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The Killer Replacements

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Luca Badoer

Luca Badoer

This weekend’s European Grand Prix will see a couple of new faces on the grid.  The elimination of Filippe Massa and Nelson Piquet junior has led Ferrari and Renault to field their substitutes.  But who are these figures who have recently stepped out of the shadow?

Meet Luca Badoer, Test driver for Ferrari, now acting second driver.  Born in Italy in 1971, he started out, like most, in Karting before working his way up through to Formula 3, where he beat Alex Zanardi in the final round of the F3 world championship.  He had an even better run in 1991, winning four races in a row.

He finally made his Formula 1 debut in 1993 with the less than competitive BMS Scuderia Italia.  While he handled the car very well getting a good lap was like getting blood out of a stone.  When his team merged with the Minardi team he found himself squeezed out of a drive.  He did, however, retain a job as a test driver, which was better than nothing.

Luca's Minardi 0-60 in about a week

Luca's Minardi 0-60 in about a week

In 1996 he moved to the Forti Corse team, another underfunded Italian outfit.  Sadly this car also had the pace of an asthmatic Ant with some heavy shopping.  Formula 1 was less than kind to Luca, and he felt it was time for a change.

The Lotus Exige.  Like shit off a stick, mate.

The Lotus Exige. Like shit off a stick, mate.

He found a new lease of driving life in the new FIA GT Championship, driving the racy Lotus Exige.  Now this car really did kick ass and he soon moved up the grid.  Sensibly, he kept his hand in Formula 1, carrying out tests for Minardi and Ferrari.  Soon his devotion to his craft saw him recieve an offer as a full-time test driver for Ferrari.

He had not been there long when Michael Schumacher broke his leg at the British Grand Prix.  Oh, how we laughed.  As test driver, Luca would have expected to be promoted to second driver, with Eddie Ervine taking the lead.  However Ferrari chose Mika Salo instead, much to Luca’s understandable annoyance.

In 1999 he returned to F1 proper as a racer for Minardi for the one season.  If F1 had been unkind to him so far, this season proved to be downright cruel.  He completed 48 Grand prix without scoring a single point, imagine the frustration.  Then double it at the European Grand Prix.  He had made a strong drive, he fought his way up to fourth place in his rickety Minardi.  He had just thirteen laps to go when his gearbox failed.  The heartbroken Luca was seen sitting on the side of the track, actually weeping.

After that he could not find a half decent car so he stuck to testing for Ferrari.  At least the bloody thing would start.  But now, finally, at last, Ferrari’s Cinderella will go to the F1 ball.  He will stand in for Fillipe Massa for the rest of the season.

Grab your gear, Romain Grosjean

Grab your gear, Romain Grosjean

Meanwhile in Enstone, Oxfordshire, Romain Grosjean is clocking on as Renault’s new second driver.  Romain was born in Geneva hand hold duel Swiss-French nationality.  He made a hell of a start to his career by winning the first ten rounds of the Formula Renault 1.6 championship.  Just to prove it wasn’t a fluke he joined the French Formula Renault and made the podium in Valencia.

He had one season in Formula 3 Euroseries and then made once race at Pau in the British Formula 3 championship.  He made the fastest lap on both, started on pole on both races and won both races.  Game, set and match to Romain.  From there he stepped up to ASM Formula 3.  He made good headway before losing ground to Sebastian Buemi.  He later regained the lead and won the title for the 2007 season.

Team ART, Romain's GP2 team

Team ART, Romain's GP2 team

But it was at ART GP that he really blossomed.  He won the inaugeral GP2 Asia with 61 points.  However his luck ran out when Nicolas Hulkenberg joined the team, turfing him onto the street.  Fortunately Renault placed him in Campos Grand Prix as a test driver.  (Campos will be joining F1 next year.  Interesting, that.  Wonder if they have picked their driver yet?)

Renault needed a new test driver when Nelson Piquet Jr. graduated to second driver.  Where he promptly achieve the square root of jack all.  Nelson was turfed out on the street earlier this month leaving a position open for a second driver.  Curtain call, Mr Grosjean.  Grab your gear, mon amais, you’re up next.

See you in my rear view mirror

See you in my rear view mirror

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Written by Nick Gilmartin

August 19, 2009 at 9:09 pm

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