Filippi’s long road from Formula One analyst to best IndyCar finish

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There’s a lot of people Luca Filippi has to thank.

After finishing second Sunday in Toronto, earning his best-career finish in his 16th Verizon IndyCar race, Filippi did his due diligence.

Chronologically, the list began with former IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard, who saw the Italian’s performance when he won the last race of the GP2 Championship in 2011 in Monza, Italy. That year, Filippi finished as the Vice Champion in the series, which is the highest class in Europe below Formula One.

“After that I didn’t have the opportunity to race Formula One, so it was difficult as well to get an IndyCar seat,” Filippi said.

“In the meantime, in 2012 I was the commentator for the IndyCar races in Italy for Sky Sport, and because they thought I was good at that, for the year after I was doing the same thing but traveling to the races for the Formula One broadcast.”

Though Filippi admits he’s not an engineer, he says he loves to get into the technical details of racing and was able to do this as the as the technical expert for Sky Sports.

“(I was) showing the differences between the cars, aerodynamic point of view, the changes, and I was in the pits trying to show the people at home the changes that the teams were doing and what kind of work there is behind Formula One car,” Filippi says. “I’m a racing driver but more than anything I’m passionate about what I’m doing and very passionate about technically, the car.”

Bernard had connected him to James Pallotta, an American investor and hedge fund manager who has owned the Italian soccer club A.S. Roma.

“He knew I wanted to do IndyCar, so because of that, I started to actually work harder and harder to try and get an opportunity,” Filippi said Sunday after helping give CFH Racing its first 1-2 finish ever, in the team’s first year as a merged, multi-car unit. “I started coming to the races and meet engineers and people.”

Another name was Pirelli, the tire brand that furnishes Formula One and who Filippi serves as a tester for when he’s not actually competing.

“All the Formula One tires that you see are tested by myself,” Filippi said. “So I do a lot of work, a lot of testing during the off season, so this was also a part of every mileage, and doing tests, keeping myself up to speed, keeping the confidence and everything.”

The eight races Filippi has ran in this year, as the road-course specialist for CFH Racing, are his most over the last three seasons. In 2013 and ’14, the 29-year-old ran in four races each for Bryan Herta Autosport and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

“I’m still very thankful to Bryan, because he gave me an opportunity in 2013 out of the blue,” Filippi said. “Like it was kind of a very strange, I would say, decision to give me the car with no testing at all. But we ended up going well.”

Filippi made sure to mention to efforts of his manager, Rick Gorne.

In his four starts for Herta, Filippi’s best finish was 10th in the first Houston race that year.

“Doing quite well with Bryan gave me an opportunity last year with Rahal, so I’m also very thankful to Bobby,” Filippi said. “When we had the opportunity in Houston, I was very fast (finishing 21st and 15th), and here in Toronto, I raced here last year and I had this opportunity, and, again, this is why I’m here today.”

It’s also why, in addition to pit strategy, Filippi is the highest finishing Italian driver in Toronto since Alex Zanardi won in 1998.

Now, Filippi can go into IndyCar’s first off-week in 10 weeks at ease himself and his performance. It might be his last moment of ease before he and his wife welcome a child into their lives.

“Now our little baby will be born happy and satisfied and proud of daddy.”