Badoer relishing Ferrari chance

There will be no consoling the fans who had hoped to witness Michael Schumacher's comeback this weekend but, even without the Ferrari great, Formula One will still see an astonishing return.

A decade on from his last appearance on the starting grid, and still without a point after 49 starts for various now-defunct teams, Luca Badoer can look forward to Sunday's European Grand Prix as the first Italian to race for Ferrari in 15 years.

Called up as a replacement for a replacement, with Schumacher having to abort plans to come out of retirement and stand-in for injured Brazilian Felipe Massa, Badoer has his chance of a lifetime.

Just scoring a point will be hard enough for the 38-year-old, who has barely driven the F60 car now that testing is banned during the season, and he knows it.

"I am very motivated to make the most of this opportunity, even if I know I am facing a tough challenge," the test driver told the Ferrari website.

"It will effectively be a test session for me, but I will be trying my best to secure a good result."

The team's focus will be mostly on 2007 champion Kimi Raikkonen, who finished second in Hungary last month after Massa - last year's winner in Valencia - was hit on the head and seriously injured by flying debris in qualifying.

McLaren's world champion Lewis Hamilton won in Budapest and is hungry for more while Brawn's championship leader Jenson Button is eager to reassert himself at a key point in the season after struggling in the last three races.

Button is 18.5 points ahead of Red Bull's Australian Mark Webber with seven races remaining and will stay top of the standings whatever happens in Valencia.

Webber and team mate Sebastian Vettel, third in the championship, will be hard to beat while Spain's double world champion Fernando Alonso was on pole at the last race and can see signs of a Renault resurgence.

Throw in the threat from Germany's Nico Rosberg, who has scored points in his last six races for Williams, as well as Brawn's Rubens Barrichello, and Badoer will have his work cut out to make any impression.

The Italian is under no illusions, acutely aware of the painful circumstances behind his good fortune.

"My first thoughts when I take to the track will be for Felipe, because I got a real fright when I saw his accident," he said. "I am delighted that he is making a good recovery and I hope he will be back racing as soon as possible.

"I have to add that I am also thinking of Michael, because having trained with him over the last few weeks, I know how much he wanted to make this comeback and how much effort he was putting into his preparation.

"Even though his decision has provided me with this great opportunity...I feel sorry for him, because not only are we friends but I am also an admirer of his."

A new Ferrari driver is a rarity, and Badoer will be very much in the limelight, but he will not be the only newcomer to the street circuit.

France's Romain Grosjean will be making his Formula One debut after Renault dropped Brazilian Nelson Piquet while Spanish teenager Jaime Alguersuari lines up for the first time before his home crowd after racing for Toro Rosso in Hungary.

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