Photo: James Black/INDYCAR

DEHARDE: Time For Ferrucci to Make Most of Second Chance

By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer

Redemption, comeback stories and rebuilding one’s self are central themes in sports around the globe. The ability for an athlete to put their past behind them to make something better of themselves is a great narrative and one that shouldn’t be overlooked when Santino Ferrucci returns to the Verizon IndyCar Series this weekend at Portland International Raceway.

The 20-year-old isn’t ready to forget about his questionable actions from the Formula 2 weekend at Silverstone. However, he has accepted responsibility for his wrongful actions, both on and off track, and is ready to turn the page and return to racing.

“I made a mistake and I take complete blame for what happened,” said Ferrucci at a recent IndyCar race. “I’m very sorry for what I have caused to the team and to the series and to everyone around me including my sponsors and family. But, I have learned a lot since then and I understand what I have done wrong and how to make myself a better person coming forward.

“A lot has to do with maturity on track. It’s very easy to lose your temper in the car, it’s something that a lot of drivers work on but you never really see a big incident like that and the driver has to step back and look from almost a third point of view.”

It took Ferrucci a while to look at his behavior from a third person perspective. It wasn’t an easy realization to come to, especially with everything piling on at Silverstone. Acknowledging his need to grow up was step one of getting back on the right path.

What also should be acknowledged is that not everyone knows all the facts about Silverstone.

Besides his social media statement, nobody got any quotes from Ferrucci about what happened in Britain, partly because he had to leave the circuit to attend to a very serious family medical emergency. Ferrucci may reveal details about that in time depending on how it turns out.

Yet some are making wild accusations about that weekend that should be put to rest.

For one thing, yes, Ferrucci was holding a cell phone in his hand without a glove on while he was going between paddocks at Silverstone. However, there’s a simple explanation for this. He was listening to music on some bluetooth earbuds when the time came to go between the F1 and support paddock and he removed his earbuds before getting into the car.

Ferrucci was going to hand his phone to his physio but he had already left the area. Realizing he had no one to give the phone to, Ferrucci had to hold the phone since he wouldn’t hand it to some random person in the paddock to carry it for him as he went between paddocks.

Yet nobody asked him to explain why he carried his phone in that time. Some even speculated he was using it at the time.

Ferrucci was reported to have asked permission to run a Trump-MAGA livery on his car recently in a letter whose response to was leaked. Digging further into the claim, it turns out at a sponsor’s dinner, Ferrucci made a joke about running a MAGA car in response to a Brexit story being on the television nearby.

“Wouldn’t it be funny if there was a Trump-MAGA car out there as a response to the Brexit situation?”

The sponsor’s response was simple: “Make it happen.”

So there was a reason behind his request, but how many knew about that?

Why didn’t anybody ask any questions about it? Was it impossible to get in touch with Ferrucci? Over a month has elapsed since Silverstone. Or was it a case of everyone taking an opportunity to just make an assumption based on a polarizing world leader that would generate hits from clickbait headlines?

And that lack of questioning been the big problem. From what I’ve seen, only The Drive posted a line in an article saying that they reached out to Trident and my email to Trident about Silverstone is still unanswered.

Some drivers have been able to get past bad experiences in the past, like Dan Ticktum. At Silverstone in 2015, Ticktum passed numerous cars under the safety car in an MSA Formula race to crash into a competitor and was promptly given a two year ban from motorsport, the second year of that ban being suspended. He won the 2017 Macau Grand Prix and he’s in the Red Bull driver development program where there’s a slim possibility that he could test the Red Bull F1 car at the Abu Dhabi test.

Ticktum’s star has risen quite well because of Macau but there are still some remnants of that Silverstone accident that come out on Twitter from time to time. If Ferrucci is going to have his reputation wiped clean, that means getting good results and putting a serious effort in to fixing his image. What people may not see in private regarding Ferrucci’s hobbies and his other work outside of the car might need to come out.

Looking ahead to Portland, keeping a low profile will be essential for Ferrucci. He’ll more than likely have a leash on him from Dale Coyne Racing’s PR representative so tight that you’ll probably see the collar marks around his neck. Focus will be critical.

“These next two races are going to show a lot,” said Ferrucci. “I mean, I need to be a little bit extra careful than a normal driver in my position would be. I have sponsors and people that are watching and looking at what I’m going to do in Portland and Sonoma. To be honest I’m going to be myself, I’m going to keep my nose clean, I’m going to finish races.”

And he’ll have to make sure people know that he isn’t the same person anymore. Ferrucci nearly lost his development driver position with Haas F1 and will need to put himself on a clear platform away from his past.

That means acknowledging it happened, apologizing for it happening, and not doing something stupid to bring that past back to the forefront.

In other words, Ferrucci needs to show everyone that he’s grown up. This weekend is his first opportunity since Silverstone and he needs to take advantage of it and be a better person. It’s enough to talk the talk. Now, it’s time to walk the walk.

Now that Ferrucci has a second chance, everyone will be watching to see if he can make the most of it.

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A 2012 graduate of LSU, Christopher DeHarde primarily focuses on the NTT IndyCar Series and the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. DeHarde has actively covered motorsports since 2014.