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Formula One racing’s hidden heroes 12 Nov 2004

Luca Badoer (ITA) Ferrari Test Driver in the garage.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Practice Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 2 April 2004 Franck Montagny (FRA) Renault Test Driver.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, Practice Day, Canadian Grand Prix, Montreal, Canada, 11 June 2004 Ricardo Zonta (BRA) Toyota.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, Brazilian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Interlagos, Brazil, 23 October 2004 Marc Gene (ESP) Williams BMW FW26.
Formula One World Championship, British Grand Prix, Rd 11, Qualifying Day, Silverstone, England, 10 July 2004

Who was the hardest working Formula One driver in 2004? In terms of total distance covered the answer is not, as you may have imagined, Michael Schumacher, but Ferrari test driver Luca Badoer.

According to The Official Formula 1 Season Review 2004 book, between the end of November last year, when the teams began their winter test programmes, and the final pre-Brazil session in October, Badoer racked up just under 14,000 miles (around 22,500 kilometres).

Given that many of those miles were covered at Ferrari’s own Fiorano and Mugello circuits, you may be forgiven for thinking that Badoer tops the table with ease. In reality however, Renault’s Franck Montagny was barely a thousand miles behind in second place, with a total distance of 12,879 miles (20,722 km).

Third in the testing table was Toyota’s Ricardo Zonta, just 23 miles (37 km) down on Montagny, while fourth place went to Williams tester Marc Gene, who put in 11,220 miles (18,053 km) of development.

So which race driver put in the most work away from Grands Prix? The answer is BAR’s Takuma Sato. Fifth in the table, he was the only other man to complete over 10,000 miles (16,090 km). Interestingly both BAR race drivers covered more distance than tester Anthony Davidson, who was seventh, immediately behind Jenson Button.

McLaren test drivers Alexander Wurz and Pedro de la Rosa were eighth and ninth in the table, with Renault’s Fernando Alonso completing the top ten. And in case you were wondering, Michael Schumacher came in 11th.

Of course, with a fifty percent reduction in testing in prospect for next year, the 2005 table may look quite different. One thing that won’t change, however, is the importance of the test drivers.

With 19 Grands Prix on the provisional calendar, the men in the race seats are going to be busier than ever, hence increasing the teams’ reliance on their testers for development work.