian was crestfallen after stopping in the pit-entry, being consoled by a marshall as the result was snatched away. To rub salt in the raw wound, this promoted team-mate Marc Gene into the final points position.

After his racing career ended, Badoer then spent the next decade as test driver at Ferrari during its golden period, doing the donkey work for Michael Schumacher and Barrichello.

			© xpb.cc
	© xpb.cc

The Ferrari days

Come 2009, Ferrari needed a race driver after Felipe Massa was hit on the head by an errant spring from Barrichello's Brawn in qualifying in Hungary - with Schumacher touted as the replacement.

However, a neck injury from a motorcycle accident had not healed in time for the German, and so Ferrari opted to put its trusted test driver in the F60 alongside Kimi Raikkonen, starting at the European Grand Prix in Valencia.

Unfortunately for Badoer, this was not the F1 he knew. Radical aerodynamic changes had stripped the cars of most of their appendages, with narrower wings, a return of slick tyres and the implementation of KERS.

This was an F1 as alien to Badoer as was possible, and to hammer home the deficit, he was not able to test the 2009 machine as in-season testing had been banned.

That is not a recipe going to create a masterpiece, as he qualified last some 1.5s behind Jamie Alguersauri and 2.6s off Raikkonen in Q1. He finished 17th in the race.

Heading to Spa next time out, Badoer was again last on the grid, 1.4s behind Raikkonen in Q1 as the Finn would go on to claim victory, using KERS to blast past the KER-less Giancarlo Fisichella in the Force India. Badoer was almost a lapped 14th, and last.

But again, he was a victim of circumstance, 2009 was one of the closest seasons in F1 history in terms of field spread.

For Monza, Fisichella was drafted in to replace Badoer but the second Italian was also unable to get to grips with the F60 - one of the Scuderia's worst cars, also not scoring a point.

Had Badoer not been called up in 2009, perhaps his legacy would be different, that of a number of promising junior drivers who showed flashes of pace in mediocre F1 equipment but never got a bite at the big cherry.

His two-race spell has tarnished the legacy of a man who does not deserve the moniker of 'Ferrari's worst-ever' driver.

			© xpb.cc
	© xpb.cc

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