With Michael Schumacher now confirmed to have canceled his comeback due to a neck injury sustained in a motorcycle accident, Ferrari has been left with no choice but to put one of its veteran test drivers into Felipe Massa's seat until the injured Brazilian is ready to return to active duty. The trouble is that while other teams use the test driver position to groom up-and-coming drivers for the race seat, Ferrari's approach has been to use older, more experienced drivers past their prime.
Rather than give the seat to Marc Gené, who continues to race actively for Peugeot at Le Mans and last raced in a grand prix in 2004, Ferrari has decided to award the seat to Luca Badoer, its senior test driver. While testing the Ferrari California last summer, we had a chance to talk with Badoer on his way to the season-closing Brazilian Grand Prix and found him to be a good-natured and affable individual. Still, while his development skills are unrivaled, his actual Formula One race experience leaves something to be desired.
It's been ten years since Badoer last started a race – the longest gap in F1 history – and he rejoins the field as the oldest driver on the grid, narrowly eclipsing his former team-mate Rubens Barrichello at 38. Although he moved to F1 after winning the Formula 3000 title in 1992, in his four seasons and 48 grands prix in the big league (all with Italian teams, incidentally), he failed to score a single point (let alone a race win) and famously broke down in tears alongside his car after it failed to take him to a fourth-place finish at the 1999 European Grand Prix. Ten years later, he's looking to improve his record, and we'll be watching to see how he does. Follow the jump for the official press release.
Maranello, 11th August 2009 - With Michael Schumacher now being unavailable to stand in for Felipe Massa, as from the forthcoming European Grand Prix, Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro announces that car number 3 will be driven by Luca Badoer.
"I am very unhappy that a problem means that Michael cannot return to racing," commented Luca di Montezemolo. "In the past few days, I could appreciate his great efforts and extraordinary motivation which had spread through the team and fans around the world. No doubt his return would have been good for Formula 1 and I am sure it would have seen him fighting for wins again. In the name of Ferrari and all the fans, I wish to thank him for the strong attachment he displayed for the team in these circumstances. In agreement with Stefano Domenicali, we have therefore decided to give Luca Badoer the chance to race for the Scuderia after he has put in so many years of hard work as a test driver."