Luca Badoer was born on January 25, 1971 in Montebelluna. The Italian driver will link his career to Ferrari by playing the role of official test driver, obtaining an important role in the successes of Maranello's team and Michael Schumacher. Luca begins his adventure in the world of racing, like many who hope to become Formula 1 drivers one day in karts. The results were not long in coming, and in 1986 he won the Veneto kart championship; the following year, he triumphs in the Italian one.
In the 1988 season Badoer also confirmed himself in the Super-100 C category, prompting Zasteam to grant him the opportunity to race in the Formula 3 championship in the following season. After a 1989 apprenticeship in which he obtained an eleventh place as best result, in 1990 in Vallelunga the first career victory arrives: Badoer precedes Roberto Colciago and Alessandro Zanardi at the finish.
Luca improves again, and the following year he wins three races. Results that allow him to take another important step in his career, given that in 1992 Crypton Engineering hires him to participate in the Formula 3000 World Championship. Although in this championship there are opponents of the caliber of Rubens Barrichello, Olivier Panis and David Coulthard, the protagonist will be Badoer. The driver from Veneto, conquering four victories in Enna-Pergusa, Hockenheim, Nurburgring and Nogaro, became World Champion beating Andrea Montermini. The title and the performances obtained in these first years of his career give Luca the chance to realize the dream he had as a child, when he started racing karts for fun. The Scuderia Italia offers him the chance to race in Formula 1 in 1993, and above all to be the companion of Michele Alboreto:
"During the season we developed an excellent relationship, also because I learned a lot from him. Obviously your first opponent is always your teammate, and, unfortunately, we found ourselves forced into a struggle for survival struggling with what was not a Formula 1 car. The car was disastrous, and we often found ourselves forced to challenge each other for qualification. A dramatic situation in which we found ourselves together, I at the beginning of my career and he unfortunately in the final part".
At the first appointment, in South Africa, Badoer and Michele Alboreto start from the back row and do not finish the race. The first placement of the Italian driver comes with twelfth place in Brazil, but it will be a month later, in the San Marino Grand Prix, which will show everyone his value. Starting from the twenty-fourth spot, the Venetian driver recovered seventeen positions and closed the race in seventh place, three laps behind the winner Alain Prost. It will be his best seasonal result. In fact, in Spain he managed to qualify, but, in the race, he retired during the forty-third lap due to an overheating problem, while in the official qualifying of the Monaco Grand Prix the nine seconds behind Prost did not allow him to line up on the starting grid. In Canada, for a few thousandths he manages to take part in the race, which closes in fifteenth position, preceding the Footwork of Warwick and the Tyrrell of Katayama, but in the following Grand Prix the Venetian driver collects four consecutive retirements, due to technical problems, errors and accidents.
Badoer returns to cross the finish line in Belgium, where he finishes thirteenth, winning the duel with Alboreto on both Saturday and Sunday. A result that motivates him in view of his first Italian Grand Prix of his career. If in qualifying he is penultimate six tenths from Alboreto, the next day, in the race, Luca takes his revenge, recovering fifteen positions and finishing in tenth place, two laps behind the winner Damon Hill. The same situation occurs again in Portugal, where Luca, although starting from the back of the grid, ends in fourteenth position. This, surprisingly, will be his last race of the world championship, given that the problems of Scuderia Italia will not allow him to take part in the Grand Prix in Japan and Australia. In the following months, BMS merges with Minardi, and the Faenza team hires both Alboreto and Badoer. Luca, however, is relegated to the role of test driver, despite the fact that in the 1993 championship he had had the opportunity to demonstrate his qualities driving a Formula 1 car:
"First of all, it was an Italian team, and Gian Carlo Minardi lived his experience in Formula 1 with great passion. For me it certainly represented a good opportunity, with a view to '95. I was still young, and I had the opportunity to learn a lot".
While not being able to participate in the championship as an official driver, his work in developing the M193B and M194 will be noticed by Gian Carlo Minardi, who chooses him to replace Michele Alboreto the following season. His return to Formula 1 does not start well. In Brazil, after starting from the ninth row, alongside his teammate Martini, an engine problem forced him to retire during the forty-seventh lap, and in Argentina, after setting an encouraging thirteenth time in qualifying, an accident at the start it does not allow him to finish the race for the second consecutive time. The first placement of 1995 comes to Imola, thanks to the fourteenth position obtained at the end of the San Marino Grand Prix. After being forced to retire in the Spanish and Monaco Grand Prix due to reliability problems at the M195, in Canada Badoer sprints nineteenth, recovers eleven positions, and crosses the finish line in eighth place.
