Mika Salo and the Finnish press are intrigued as the former F1 driver prepares to test a modern Ferrari later this month.
Newspapers Ilta and Turun Sanomat, and the broadcaster MTV3, report that the 45-year-old former Toyota driver has been drafted in to test a Ferrari at Suzuka. On the face of it, Salo’s drive is simply a case of his old employer – the Finn replaced the injured Michael Schumacher in 1999 – inviting a former driver to the Ferrari Racing Days event at the Japanese grand prix venue.
But “I was very surprised when they called me,” Salo admitted, “because I haven’t been seriously involved in Formula 1 for 10 years. I tried to ask them if this is just a ‘show run’ drive, but they have given me no more information than that,” he said. “They have Giancarlo Fisichella, Marc Gene and Andrea Bertolini (as test drivers), so it’s not exactly clear to me why they are not driving.”
Salo’s Suzuka run will take place on the weekend of the season opening Australian grand prix, reportedly at the wheel of a 2010 car — the newest F1 car able to be driven within the sport’s strict testing ban.
MTV3 analyst Erkki Mustakari speculated that, amid Ferrari’s pre-season struggles with the uncompetitive new F2012 car, the team is deploying more than its full complement of test drivers in a panic bid to solve the problems.
“If it’s an emergency then it may be time to try something very different,” he said.
At the very least, Salo has sensed the importance of his new role, confirming he is “training like mad” to strengthen his neck and lose a few pounds.
“This is not any old thing, but a two-day test,” he revealed.