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Michael Schumacher Unable To Race: Luca Badoer Gets The Nod

Michael Schumacher Unable To Race: Luca Badoer Gets The Nod

Michael Schumacher has been forced to cancel is much-reported temporary comeback as a substitute for the injured Felipe Massa, owing to an injury the multiple world champion suffered while testing a superbike earlier in the year. Schumacher had been in training for his stand-in duties for Ferrari and underwent a variety of tests to ensure there was no lasting damage from his accident. However, fractures in his neck area have meant that Schumacher cannot race.

Since Felipe Massa crashed out of qualifying in Hungary two weeks ago, speculation was rife as to who might replace the Brazilian pilot. Soon after, Schumacher was announced amid a flurry of activity online and in print; the Schumacher name still claims headlines the world over. At the time though, Ferrari were insistent that they needed to assess Michael’s physical fitness, and after a two week program which included time on a simulator, time in a 2007 Formula One car and time in the gym, it has been realised that Schumacher’s injuries mean his neck will have difficulty withstanding the great pressures put upon it from racing the F60*.

Yesterday evening, I had to inform Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo and Team Principal Stefano Domenicali that unfortunately I’m not able to step in for Felipe. I really tried everything to make that temporary comeback possible, however, much to my regret it didn’t work out. Unfortunately we did not manage to get a grip on the pain in the neck which occurred after the private F1-day in Mugello, even if medically or therapeutically we tried everything possible.

The consequences of the injuries caused by the bike-accident in February, fractures in the area of head and neck, unfortunately have turned out to be still too severe. That is why my neck cannot stand the extreme stresses caused by Formula One yet. This are the clear results of the examinations we did on the course of the past two weeks and the final examination yesterday afternoon. As there were no improvements after the day in Mugello, I decided at short notice on Sunday to do that thorough examination already yesterday.

I am disappointed to the core. I am awfully sorry for the guys of Ferrari and for all the fans which crossed fingers for me. I can only repeat that I tried everything that was within my power. All I can do now is to keep my fingers crossed for the whole team for the coming races. Michael Schumacher.

Instead of running Schumacher in the car alongside Kimi Raikkonen, long-time Ferrari test driver Luca Badoer will take up the seat until Felipe Massa is ready to return. A little younger than Schumacher, Badoer has been with the Ferrari family a long time, and first raced in Formula One in 1993, the same year that Rubens Barrichello made his debut. The last time Luca drove a Formula One machine in anger was in 1999, almost ten years ago. Back then, Badoer dovetailed his testing duties with a race seat with Minardi, and came very close to scoring points for the back-row minnows in the European Grand Prix of that year. Badoer was running in fourth when his gearbox gave up with just 13 laps to go.

Having been Ferrari’s test driver since 1997, the Italian pilot has covered thousands upon thousands of kilometres in the Scuderia’s cars, and it is presumed Badoer has driven more miles in a Ferrari Formula One car than any other driver in the company’s history. Despite this though, Badoer has never finished a race in a points-paying position and incredibly, never actually driven a Ferrari in anger. The last time Ferrari had to substitute a driver, it was Schumacher himself who was benched in 1999. After the then-double world champion broke his leg at Silverstone, Finnish pilot Mika Salo was offered the reigns on a temporary basis. Salo pretty much won the German Grand Prix that year, although stood aside in the dying laps to allow Eddie Irvine to score maximum points towards his reinvigorated championship campaign.

One has to wonder why the younger Marc Gene was not given to opportunity to drive. Gene is also a Ferrari test driver and has been for many years. The Spaniard also raced a Formula One car much more recently than Badoer, Gene’s last participated race being the British Grand Prix in 2004, when he substituted (brother of Michael) Ralf Schumacher in the Williams team. It is possible that the alleged link to 2010 entry Campos Racing may have prevented or dissuaded the team from running Gene, but looking at the pair of drivers from a purely statistical stand-point, Gene is surely by far the better option.

When Luca Badoer races in Valencia, it will be the first time an Italian driver has driven the Italian-built Ferrari Formula One car since 1994. During the ’94 season, Nicola Larini substituted Jean Alesi for two races, and even managed a second place in Alesi’s absence. And for those who are particularly aware of driver’s nationalities, Jean Alesi officially raced under the French flag, despite being of Italian origins; his parents are Sicilian, but Jean was born and raised in France.

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*Corrected from F2008. Apologies, I obviously forgot what year it is.

Oliver White

2 comments

  • I well remember Luca Badoer crying at the side of the track, after his Minardi – which he’d dragged up to fourth position – expired during the 1999 European Grand Prix. If his gearbox hadn’t given up, it’d have been a magnificent result for both himself and the team, equalling Minardi’s best ever finish in Formula One.

    I agree completely that from a performance point of view Marc Gene would have been the more logical choice. But nevertheless I’m delighted that Badoer’s got the seat. He’s a former Formula 3000 champion who never embarrassed himself in Formula One.

    Whilst not likely to come anywhere close to a Formula One championship, he was never given a chance in a car befitting his talent. Other drivers have been fortunate enough to spend over ten years driving competitive machinery despite getting their ass kicked by their team-mate season after season.

    Gene is also reasonable driver, but was given his chance by Williams. Incidentally, it’s worth remembering that he got upset and quit the team after they replaced him with Antonio Pizzonia. I wonder what his reaction will be this time, having been overlooked by Ferrari despite being the better candidate on paper.

    As for Badoer, it’d be nice to see him pick up a few points, and with luck on his side for once maybe even snatch a podium towards the end of the year.

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