There are two approaches to hiring a Formula One driver. The first is to go with a seasoned veteran, a driver who’s already seen just about anything that is likely to come up on the track or off, and knows how to deal with it.
The second is to grab an aspiring rookie who’s eager to show his mettle, bereft of the caution that years of experience can impart. The same goes for test drivers, but once in a while a team finds itself having to promote a tester into the race seat.
Ferrari found itself in just such a situation last season after Felipe Massa was taken out of the season in a big crash. Their first answer was to bring Michael Schumacher out of retirement, but that didn’t pan out. So their second answer was to promote Luca Badoer, a seasoned veteran who’s had a hand in developing every Ferrari racer for the past decade. As integral a part of the Scuderia that Badoer played â€“ and as nice a guy he seemed when we spoke to him in Sicily a few years back â€“ when it came time to get back into the race seat years and years since he had before, he failed to deliver.
Maranello’s third answer was first to bring Giancarlo Fisichella on board to take Badoer/Massa’s place for the rest of the season, and then to develop its own driver development program. Jules Bianchi is the first product of the Ferrari Driver Academy. A former British F3 champion and 3rd place finisher in this year’s GP2 championship, Bianchi has now been promoted to a full-time test role with the Ferrari F1 team. There he’ll join Fisichella and longtime tester Marc Gene on the grand prix sidelines. Badoer, meanwhile, is leaving his days at Maranello behind, a seasoned test driver but a failed racer.