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August 25, 2009

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Ferrari keeps options open as Badoer struggles

FORMULA One champion Ferrari could replace stand-in driver Luca Badoer if the Italian does not raise his game significantly in Belgium next weekend.

Badoer, the 38-year-old test driver making his comeback nearly a decade after his last race, struggled as a replacement for injured Brazilian Felipe Massa in Sunday's European Grand Prix in Valencia, Spain.

The Italian has said he has the job until Massa returns, which may not be this season, but team boss Stefano Domenicali sounded less sure of that after Badoer was the last car to cross the line in 17th place.

"For us the first priority is to understand when Felipe Massa will come back," he told reporters. "For sure it is an important race for Luca next weekend. We are expecting a big jump from him and then we will see."

Badoer, who has now started 50 races without scoring a point, picked up a reprimand and fines totaling 5,400 euros (US$7,732) in Friday practice and qualified last on Saturday.

In Sunday's race he used the Ferrari's KERS energy recovery system to get up to 14th at the start but was then in a collision with Renault rookie Romain Grosjean. He also spun and was handed a drive-through penalty for illegally crossing the white line on the pit lane exit after his pitstop.

Meanwhile, Massa will fly to the US on Friday to see a motor racing trauma specialist as part of his recovery from the life-threatening head injuries suffered in Hungary last month.

Ferrari said the Brazilian would visit neurosurgeon Steve Olvey, who was medical director of the former CART series.

Massa watched from his bed in Sao Paulo on Sunday as Barrichello won the European GP, the 37-year-old former Ferrari driver's first win in nearly five years. Massa said he had called Barrichello, who carried a message to his compatriot on his helmet, to congratulate him.

"I was with my fingers crossed all the time, expecting a victory that could keep the Brazilian domination in Valencia," said Massa, last year's winner in the city from pole position.


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