Luca also obtained two good placings at Magny Cours and Silverstone, where he reached thirteenth and tenth respectively, and was repeated even before the summer break. In Hungary he starts twelfth, one tenth behind Frentzen, but ends the race in eighth position, one lap behind his new teammate, Pedro Lamy, who replaces Martini on the Hungaroring circuit.
When the championship resumes, Badoer fails to confirm himself and retires first to Spa, and then to Monza. Even in the following Grand Prix his performances are not encouraging, except for the eleventh place conquered on the Nurburgring circuit, but the Venetian driver redeems himself in Japan. Starting from eighteenth place, preceded by one position by Lamy, the Venetian driver made a comeback in the race and finished ninth. Badoer closes the world championship in Australia with a big disappointment, failing to start from fifteenth position due to an electrical problem, while Lamy wins sixth place and gives Minardi the only point of the season.
In the following months Luca relives the same problems as two years earlier. Minardi is in financial difficulties and to remedy this problem, it seeks an agreement with Taki Inoue, who, however, will skip due to the resignation of the sponsor Unimat to continue the collaboration with the Japanese driver. Fortunately, this time the driver from Veneto does not remain without a car, as he is hired by Forti. With the car of the Piedmontese team, in 1996 Luca carried out a season similar to that conducted with Scuderia Italia. In Melbourne he fails to overcome the 107% cut together with Montermini, and their race weekend ends here.
Things are better in Brazil where Badoer is eleventh, four laps behind Damon Hill. On his return to Europe, Luca confirms his feeling with Imola, managing to qualify first in qualifying, trimming a gap of one second and six in Montermini, and the following day closing the race in eleventh position. It will be the last time that Luca reaches the finish line: in Monaco he retires on lap 60 due to a contact with Jacques Vileneuve's car during a dubbing phase from the Canadian; in Spain he fails to meet the 107% rule during qualifying; in Canada he is forced to retire due to a gearbox malfunction; and finally, at Magny Cours an electrical system failure forced him to retire during the twenty-ninth lap.
To make this negative period even more complicated are the negotiations for the sale of Forti with Shannon Racing, which at the end of June acquired 51% of the majority stake. Surprisingly, the Irish team decides not to respect the agreements, and after Badoer and Montermini fail to qualify even in Germany, Guido Forti decides to withdraw the team from the Circus. Like three years before, Badoer is forced to close his season early.
In 1997 he returned to cover the role of test driver for Minardi, also participating in some races with sports cars with the Lotus Elise. However, this last experience did not give him much satisfaction, as the driver from Veneto obtained twelfth place at the 4 Hours of Donington as his best result, paired with Domenico Schiattarella. Despite this, Luca receives an offer from Ferrari.
Jean Todt, chosen by Luca di Montezemolo in 1996 to bring the title back to Maranello, after the bitter disappointment of the world championship lost in the last race by Schumacher, attacked throughout the winter by the Italian press for the accident in Jerez with Villeneuve, decides to change the test driver and leave Nicola Larini free.
The French manager is thinking of Badoer, given the excellent job done with Minardi. Luca did not miss the opportunity, and immediately became a very important figure in Maranello. When he gets on the F300 for the first time, Schumacher immediately realizes the great development work done by the former Minardi driver, and from this moment, every time his technicians propose some changes to the car in meetings, he asks for his opinion.
A very nice human relationship is established between the two, even off the track. The 1998 championship got off to a bad start for Schumacher, forced to retire in Australia and settle for third place in Brazil. At the same time, Badoer works hard to allow Ferrari to close the gap from the first McLaren signed by Adrian Newey, who seemed unbeatable.
The men of the Prancing Horse following Badoer's instructions, reopen a championship considered by many in the already finished paddock, and will play the World Championship again up to the Japanese Grand Prix. The end of the season will still be bitter for Ferrari, as Schumacher, four points behind the Finn, remains stationary in the reconnaissance lap and sees the title fade again for the second consecutive year at the last race.
In 1999 Luca Badoer, despite being confirmed as a test driver by Ferrari, returned to Minardi after four years:
"At that time I was also under contract with Ferrari, as a tester. Gian Carlo wanted me strongly with him, and this gave me enormous pleasure. For my part, I was very happy to return to Faenza".
The second adventure with Minardi does not start well. In Australia, despite winning the duel with his teammate Marc Gené in qualifying, the driver from Veneto was forced to retire during the forty-second lap due to a gearbox problem. Luca misses the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos after sustaining an injury during a test. He returns to his M01 at Imola, on the occasion of the San Marino Grand Prix, but things don't seem to be going better. At least not at the beginning, given that the Venetian driver does not go beyond the last time in qualifying, nine tenths from Gené, but in the race he reacts and recovered fourteen positions, finishing eighth ahead of the Spaniard.
