There was a time when Santino Ferrucci was “America’s next Formula One star.” But racing’s new star-spangled golden boy fell from grace in a single weekend: after intentionally crashing into his own teammate, allegedly making racial slurs and then being caught texting in the cockpit at the same time people found out he applied to run a “Make America Great Again” decal on his race car, Ferrucci was cut by his team and fined $575,000 in damages. You’d have been forgiven for thinking that Ferrucci’s career was over.
That was before an IndyCar team, Dale Coyne Racing, signed Ferrucci in the thick of the scandal. What started as a two-race deal at the end of 2018 turned into full-season ride for 2019, and now an Indy 500 Rookie of the Year title.
There were skeptics abound at the start of the season—but now, people argue, it’s time to forgive Santino and move on. Dale Coyne Racing has said that, since they weren’t there to see what happened in F2, they’ve moved on from the scandal, and so should you. He’s apologized! The implication is that he has grown as a person and fundamentally changed his worldview since this time last year.
To that I say nope.
I noticed the whole notion really started to kick up during the Indy 500 broadcast. I’ll admit that Ferrucci drove well—finishing in the top 10 at Indy in your rookie year while also avoiding some big wrecks takes great skill, and no one can deny him that.
But NASCAR veteran Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was part of the 500 broadcast, lauded Ferrucci for his bold maneuver and named himself a big fan. Then, on Sunday’s Detroit Grand Prix broadcast, the NBC team noted only that Ferrucci “fell afoul of a few rules” in his European career while praising his impressive drive, and sportscaster Krista Voda asked “how can you not be a fan of that guy?” when transitioning to an interview with Ferrucci.
After that, I found that more and more people on Racing Twitter asking what’s so wrong with Ferrucci, anyway? The general motorsport fan base seems to be trending toward the kind of forgiveness NBC’s broadcasting booth has given Ferrucci.
Again, nah. I am, frankly, tired of giving people a free pass just because they haven’t done anything egregiously stupid in a while. Just because someone has learned to avoid publicizing their shitty attitudes doesn’t mean they’ve actually learned or grown or matured in any way. Just because someone hasn’t been a dick lately doesn’t mean they’re not prepared to do it again when the mood strikes. And I am very fucking over giving those kinds of people the benefit of the doubt.
Brushing off Ferrucci’s F2 transgressions as “running afoul” of some rules (as if he had, say, been prone to speeding in the pitlane) is insulting—both to his current competitors in IndyCar and to anyone who had to race against him in his junior career. It is insulting to his former teammate Arjun Maini, who was harassed and endangered on and off the track. It is insulting to those of us who have encountered belligerently ignorant people in our own lives, the kind of people with enough power to tread on us and get away scot-free. It is insulting to motorsport as a whole, given that it relies so heavily on the inherent trust between drivers that you will not intentionally put someone else’s life at risk.
You can decide you want to be a fan of Santino. You can think he’s a great driver. You can move forward from his junior career if you want to. I just won’t be joining you any time soon.