The Belgium Grand Prix is now in the history books and also may have been the nail in the coffin for Luca Badoer, test driver at Ferrari for nearly ten years. The thirty-eight year old’s last live-race seat was in 1999 as a member of the lowly Minardi team when in the European Grand Prix in a stunning television moment, the driver, in fourth place at the time, had a gearbox failure and upon parking the car broke down and wept. But that’s Formula 1 for you.
And don’t I know it: my fantasy league results are kaput after the accident on the first lap claimed my two drivers Jenson Button of the Brawn GP Team and Lewis Hamilton of the McLaren Mercedes Team. To make matters worse, my manufacturer had a failure that throws uncertainty into the standings that leave me wondering: “Did I score a point?” Anyway….
The prospects grow increasingly dim on Badoer who has had to fend off press rumors for the whole time he has filled in for the ailing Felipe Massa. I feel bad for Luca in that, he has seemingly taken up the position of “Dave” on the Formula 1 grid. You know “Dave”, the movie where Kevin Cline is an ordinary dude who becomes president as a fill-in only to then take hold of the job and make real change if only for a short. But the bad result (of finishing near the back) at Spa seems to loom large (at least for Ferrari), particularly when the interviewer asks a competitor if he’ll be assuming your seat for the next Grand Prix.
Sadder still is the notion that even a Ferrari test driver is about a second off the rest of the field’s best time and now in my mind the gap between the testers and the racers is even wider still. That just gets down to just how difficult driving in Formula 1 is. While among the best drivers in the world, you can’t possibly have a bad week. No, “that was your week” and that’s it. Ten years in the waiting , surely Badoer thought he had the ability only for it to be boiled down to two weeks. Difficult to say where things’ll go, in that being at 38, Ferrari may move to give younger drivers the test seat with the knowledge that Badoer is at very least a project in getting up to race trim.
Good luck, Luca, but either way there is life after Formula 1. Allan McNish, test-driver extraordinaire, went on to successful race Le Mans prototypes (and still holding it down) with the Audi team after failing to get a seat at Toyota, a perennial mid-pack Formula 1 team. His F1 days are but a distant memory.