The season continues with two retirements in Monaco and Spain, and two good results in Canada and France, where he finishes tenth on both occasions. But then, during the British Grand Prix, Schumacher went off the track and fractured his tibia and fibula. Ferrari must look for a replacement, and the most obvious choice would seem to be Badoer, who knows the F399 perfectly having tried it in numerous tests. Instead, the Maranello team prefers Mika Salo:
"That was a bitter season. There was Schumacher's accident, who was replaced by Mika Salo, when I was the third Ferrari driver. It was a choice that I still can't understand today, because at that moment I was trained and prepared, and the place had to be mine. It was a big disappointment which I still cannot understand today".
The performances on the track do not help him forget the lost chance of driving the Ferrari for a few races, and the best result in the next five Grands Prix will be a good tenth place obtained in Germany, at the Hockenheim circuit. Things will get worse over the course of the season, and in particular the biggest disappointment will come during the European Grand Prix, when with thirteen laps to go the Venetian driver sees the conquest of the first points in his career fade, due to a technical problem. At the Nurburgring it started raining during the race, and several drivers decided to return to the pits to change tires. Luca, on the other hand, chooses to keep the tires dry, and on lap fifty-fourth he is fourth behind Barrichello, Trulli and Herbert. A few moments later his Minardi betrays him. The pilot from Veneto gets out of the cockpit desperately, and bursts into tears:
"It is part of those episodes that cannot be forgotten. A few laps from the checkered flag we were fighting for the podium, but unfortunately the gearbox broke. We could have achieved an amazing result for a small team. At that moment, also thanks to it. the Ferrari disappointment that I had experienced a few weeks earlier, the world really collapsed on me. Evidently it was destiny that it should go like this, these are racing".
Even in the following races in Malaysia and Japan, Badoer will not cut the checkered flag and therefore, as in previous occasions, he closes the world championship without having obtained any points in the standings. This will be his last full season as a Formula 1 driver. From 2000 Badoer will return full-time to being Ferrari's test driver, and his contribution will again be fundamental. In fact, for the third year in a row the Maranello team lost the World Championship in the last race with Irvine. Together with the technicians from Maranello, the Venetian driver will work hard during the winter to allow Schumacher to redeem himself. With F1-2000, Ferrari returns after many years to have the strongest car, and Schumacher wins the first three races.
The same goes for the second part of the championship, when McLaren not only seems to have recovered the initial gap, but is also back to being faster than the Red. Thanks to the developments brought to the track on the advice of the Venetian driver, obtaining a poker of victories in the last four Grands Prix, but above all by winning at Suzuka, Schumacher graduated for the third time World Champion, returning the title to Maranello after twenty-one years. Badoer will be especially important to allow the Schumacher-Ferrari duo to open a cycle of world victories in the following seasons. In particular, Luca's work will allow the German driver to have an even stronger car from year to year, such as the F2002 with which he will dominate, and will be rewarded for the efforts made by being awarded the Official Order of the Italian Republic, on October 22, 2002.
Thanks to the many kilometers covered by Luca, in 2004 Ferrari went further, designing one of the strongest cars ever seen in Formula 1, the F2004, with which Schumacher will win his seventh world title. Badoer will help his friend Michael also in his last year in Ferrari: the team from Maranello, after an extremely disappointing 2005, with the 248 F1 developed by Badoer the title is played up to the last race, but the engine failure in Japan makes Schumacher's dream of ending his career as a World Champion vanished. One of the most excited in the Interlagos pits is the driver from Veneto, who will explain his emotions in an interview:
"For me, years ago, when I watched his lap of pole position, it was like reading the Bible. With him you never stop learning. As a driver you try to stay close to him, but he is always ahead. Today I can say without fear of denial of knowing what he wants, which solution he prefers. There is, how to say, interaction and feeling: when I do a test with the car, I know what to look for. Then the last word is naturally yours. It will never be the same what, next year I say he has no rivals. After so many years he is tired of riding, like everything else, but he stays racing with us".
Despite the regret for Schumacher's farewell, Badoer will dedicate himself as a good workaholic as he has always been to grind kilometers in the winter break, testing the F12007 with which Kimi Raikkonen, the heir chosen by Montezemolo to replace the German, wins in the first year immediately the world championship in Red. After the 2008 championship with the victory of the constructors' title, when he thinks that his dream of driving Ferrari in a Grand Prix has vanished, the destiny that binds him to Schumacher is once again writing an important page of history.
