Santino Ferrucci is expected to be signed by Dale Coyne Racing for a full-time seat in the 2019 IndyCar Series. The American, who made his series debut mid-way through the 2018 season, is likely to be partnering Sebastien Bourdais in 2019, with it not yet known as to whether Pietro Fittipaldi or Zachary Claman De Melo could return to a potential full-time or part-time third car.
During his campaign in Formula 2 with Trident Racing, Ferrucci elected to dip his toe in the water of IndyCar for the first time. A deal came together for Ferrucci to make his debut in the #19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda at the Duel in Detroit race weekend; occupying the seat that would have been filled by Pietro Fittipaldi had it not been for the Brazilian’s injury at Spa-Francorchamps earlier in the year.
Despite being thrown in at the deep end mid-way through the season, Ferrucci was far from disappointing on debut. A steady set of practice sessions led to Ferrucci putting himself in eighteenth on the grid in qualifying for the first race of the doubleheader.
In the race, Santino managed to climb up to thirteenth place and was looking likely to advance further until an incident with Carlin‘s Charlie Kimball put him out of the race. Charlie would be penalized for running into the back of Kimball, but that would do little to compensate Ferrucci. The second race of the doubleheader looked as though it may be better, with Ferrucci qualifying further up the order in thirteenth place, but a spin on the pit-exit during the race relegated Santino to a twentieth place finish; one lap down on the race leaders.
After a weekend where he showed some potential despite his disappointing results, Santino returned to the Formula 2 championship to continue his season. However, the American caused major controversy at the British Grand Prix weekend at Silverstone after a slew of incidents tarnished his reputation. The major incident came at the end of Sunday’s sprint race, where Ferrucci intentionally crashed into his team-mate, Arjun Maini, post-race. It also emerged that Ferrucci had used his phone behind the wheel of the car on the way back to the support series paddock, as well as a host of other reported incidents behind the scenes at Trident Racing.
The incidents at Silverstone resulted in Ferrucci being banned from following two race weekends, but Trident took it a step further by firing Santino immediately. Left without a Formula 2 seat for the rest of the season, Santino elected to take another shot at IndyCar, with Dale Coyne Racing announcing that they will be fielding an additional third car, for Ferrucci for the final two races of the season at Portland International Raceway and Sonoma Raceway. The #39 Honda was sponsored by Cly-Del, Ferrucci’s long-term sponsor from his home state of Connecticut.
Portland was an unspectacular weekend for Ferrucci, with the American qualifying eighteenth and finishing the race in twentieth place, four laps down after a spin. Sonoma looked to be going in a similar direction after Santino qualified down in twentieth place, but a decent and clean race saw him climb through to order and avoid all the carnage around him to finish just outside of the top ten in eleventh place; his best finish of the four IndyCar races he took part in during the year.
Despite Ferrucci not having claimed the results he potentially could have done in his four-race tenure with the team, RACER is reporting today that Dale Coyne Racing is very close to signing Ferrucci to partner Bourdais full-time in the 2019 IndyCar season.
The news may come somewhat as a shock to some people, who may have thought that Coyne’s other 2018 part-time driver, Pietro Fittipaldi, may have had a better chance of taking the season; with the Brazilian having been impressive after taking decent finishes despite having potentially come back from injury a little too soon. Pietro himself even admitted that he was far from back to full health when he got back behind the wheel at Mid-Ohio.
Despite his leg injuries and another scare after being involved in the infamous crash at Pocono Raceway, Fittipaldi was able to finish in eleventh place at Gateway Motorsports Park. He went on to better that by taking his first top ten finish in IndyCar after taking ninth place at the Grand Prix of Portland. Even though Fittipaldi was arguably the strongest performer of Coyne’s part-timers, Ferrucci looks to be the driver getting the nod; which would be down to Santino having the better sponsorship package behind him.
Ferrucci’s deal with DCR is set to be formally announced within the coming days or weeks. A string of driver announcements over the last few weeks, including Patricio O’Ward and Colton Herta at Harding Steinbrenner Racing as well as Felix Rosenqvist at Chip Ganassi Racing, would take the total tally of full-time 2019 entrants up to twenty should Ferrucci be signed. Further deals are expected to be announced over the coming months too, including Fernando Alonso‘s as yet unknown Chevrolet seat, as well as further entries from the likes of Carlin and possibly McLaren.
The 2019 IndyCar season will kick off with the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 10.