Luca Badoer’s career counts 32 grand prix, from 1995 to 1999, and a big regret linked to the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring circuit. We continue our meetings with the drivers who contributed to write the history of the Team founded by Gian Carlo Minardi. We recalled along with Luca his experience in Faenza, but we also talked about his engagement at the wheel of the Prancing Horse.
In 2010 you announced your retirement, after 12 years as a Ferrari tester. Do you still have some contacts with Maranello? And, what do you do now?
In 2010 I announced my retirement as a tester, but I continued my cooperation with Maranello in the following four years. I was engaged in the development of the GT car. I have been working in my family company since last year.
Let’s step back. In 1994 you become a Minardi tester and the following year you were promoted to official driver. Why did you chose the team in Faenza? What impressed you?
First of all it was an Italian team and Gian Carlo Minardi was passionately experiencing Formula 1. Surely it was a good opportunity to me in view of ’95. As a matter of fact we achieved some good results. I was still young and I had the opportunity to learn a lot. It was a positive experience.
After 5 years, in 1999 you came back in Faenza.
In that moment I was under agreement with Ferrari as a tester. Gian Carlo wanted me strongly with him and this greatly made me pleased. I was very happy to be back in Faenza. Once again it was a positive year.
…All fans remember a “cursed” European grand prix. You were in the fourth place, few laps from the finish line.
It’s one of those events you can’t forget. We were fighting for the podium, unfortunately the gearbox broke just few laps from the checkered flag. We could have achieved a sensational result to a small team. Moreover, we all know that only the top six were able to get some points in those years…
What did you think at that time? What did Gian Carlo Minardi tell you in the pit?
I don’t remember, but it was a common tragedy that I experienced in first person. We were doing an extraordinary race. It was a body blow.
A victory would have been able to change your F1 career?
It’s hard to say so. You build your F1 career with the first choices and I wasn’t very lucky. I debuted with Scuderia Italia with a disastrous car that probably prevented my path. The podium at Nurburgring ’99 would have helped me, but I was already a Ferrari tester. My path was already marked.
You raced with Scuderia Italia, Minardi, Forti, and Ferrari. What is the strong point of the team from Faenza that you best remember?
I remember the team from Faenza as a little, but well organized, and passionate stable. Gian Carlo Minardi was an extraordinary team principal. Even now, I meet him with great pleasure.
In 2009 you took Felipe Massa’s place at the wheel of the F60 during the Valencia Grand Prix. An Italian driver was at the wheel of the Red in a grand prix: was it a dream coming true?
Yes, a dream that became a nightmare very soon…
What difficulties did you find?
I was coming from a seven months break because they started to ban the tests. I wasn’t familiar with the F60, a difficult and scarcely competitive car. The kers had just been introduced. Ultimately, I don’t feel guilty because who took my place didn’t do better than me. It was a difficult car and you needed to do a lot of test to well understand it.
Also this year no driver represents Italy in F1, even if they there are many Italians in the most important international championships like GP2, GP3 and European F3. Why, in your opinion?
It’s hard to answer because I am not the right person for this. Surely, it is sad not to have any Italian protagonist in the championship.
Do you think we need a team like Minardi to bet on young people?
Definitely. We especially need a person like Gian Carlo Minardi who used to bet on young people. He wasn’t afraid to bet on novices.
What do you think about today’s Formula 1? Do you agree with the testing prohibition that makes everything virtual?
If I could I would liberalize tests. We are talking so much about a costs decrease, but at the same time they compel the teams to buy these innovative simulators and expensive softwares. Sometimes, they make some decisions too lightly. It’s always better to test directly on the track. In my F1 career I did 135.000 km, 32.000 of which just in a season.