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Salo joins the team

FINLAND's Mika Salo was named as Ferrari's replacement for Michael Schumacher on Tuesday last week and that evening had his first laps in a Ferrari F399 at the team's Fiorano test facility. Salo completed 26 laps of the track before testing stopped at 9pm. In the course of the next two days he did another 200 laps of Fiorano before flying off to Finland on Friday to get ready for his wedding on Saturday to his longtime girlfriend Noriko Endo. Mika was due to be back at Fiorano on Monday to shake down the cars which will be used at the Austrian Grand Prix this weekend.

The announcement that Salo had been signed was a big disappointment for the team's test driver Luca Badoer - who hurried back to Italy after Silverstone and did a full day of testing at Fiorano on Monday. The team gave no reason for the decision but it is believed that there are worries that his arm - broken in an accident at Fiorano in a Minardi earlier this year - is not yet strong enough. Ferrari is also understood to have talked to Jean Alesi but the Frenchman is reported to have turned down the drive.

At 32, Salo has competed in 71 Grands Prix for Lotus, Tyrrell, Arrows and British American Racing. His best results to date have all been fifth places but he can be expected to show well once he gets to grips with the Ferrari. Jean Todt has long been a Salo fan and there have been various attempts in recent years to get Mika to join the team.

Salo admitted that he was delighted. "I was lying in bed thinking," he said, "and I just could not stop smiling. All drivers dream of driving a Ferrari."

Although he has struggled to build a good career in F1 it is worth remembering that Salo was a match for Mika Hakkinen in the British Formula 3 series in 1990. The two dominated the season: Hakkinen winning nine races for West Surrey Racing and Salo winning six for Alan Docking Racing.

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