Pietro Fittipaldi returned to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a wheelchair on Thursday but hopes to be back in an Indy car by the end of July.
The 21-year-old rookie from Brazil suffered a broken left leg and right ankle in a sports car accident earlier this month at Spa and, obviously, won’t be making his Indy 500 debut this year for Dale Coyne.
But Emerson Fittipaldi’s grandson intends to get back on his horse ASAP.
“My focus right now is to get back as soon as possible,” he said to the media during a press conference at IMS. “Like the plan is already in a week to get back in a go-kart. That’s what we want to do, then get back in Mid-Ohio.
“I’m disappointed, I’m hurt that I’m not being able to race here in the 500. But it is what it is. It’s toughen up and get back as soon as possible.”
His crash happened at Eau Rouge, one of fastest and most famous corners in all of motorsports. His BR chassis suffered a power outage and he was a passenger as he blasted into the wall at 150mph.
“We had an electrical issue and I lost power steering, went straight into the wall in qualifying,” he explained. “I tried to turn the car but it (steering) was locked up.
“Right before I hit I thought, ‘Oh I’m going pretty fast,’ and I was a little scared.”
At 5-foot-9, 155 pounds, Fittipaldi absorbed a pretty good pounding but is already making noticeable progress, thanks to Jim Leo’s PitFit Training and Dr. Terry Trammell.
“I’m a lot better,” he continued. “I got here on Friday. I’ve been working with all the IndyCar doctors. Dr. Trammell has been helping me a lot and I’ve been training at PitFit for physical therapy. My upper body feels normal, feels very strong. That’s what we’re trying to keep so when I get back in the racecar I’m really fit on the upper body. They’re already working on the lower body, as well, doing a lot of quad and hamstring stuff.
“I’m already weight bearing on the left leg, which is quite early, but the doctor has been pushing me quite hard. We’re already doing that here. Then getting the mobility back on the right ankle is going to be important, which we already are.”
Besides uncle Max Papis and cousin Christian, Fittipaldi has been getting pep talks from different IndyCar drivers. And one in particular spent an hour giving him encouragement.
“Sebastien [Bourdais] came to my motorhome yesterday,” said Fittipaldi, speaking of his teammate who was seriously injured last May during 500 qualifying. “I was speaking to him for an hour or so. He was telling me all about his recovery, his rehab, how he got back in around eight to 10 weeks, something like that. It’s obviously very inspiring.
“The environment here, it’s great. I think from all the drivers, it’s a much closer community than what we’re used to in Europe.”
Coyne is juggling the scheduled to accommodate young Fittipaldi. Zachary Claman De Melo is filling in at Indy and Texas but Coyne said there could be a different driver at Detroit’s doubleheader next month.
“Realistically, Pietro’s original schedule was to do the GP, this race, Texas, then not come back till Mid-Ohio,” said Coyne. “I think the plan is we’ve moved some races around with Zach, so he’ll do this race, probably Texas.
“But that frees the whole rest of the season up so he can come back at Mid-Ohio and finish up the season.”