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Right place right time for Santino Ferrucci, is he America's next Formula 1 driver?

Haas F1 has signed its first American driver, GP3 racer Santino Ferrucci, ahead of the US team’s debut in Formula 1 this year.

Right place right time for Santino Ferrucci, is he America's next Formula 1 driver?

Haas F1 has signed its first American driver, GP3 racer Santino Ferrucci, ahead of the US team’s debut in Formula 1 this year.

Ferrucci, who is about to begin his first year of racing in GP3, will become Haas F1’s development driver alongside his commitments to the F1 support series.

The 17-year-old American has spent the last two seasons competing in FIA European Formula 3 and recorded a best finish of 11th in the championship last year.

XPB.cc Esteban Gutierrez

In his GP3 campaing, Ferrucci will compete with the DAMS single-seater team that ran F1 drivers Romain Grosjean, who will race for Haas this year, and Jolyon Palmer to their respective GP2 titles and Kevin Magnussen and Carlos Sainz Jr to their championship wins in what was then known as Formula Renault 3.5.

Like those drivers, Ferrucci is aiming to race in F1 and hopes that his deals with Haas and DAMS will prepare him for a career at the pinnacle of motorsport.

He said: “My goal since I first started racing was to become a Formula 1 driver, and to be an American who is part of an American team is something I take a tremendous amount of pride in.

“There is still a lot of work I need to do, but being paired with Haas F1 Team will allow me to learn more and at a faster rate. It’ll allow me to make the most of my GP3 drive with DAMS and, ultimately, prepare me for Formula 1.”

In his capacity as a development driver, Ferrucci will attend F1 races and tests with the Haas and conduct running in its simulator.

Guenther Steiner Haas F1

Guenther Steiner, Haas F1’s team principal, described the potential his squad sees in Ferrucci and described the deal as a project to develop him as a driver.

He said: “In Formula 1, developing your personnel is as important as developing your racecar. You can’t have one without the other. Santino Ferrucci has done a very good job of proving himself in each of the racing series he’s competed in, and his maturity outside of the racecar is impressive.

“We see Santino as a young, American driver with a lot of potential. His opportunity with DAMS is an excellent way for him to further his development while positioning Haas F1 Team for future success.”

Romain Grosjean

Haas F1’s deal with Ferrucci is interesting as the team opted not to sign an American driver for its debut season, despite the presence of Alexander Rossi (see below) on the grid last year.

America’s first F1 team for 30 years explained that it was prioritising F1 experience over nationality while the team gets up and running and so selected Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez as its 2016 race drivers.

Grosjean has made no secret of his desire to race for Ferrari, Haas F1’s partner outfit, and Gutierrez also has close ties to the Scuderia, which may have an opening if Kimi Raikkonen decides to retire in the near future.

Santino Ferrucci Haas F1

Ferrucci’s plans to race in GP3, which is on the same bill as F1 at nine Grands Prix this year, means Haas can closely evaluate his progress in 2016 and also observe his F1 potential via their own systems in the coming years.

Rossi re-signs with Manor

The last American F1 driver to complete a full season was Scott Speed back in 2006, although Rossi did take part in five races for Manor in 2015.

The 24-year-old had hoped to secure a full-time deal with the British team for this season before Manor opted to sign Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto as its race drivers.

XPB.cc Alexander Rossi

Rossi recently signed a deal to compete in IndyCar with Andretti Autosport this but was then re-signed by Manor as the team’s reserve driver for 11 races this season.

Racing in F1 is clearly Rossi’s target beyond 2016 and he explained that he is using his IndyCar drive as a way of staying sharp alongside his deal to support Manor.

He said: “I’ve invested most of my career in F1 and I’m not one to kick my heels and wait for things to happen, so this is my way of staying sharp and prepared. It was disappointing to miss out on a race seat with Manor Racing this year; everyone knows I pushed and worked hard for it.

“As official reserve driver though, I have a very complimentary dual program at the highest level of motorsport. IndyCar Series is the premier category of open wheel racing in North America and extremely competitive. I also have the privilege of racing with a championship winning team, Andretti Autosport.

Alexander Rossi

“I’m confident this experience will add to my role as a very important cog in an F1 team’s wheel. My schedule this year is demanding, but no more than a full time F1 schedule. I will attend 11 Grands Prix, only five of which take place during the IndyCar season, and I am certainly used to the travel demands of the F1 calendar.

“It’s great to be back with a team I know and with whom I share a mutual respect and passion for the sport we love.”

What do you make of Ferrucci’s deal with Haas F1? Could he be the next American F1 star? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.

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