Born on January 25th, 1971 in Montebelluna, Italy, Luca Badoer is a test driver for Ferrari and formerly a racing driver for Lola, Minardi and Forti. Badoer currently holds the record for the most races participated without scoring a single point.
Starting out like so many other racing drivers in karting, Badoer soon developed into a mature pilot and progressed his way through the ranks of lower formulae, often beating others who would go on to forge great careers of their own. In 1990, Luca beat Alex Zanardi in the Italian Formula Three Championship, Zanardi himself eventually going on to take two Champ Car World Series titles before the decade was over.
Although disqualified from the 1991 championship on a tyre technicality, Badoer was promoted to Formula 3000 for 1992 with Team Crypton. Luca took the championship that year, earning himself 46 points from 4 wins and comfortably beating fellow countryman Andrea Montermini in the overall standings. With such a convincing display in Formula 3000, Badoer was given the opportunity to race in Formula One for the 1993 racing season, and Luca duly accepted the offer from Scuderia Italia.
1993-1996: Scuderia Italia, Minardi & Forti
The Scuderia Italia team had just come to the end of their Dallara chassis partnership, and in an attempt to improve their performance, the team signed a new agreement with Lola. However, the car wasn’t much better than previous and both Badoer and team mate Michele Alboreto struggled to qualify for races and once in, they both found themselves retiring more often than not. Badoer managed to score the team’s best result of the year, a seventh place finish in San Marino. Unfortunately, back in 1993 P7 garnered no points, unlike the modern system of scoring.
Despite regularly out-performing Alboreto, when the team merged with Minardi in 1994, Badoer lost out to the drive and was demoted to test driver. The team ran Alboreto alongside Pierluigi Martini. Badoer was given the chance to test for the Benetton team and the Italian drove the B193. However, a race seat did not materialise and Badoer remained with Minardi.
Badoer’s persistence paid off though and when Alboreto retired at the end of 1994, Luca was again given the opportunity to race. Although the Minardi team were desperately underfunded, Badoer still managed to put in some fine drives in 1995, and the Italian finished the season with two eighth places and a ninth, as well as a slew of other finishes around the P10 mark. With only six retirements and two DNSs, the cars Badoer was driving were improving.
Buoyed by the progressing quality of the cars, Luca decided to move to the Forti team, another of Formula One’s underfunded Italian squads. Forti were said to have had an improved budget for 1996 and were able to get a supply of the higher powered V8 Ford Cosworth engines. However, it would be a disastrous switch of allegiance and Forti wouldn’t even last until the end of the season. Pay-driver Pedro Diniz, whose family had offered substantial sponsorship and therefore an increased budget, moved to Ligier to fill Martin Brundle’s vacated seat. The budget disappeared and Forti were left with no money to build their new FG03 car, and were forced to downgrade their engines to the less powerful Zetec-R units.
Teamed with Formula 3000 rival Andrea Montermini, Badoer was about to start a season even worse than his debut year with Scuderia Italia. With the 107% qualifying rule in place, Luca failed to qualify on numerous occasions. Of the ten races the team did enter, Badoer could only qualify in six, and by the time the circus had arrived at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix, Ford Cosworth had ceased their supply of engines until they were paid and the units the team had were running out of mileage. The drivers completed a handful of laps in Free Practice, but didn’t qualify.
At the following race in Germany, Forti were present, but the cars remained in the garages, disassembled and in no hurry to participate. A dispute over ownership and payment with Shannon Racing continued – a deal that could have saved the squad – and the team did not compete in any further races. Both Andrea Montermini and Luca Badoer were left without drives for the remainder of the year.
1997: The Deal Of A Lifetime, Almost Literally
In 1997, Badoer formed a relationship that would endure to this very day, by signing a contract with Ferrari to be their test driver. Although it wasn’t a racing contract, it allowed Luca to continue driving race cars and to also work for one of the sport’s greatest marques. The contract also enabled Badoer to continue driving for Italian teams; something that although perhaps not intentional, is notable on Badoer’s record sheet.
1999: A Return To Racing – Minardi
In 1999, Luca made a return with Minardi and dove-tailed his duties with the Scuderia with the sport’s other Italian team. And it was with Minardi that Badoer almost achieved his first career points, running in fourth place at the European Grand Prix. The race had a fairly high attrition rate and the finishing order was somewhat unexpected. Johnny Herbert took Stewart’s first and only victory, compounded by team mate Rubens Barrichello finishing in third. Jarno Trulli came home in second, and in sixth place was Badoer’s team mate, Marc Gene.
It could have been fourth, and if it had it would have been one of the greatest results for the team and driver. However, with only 13 laps to go Badoer’s gearbox failed and his car had to be retired. Distraught at the situation, Badoer sat by his car on the side of the track and wept. For the team, it was still a great result and Gene was able to hold off the advances of Eddie Irvine in the Ferrari. For Luca though, it was a bitter-sweet result.
Partway through the 1999 season, Badoer could have driven the Ferrari in races, as regular driver Michael Schumacher had sustained a broken leg at the British Grand Prix and was forced to miss many races. However, instead of utilising their test driver, Ferrari instead opted for Finnish pilot Mika Salo. Although Salo drove very well in his substitution role, Badoer was somewhat upset at being passed over for a driver who had until that point, no relationship with the squad.
After his outing in 1999 for Minardi, Badoer returned to full-time testing duties with Ferrari and did not race in Formula One again until 2009. However, his longevity at Ferrari is commendable and he is attributed with helping to develop the Italian cars through one of the team’s most successful periods. Badoer developed a strong relationship with Ferrari’s regular driver Michael Schumacher and between them they tested some formidable machines that often dominated their rivals and took many championships.
2009: A Return To Racing – Ferrari
At the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix, regular Ferrari driver Felipe Massa sustained a serious head injury during qualifying and his recovery time meant the Brazilian pilot missing out on several races. Initially, Ferrari asked the now-retired Michael Schumacher to temporarily suspend his consultancy role at the team in order to drive in substitution for Massa. Scumacher agreed and started to train, which included the testing of a F2007. However, the team wanted to be sure that an injury Schumacher sustained while testing a superbike earlier in the year was healed properly, and the multiple champion underwent a series of tests.
On August 11th, 2009, it was announced that Schumacher had minor fractures in his neck and he would not be able to withstand the pressures imposed on the body during races. It was therefore announced that Luca Badoer would be given the opportunity to race the F60 at the European Grand Prix, now held around the streets of Valencia. It was the first time an Italian driver had driven the Italian Ferrari car since Nicola Larini substituted Jean Alesi in 1994.
Photographs Of Luca Badoer
Luca Badoer – 1993 Hungarian Grand Prix.
Luca Badoer – Testing the Benetton B193.
Luca Badoer – 1995 Hungarian Grand Prix.
Luca Badoer – Testing the Minardi M01.
Luca Badoer & Rob Smedley.
Luca Badoer – Testing the Ferrari F2008.
Top 3 images courtesy of the quite brilliant F1 Rejects.