Though he may be adamant that Felipe Massa's Ferrari seat is his until the Brazilian is fit enough to reclaim it, Luca Badoer might only be starting one more grand prix for the Scuderia
, reports suggest, with persistent whispers that Mirko Bortolotti could become the first FIA Formula Two Championship driver to graduate to Formula 1 at Monza.
Badoer endured a difficult return to action in last weekend's European Grand Prix in Valencia, languishing some way off the pace during his first competitive F1 outing in almost a decade. Although he had closed to within two seconds of the fastest driver and 1.4 seconds of team-mate Kimi Raikkonen by the end, the knives had already been drawn.
Whilst the Italian will race again in the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps this coming weekend – where a distinct improvement is expected, given his prior knowledge of the track, unlike in Spain, and greater experience of the F60 following all his laps around the Valencia Street Circuit – the 38-year-old's position for the Italian Grand Prix a fortnight later looks considerably more tenuous, with the tifosi
clamouring for a different driver to be put into the cockpit of the #3 scarlet machine.
That driver, it appears, could be Formula Two race-winner Bortolotti, who has already tested for Ferrari as a prize for winning the Italian Formula 3 Championship last year, impressing the Maranello-based outfit's president Luca di Montezemolo by setting a new unofficial lap record of 59.111 seconds around the team's Fiorano test track, more than a second quicker than his two F3 rivals on the day and better even than the fastest efforts of Raikkonen, Badoer and test driver Marc Gené earlier in the season.
“These boys have astonished and surprised me,” sporting director Luca Baldisserri remarked at the time. “The extraordinary thing is that they didn't make even one mistake. They were immediately very quick and showed they have enormous potential.”
Following his superb campaign in F3, Bortolotti was snapped up by the Red Bull Junior Team at the beginning of 2009, and broke his Formula Two duck as soon as the third race of the year at Brno in the Czech Republic in June. There have since been further rostrum finishes in Valencia and at Donington Park – meaning the 19-year-old Italian currently sits a competitive sixth in the title standings heading next to Oschersleben in Germany on 6 September – but the man himself is refusing to be drawn into the speculation regarding his future.
“All I can say is that I'm racing in F2 and I'm not thinking about anything other than the championship,” he underlined. “I want to be higher than sixth, so I have to work hard and apply myself 100 per cent. There is still enough time to improve, so if I can get the best possible results hopefully I can move up the order again.
“There has been quite a lot of speculation in Italy surrounding the Ferrari seat. To be honest I think Luca just needs a bit more time to get a feeling for the car. Everything has changed since he last raced, but I'm sure he will be quicker at Spa as the pace is there in the car. As for me, I'm just focusing on Formula Two. It's nice to be linked with the team, but my mentality is just to do a good job in Formula Two for the remaining three rounds – after that, I'll start thinking about my future.”