The American kid from Connecticut with an Italian name who normally races in Europe says he’s thoroughly enjoying a chance to drive on home soil in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Dale Coyne Racing rookie Santino Ferrucci, who was signed to pilot the No. 19 Honda for the Dual in Detroit alongside Sebastien Bourdais, showed his potential on Friday after placing 18th on the speed charts.
The Haas F1 development driver, who competes full-time in the F2 feeder series, defied expectations by putting five drivers behind him while learning a brand-new car on a brand-new track.
Directly behind Chip Ganassi Racing’s Ed Jones and one spot ahead of Harding Racing’s Gabby Chaves, the IndyCar newcomer took solace from being in the general vicinity of Bourdais, who posted the 11th-fastest lap of the day.
“It’s definitely very different from what I’m used to, but I’m enjoying it and we showed great potential for what we can do,” he told RACER. “The course is beyond bumpy, so I was laying down earlier trying to recover. It’s just nice to be at home racing. It’s such an awesome experience.”
Ferrucci took an instant liking to the Dallara DW12 and its twin-turbo V6 Honda powerplant wrapped in IndyCar’s new universal aero kit. Coming directly from Monaco where he raced the Dallara F2 chassis powered by a V6 Mechachrome turbo, the differences he observed on Friday were remarkable.
“The only thing I can reference it to is an F2 car, and this feels lighter,” he said. “It’s really nice to have that couple hundred extra horsepower to get out of the corners, and working with Honda has been amazing to make adaptations to my driving style similar to what I’m used to in Europe. The weight of the steering isn’t heavy at all compared to F2, which is a nice change. This car, you can throw around and beat it up a lot more than in F2. It’s fun.”
Working under veteran race engineer Michael Cannon on the No. 19 car, Ferrucci has also absorbed everything Bourdais and his engineers Craig Hampson and Olivier Boisson have offered.
“I can’t say enough about the engineering here and working with Seb,” he added. “The team’s at a very high level, and they’ve brought me up to a very high level faster than I should be. I’m incredibly impressed.”
Snaring a pair of wins would be Ferrucci’s ultimate goal, but the 20-year-old has been in the sport long enough to know where realistic expectations should be set during the doubleheader weekend.
“Realistically, the car’s capable of being top five, and as a driver coming in with zero experience, I think I can put it around 10th,” he said. “If I’m between 10th and 15th, I’d be happy with myself.”