Believe it or not, there are a fair few drivers out there right now who are available to drive the second Ferrari, and more importantly, would love to drive the second Ferrari. With Massa recuperating at home in Brazil, the drive is perhaps one of the most sought after right now in the sport, even if it is just a temporary foray under the spotlight. The Scuderia have chosen Luca Badoer for now, but who would you have chosen?
To begin with, let’s rule out a few that made the headlines prior to the European Grand Prix. Michael Schumacher wanted to stand in and help is protege and his team, but owing to a neck injury sustained while testing a motorbike, the multiple world champion ruled himself out after a couple of weeks of supreme hype in the Formula One world. Fernando Alonso was also heavily rumoured to be making a move to Maranello, ahead of time if the speculation is anything to go by. Neither are likely to be in the seat for 2009 though.
Ferrari themselves have ruled out 2009’s departees; Sebastien Bourdais and Nelson Piquet Jr. Martin Brundle seemed to be keen on Ferrari giving the young Piquet a chance with the F60, going as far to say that he felt the ex-Renault pilot deserved another chance to show what he can do. Ferrari though do not want to be seen to be picking up other team’s rejects, a move that could prove a bit of an embarrassment should they perform similar to Badoer’s Valencia tour.
Away from the ex-2009 pilots though, there are still many drivers, experienced and rookie alike, who would jump at the chance to guide an F60 around Spa Francorchamps, Monza et al.
Anthony Davidson has stated that should he get the call, he would help the Italian team, and it seems a little suprising that the Briton gets passed up more often than not. Perhaps the team managers are aware of something us fans are not, but from what we saw of Davidson in the Super Aguri, he didn’t seem to be that bad.
Staying with the Super Aguri refugees, there is also Takuma Sato. The popular Japanese driver was on the hunt last year looking for a drive after the Honda junior squad closed it doors. Over the winter, Sato tested quite comprehensively with Ferrari-powered Scuderia Toro Rosso and was on par with Sebastien Bourdais and Sebastien Buemi. In fact, the decision seemed so hard for the little Italian team to make, it seems strange they didn’t hire Takuma when they issued Bourdais with his P45 mid-season.
Perhaps Sato isn’t the best fit for Ferrari though, and his reputation of throwing the car off the road is something Gestione Sportiva would like to avoid. Marc Gene, Ferrari’s other test driver, seems like a safe pair of hands. It was suggested that the team feel he is too slow, although his stand-in duties at Williams a few years back didn’t go too badly. A few points fell Gene’s way in 2003, although his 2004 outing was less spectacular. Having said that though, would Gene really have lapped the Valencia track one-to-two seconds slower than Raikkonen last weekend?
Elsewhere in the world of racing, Ferrari have still more choices. They could give any number of GP2, F2 or WSR pilots a chance to step up into the sport. Recently the rookie replacements at Scuderia Toro Rosso and Renault have barely put a foot wrong. Although they are not setting the track alight, their promotion from driving in junior formulae has shown that there is no substitute for actual racing. While Badoer was unable to test the car and offering advice from the pitwall, Jaime Alguesuari and Romain Grosjean were fighting there way forwards in the World Series by Renault and GP2 respectively.
In GP2, Vitaly Petrov has been rumoured to be making a leap forwards in 2010 with one of the new entries, as is Roldan Rodriguez. Lucas Di Grassi and Dani Clos have both driven Formula One cars around circuits previously. Nico Hulkenberg is perhaps the better of the GP2 competitors at the moment though, currently leading the championship and although signed to Williams, I’m sure Frank and Patrick wouldn’t mind loaning him out for a tidy sum – it would allow the young German to gain some racing experience prior to the much rumoured promotion he will receive next year.
There’s even an Italian driver who is potentially available and has also driven fairly recently. Vitantonio Liuzzi would love to return to the sport in a racing capacity, and although he is rumoured to have a seat for next year, I’m sure he could fill in at Ferrari between now and then.
If it’s an older pair of hands Ferrari want, then they could approach the 1997 World Champion, Jacques Villeneuve. It has been suggested that the Canadian is looking at trying to make a comeback next year, and Villeneuve has stepped in to help a team in the past, namely Renault at the tail-end of 2004 when Jarno Trulli took an early departure to Toyota. Although perhaps not a popular choice (with myself), I’m sure Villeneuve would love to add Ferrari to his CV, much like his late father.
Also hinting at a desire to help out Maranello, David Coulthard is available (assuming Red Bull Racing will allow it) and is perhaps the best choice at the moment. Coulthard drove as recently has last year and although the Scot hasn’t piloted a 2009-spec. machine, he is very experienced. Never a truly great driver, and perhaps he soured slightly towards the end with a few silly accidents, Coulthard is still the most relevant ex-driver outside of those who have driven 2009 cars.
Even Ferrari’s rivals might be willing to help them out, with McLaren currently employing three test drivers in the shape of Pedro De La Rosa, Gary Paffett and Paul Di Resta. While Martin Whitmarsh may be a little hesitant about letting one his drivers help out their arch-nemesis, Formula One has been moving towards a more cooperative and friendlier environment recently.
Of an interesting note, Stefano Domenicali has now admitted that Ferrari need a young driver programme and has vowed to implement one as soon as possible. The fact the Scuderia are in this position shows that a training programme would be of benefit. For now though, the team seem to be under the impression their options are limited. From what I can see though, they have a wide variety of drivers potentially available to them. And let’s be honest here, if you were to get a call from Maranello, you would be available, wouldn’t you?
So, of all the drivers mentioned here and all the others that are not, who would you pick to place alongside Kimi Raikkonen in the sister F60. Would you go with Luca Badoer, or would you pick someone else?