To the delight of many in the United States, Formula 1 now has an American team in Haas F1 on the grid for the 2016 season. With back-to-back high-points scoring finishes to kick off their campaign, there is only one thing missing to fulfill the American F1 followers: an American driver.
Californian racer Alexander Rossi had a few outings with the Manor team last year but was ultimately outbid by Rio Haryanto to be retained for 2016, and has had to accept a reserve driver role with the squad while dovetailing this with a full-time race seat at Andretti Autosport’s IndyCar Series team.
There were fears that the brief flirtation with a driver racing with the ‘Stars and Stripes’ had passed.
That fear was short-lived as Haas F1 announced their development driver, Santino Ferrucci, on March 9. The 17-year-old hails from Woodbury, Connecticut, and holds a strong future in the world of open-wheel racing.
We had the opportunity to speak with the young American on April 1 at the Martinsville Speedway – a Virginian short track where Ferrucci spent time supporting Gene Haas’ NASCAR program – to talk about his opportunity with Haas F1 and what it’s like to travel around the globe.
|Full Name||Santino Ferrucci|
|Born||31 May 1998, Woodbury (USA)|
|2012-13||SBF2000 Winter Series, 10 races, 3 wins, 6 podiums, 3 pole positions, 4 fastest laps|
|2013||F2000 Championship Series, 8 races, 1 pole, 4 fastest laps, 5th overall|
|2014||German Formula 3, EuroInternational, 3 races, 2 wins, 3 podiums, 1 pole, 2 fastest laps
ATS Formel 3 Cup, 5 races, 1 podium, 10th overall
British Formula 3, Fortec Motorsport, 3 races, 2 wins, 3 podiums, 1 pole, 2 fastest laps
European Formula 3, EuroInternational, 20 races, 19th overall
|2015||Toyota Racing Series, Giles Motorsport, 16 races, 1 win, 6 podiums, 3rd overall
European Formula 3, Mücke Motorsport, 33 races, 1 podium, 11th overall
Macau Grand Prix, Mücke Motorsport, 6th overall
|2016||GP3 Series, DAMS
Formula 1, Haas F1 Team Ferrari, development driver
Can you talk about your role with Haas F1 and how that came together for you?
It started not too long ago, we were just talking. We ended up doing a deal, mainly to help both of us. I’m just a development driver for them, hang out with the team, get to learn. They’ll teach me as a driver, hopefully bring me up through the ranks and hopefully one day drive for them.
Recap your racing career up to this point. How would you be able to get such a big opportunity like this?
Well, I started in karting a lot in America and someone told me to go over to Europe – because if you want to go to Formula 1, you need to start with the European ranks.
Started over there, karting was good and the next step is obviously cars. I joined F3, did pretty well. We had a couple of good races. We got noticed on some of the high-speed tracks and the wet tracks where it’s a lot of driver skill.
From there on – from about last year, mid-year – I’ve been talking to Haas. Obviously, they’re doing the Formula 1 deal. They wanted me to be a part and I’m very honored to. So this year we are taking on GP3 to race nine races with Formula 1 [companion weekends] and hopefully to keep going into the future.
You’re at Martinsville Speedway with the Stewart-Haas Racing team. Talk about what you’re doing here.
Actually, these guys are kind of like my family. I’ve known Tony [Stewart] since 2012 at Watkins Glen when Lewis Hamilton and him did the seat swap. I’ve been invited back and obviously Tony has been great to me. The whole team has been like a family. I really enjoy coming over here and spending some time with these guys.
What F1 races do you go to? Do you travel around?
I’ll travel to, I think, 11 or 12 races this year. Ill end up going to Barcelona, Sepang, Malaysia, Abu Dhabi, Spa, Silverstone in England, obviously I’ll be at COTA, Circuit of the Americas. Montreal, as well. So quite a few but not all of them.
What’s it like to travel around the world like that? Every time you get out of the plane, do you even know where you are sometimes?
You know, when you wake up in a hotel room, it’s a little strange at first. But traveling is not so bad. You just get so used to being in hotel rooms and moving around. I don’t spend a whole lot of time at home, I basically live at a track. This is my home, it’s pretty nice.
What was the Australian Grand Prix for Haas from your perspective? A sixth-placed finish for Romain Grosjean had to be a big deal for you?
Oh my god. You know what, I am actually speechless after that. They did such a fantastic job for their first race. The expectations, there wasn’t really any. The goal for us was to score points toward the end of the year. To come out with a freaking sixth place in the first race, I couldn’t be happier and more proud of the team.
Do you see that happening more often? They did stay ahead of [Nico] Hülkenberg behind him, in a Mercedes-powered car. Do you see more runs like that?
They are working hard. I think the goal is to run a lot of laps. They have a lot of learning to do. I think if they keep working at it, keep digging, they’ll get in the top 10 and hopefully be scoring some high points toward the end of the year. I have high hopes for them and I know they’re hard working and doing their best.
Images via GP3 Series Media