Just 20 years old, American racer Santino Ferrucci trying to salvage racing career in IndyCar

IndyCar
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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Santino Ferrucci has spent most of his life trying to be the next American driver in Formula One. His journey took him from go-karting in Connecticut to European junior racing in Italy and a development deal with the Haas F1 team.

Then Ferrucci torpedoed his career in spectacular fashion.

The 20-year-old in July purposely crashed into his teammate at the end of an F2 race, refused to appear before race stewards to discuss his actions and was later reprimanded for driving with a gloveless hand holding a cellphone. He was fined almost $80,000, suspended for four races and dropped by his team, which sided with Ferrucci’s teammate for the “unsportsmanlike and above all uncivilized behavior that he was forced to endure … by Santino Ferrucci and father, who accompanied him.”

Haas has not dropped Ferrucci from its development program, but the driver is essentially persona non grata in European racing circles right now.

So Ferrucci has been back in the U.S. the last month, roaming the IndyCar paddock. He raced the doubleheader in Detroit in June and liked IndyCar, so that’s where he returned after his F2 debacle.

Ferrucci has scraped together a deal for the remaining two races of the season with Dale Coyne Racing, and he’ll be in the field Sunday in IndyCar’s return to Portland International Raceway.

It could be argued that IndyCar is Ferrucci’s only option right now and that unless he completely rebuilds his reputation, he may never get another chance to race in Europe again. But if he’s settling, Ferrucci is saying all the right things in an effort to show IndyCar is where he wants to race.

“This is where I want to be,” Ferrucci said of IndyCar. “This atmosphere, this series, this is where my focus is now. I’ve reprioritized where I’m trying to be and this is it now.”

He talks about the welcoming paddock in IndyCar and competitors who want to help each other learn. Ferrucci noted IndyCar became a viable route first when Alexander Rossi abandoned his climb through F1 – Rossi is now an Indianapolis 500 winner and in the thick of IndyCar’s championship race – and Robert Wickens, who chose IndyCar this season when he left touring cars in Germany. Wickens is currently hospitalized with a spinal injury suffered in an Aug. 19 crash.

Ferrucci is also embedded with the Coyne team, giving him access to studying craft with Sebastien Bourdais, a four-time series champion and former F1 driver. Bourdais is blunt, sugarcoats nothing, and has no time or tolerance for arrogant young drivers.

Ferrucci over the last month has figured out how to work with the French champion.

“Seb is very direct. When you ask him a question, there’s a good chance you won’t like the answer,” Ferrucci said. “I’ve worked on learning to like his answers.”

Ferrucci said he’s worked on many things since his meltdown at Silverstone in July, including how to handle his emotions and learning not to erupt when he’s frustrated or angry. He maintains he crashed into his teammate out of anger and dismisses a sponsorship flap with his F2 team as an “internal team matter that should not have been made public.” Ferrucci tried to run a “Make America Great Again” sticker on his car but the FIA rejected the request because political slogans or symbols are banned.

Ferrucci is vague on the MAGA incident. But he notes that he’s not from a wealthy family and needed outside backers to continue his career through his teenage years. In exchange for funding, Ferrucci runs decals and branding that are dictated by his sponsors.

Ferrucci said he was never any good at traditional sports and, because he idolized Michael Schumacher, he decided very early to become a driver. It was a quirky hobby for an Italian kid in Connecticut, and Ferrucci says he was often bullied at school.

“I don’t talk about it that much because it’s embarrassing,” Ferrucci said. “But I was bullied because I did something different, because I wasn’t like the other kids.”

His early experiences hurt him later in Europe, where the competition is cutthroat for every sponsorship dollar and available seat. Friendships were hard to come by, the opposite of the close-knit IndyCar paddock, and Ferrucci said he feels accepted in this series.

Ferrucci’s future beyond the IndyCar season finale at Sonoma is up in the air. He assumes he’ll be at F1’s U.S. Grand Prix with the Haas team in Texas, but reiterated he’d like to put together a future in IndyCar.

He could get a step closer, he believed, with two clean finishes in the Coyne car and a chance to change his image.

“People think I’m this rich, arrogant kid and that’s not accurate,” Ferrucci said. “I’m 20 years old and I’ve made mistakes, and I’m emotional and have done stupid things. I’ve learned from it and now I have to show that I’m not who people think I am.”

Sergio Perez wins rain-delayed race in Singapore over Leclerc; Verstappen seventh

Sergio Perez Singapore
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SINGAPORE — Max Verstappen’s Formula One title celebrations were put on hold after the Red Bull driver placed seventh at a chaotic Singapore Grand Prix, won by his teammate Sergio Perez on Sunday.

Perez’s second win of the season saw him finish 7.6 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, with Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. in third place.

Perez was investigated for a potential safety car infringement but still kept the win after a 5-second time penalty for dropping too far back after being warned.

Verstappen had won the past five races but needed to win here and finish 22 points ahead of Leclerc to be crowned champion for a second straight season. That could happen next weekend at the Japanese GP.

Verstappen made a mistake after the second safety car restart, following AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda’s crash on Lap 36. When Verstappen tried to overtake Lando Norris’ McLaren, he locked his tires and needed to pit again.

Leclerc started from pole position with Verstappen going from eighth after a team blunder in qualifying.

The race start was delayed by more than an hour to clear water off the Marina Bay Circuit track following heavy rainfall. Drivers had to finish the 61-lap race within a two-hour window; 59 laps were completed.

Tricky conditions saw the virtual safety car deployed three times and DRS was allowed with about 30 minutes remaining.

Perez made a good start and jumped past Leclerc while Verstappen dropped several places. The first safety car was on Lap 8 when Zhou Guanyu’s Alfa Romeo was cut off by Nicholas Latifi’s Williams.

Perez got away cleanly at the restart, while Verstappen climbed into seventh behind Fernando Alonso – whose 350th F1 race ended disappointingly when his engine failed on Lap 21, bringing out the first VSC.

With the track still damp, drivers decided against changing to quicker tires – apart from Mercedes’ George Russell, who struggled for grip.

Hamilton made a rare mistake on Lap 33 and thudded into the crash barrier. Soon after, the leading drivers changed tires in a flurry of stops. They did so just before the safety car was deployed again following Tsunoda’s error.

Verstappen overtook Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin right at the end for seventh place.