Luca Badoer says that racing for Ferrari for the first time will be a dream come true after the team confirmed that he will stand in for the injured Felipe Massa at the European Grand Prix in Valencia, a role that Michael Schumacher relinquished today due to the risk of damaging his neck.
Badoer, 38, joined Ferrari as a test driver in 1997 and has not raced since 1999 when he raced for Minardi. But the Italian’s much-cited testing pedigree make him a safe pair of hands as Ferrari look to close the gap to their rivals in the second half of the 2009 season.
“Since I’ve been a child I always wanted to race for Ferrari and now I’ve got the possibility to make this desire come true,” Badoer told Ferrari s website.
“I’m really sorry for Michael, because I know how much he wanted to return: I’m saying that as his friend and his fan. We’ve been in contact during the last days and we drove karts together at Lonato last week.
“So I followed him very closely in this attempt. Last night he called me a couple of minutes after Stefano Domenicali had told me the news and I know that he’ll always be ready to give me some advice and he will shout for me.”
The ban on in-season testing this year means that Badoer has not driven Ferrari’s 2009 challenger, the F60. The last car he drove was the F2008 at the end of last year. But Badoer said that will not prevent him from preparing for his return to grand prix racing.
“Although this year’s rules foresee a drastically reduced mileage for us test drivers, I have prepared myself to be ready under any circumstances, just as I’ve been doing the last years too; I’ve been in this business for quite a while After Felipe’s accident I intensified my programme and I’m sure that I won’t have any problems from this point of view.”
“My first thought goes to Felipe,” he said. I was shocked about his accident and I’m so glad that the situation is getting better so quickly: I wish him all the best and to get back on the track as soon as possible,â€ Badoer added.
“I also want to thank Luca di Montezemolo and Stefano Domenicali for the faith they put in me and for the honour that they are handing the car over to me: I will give it my best for them and for all the Ferrari fans, who – and I’m sure about that – will give me their support.”
Badoer will arrive on the grid at Valencia as the oldest driver at 38 years old. He also carries the accolade of being the driver to have competed in the most grand prix without scoring a single point, although that is as much to do with the machinery he had at his disposal. His first few years of racing were with backmarkers Lola, Minardi and Forti and he returned to Minardi in 1999 before becoming a full time Ferrari test driver.
Badoer comes highly regarded by Michael Schumacher. The Italian has a strong track record against the clock at Mugello and Fiorano and his ability to develop a car is second to none; he was instrumental to Ferrari s revival in the early millennium and he was a key player in the team that Jean Todt assembled to bring about this turnaround.
However, his lack of racing experience will be a concern when he arrives at Valencia.