In 2009, in Hungary, Massa was the protagonist of a very bad accident, after being hit by a spring resulting from the Brawn GP driven by Rubens Barrichello. Fortunately, Felipe, after the initial scare in which the worst was feared, is declared out of danger, and Ferrari begins to think about who to call in place of him. Luca Cordero di Montezemolo will be able to convince Schumacher to return to the track, at Mugello, aboard an F12007, but before mid-August the German declines the invitation.
From the day of his retirement, Schumacher had never abandoned Formula 1, and had played the role of super-consultant for Ferrari, also participating in some test sessions, but to satisfy the desire for new challenges at the beginning of 2008 he had a motorcycle accident on the Cartagena circuit, which caused neck problems in the following months. For this reason, Schumacher finds himself in the position of having to forfeit Valencia. Consequently, Montezemolo, together with Domenicali, think of summoning and proposing to Luca Badoer to take the place of Felipe Massa:
"We knew immediately it was going to be either him or me. To tell the truth, I don't think replacing Michael means being a second choice or a bad choice, as I'm replacing the greatest World Champion of these years".
In Valencia, Luca will pay for the long time elapsed since he last raced a Grand Prix, but above all for his lack of knowledge with the F60, given the restrictions imposed by the FIA on conducting private tests during the season. On the streets of the city circuit, the Venetian driver is last in qualifying, more than two seconds behind Raikkonen.
Despite the presence of Schumacher, who arrived in Valencia to support his friend, declaring in the interviews before the start that Badoer should not be put under pressure, in the race the driver from Veneto does not go beyond the seventeenth position one lap from his former teammate. Rubens Barrichello, only ahead of Nakajima's Williams:
"I was expecting more or less what happened. Both Ferrari and I honestly expected a Saturday like this, because we know, we have said it many times, I haven't driven a car for ten months, I've never seen Valencia, it's a difficult track. On another track that maybe I knew it would have been a whole other matter. And probably if I had managed to do two days of testing it would have been better, but in the dark it was not possible to do more. that in Spa it will be a completely different situation, because I know the track and therefore, I start from a better point. Now to say that I will score points at Spa or Monza I don't know, but it will certainly be better".
In Belgium, however, on a great day for the Azzurri, with Fisichella on pole and Trulli second completing an all-Italian front row, the Ferrari driver did not go beyond the last position. Things got worse the next day, as Badoer crossed the finish line last in the race, while Raikkonen took the team from Maranello only win of the season. Luca hopes to have a last chance at Monza, a track he knows very well, but Ferrari decides to replace him with Giancarlo Fisichella:
"A dream that soon turned into a nightmare. I had come from a seven-month stop period, as tests began to be banned. I didn't know the car and the F60 was difficult and not very competitive. We were at the first appearances of the KERS. In the end, I don't feel I am to blame, because whoever replaced me did not do better. It was a machine that required many tests to understand and interpret it as best as possible. When Fisichella took over my place, he got the same results as me, having a small revenge and showing that the problems were not attributable to me, but to the car. Ferrari gave me the opportunity because they knew I was a fast and reliable driver, but the opportunity came at the wrong time".
In November 2010, in common agreement with Ferrari, Luca decides not to continue the collaboration relationship in the role of test driver of the team from Maranello, and on the day of his farewell, at the Bologna Motor Show, he puts Ferrari in front of himself, greeting the Prancing Horse fans with these words, before embracing the mechanics:
"Thank you for the support you give to Ferrari every year. Thank you, and a hug to everyone".
Luca closed his career with fifty-one Grands Prix to his credit, in which he obtained a seventh place as best race result, twenty-six retirements and no points in Formula 1, but above all the record of 131.944 kilometers and 31.374 laps covered in his years as third driver of Ferrari. However, Badoer will remain tied to Ferrari testing road cars for four years, a role he left in 2014 to take charge of the family business full time, and completely change his life, while maintaining relations with his old team and in particular with Schumacher.
And on that cursed December 29, 2013, Luca immediately ran to France to be close to his friend, which he still does, to try to give him the strength to fight and not give up, exactly as he did in the days of Ferrari. To understand how much the bond between Badoer and Schumacher is something that not even destiny can break, we need to go back to the 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix, when the Venetian driver explains to the Italian press who Michael really was:
"Watch out, Michael is the type who will never show himself. Few really know him, as he is. He only defended his private life, his privacy, his family. Even at the cost of looking robotic. But you have to be. Schumacher to understand what he is subjected to, what media interest he has to bear. In the family it is the exact opposite. A simple person. Loyal. Soft. You do him a favor and he will always remember it, and he will return it to you. generous, but we also know this, see the various donations he made".
And it is precisely for this reason that the history of Badoer will be linked to two legendary figures of this sport, which are Ferrari and Schumacher, and he will be remembered as the workaholic test driver who helped Schumacher to bring the title back to Maranello.