Pietro Fittipaldi will make his Formula 1 debut in place of Romain Grosjean in next weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix, after the Frenchman was ruled out due to injuries sustained on Sunday.
Grosjean suffered burns to the back of his hands after his Haas caught fire spectacularly when he crashed at nearly 140mph at the start of the Bahrain Grand Prix. The front part of the car sliced through a barrier and was engulfed in flames, with Grosjean managing to extract himself and jump clear but spending at least two nights in hospital as a result.
“After it was decided that the best thing for Romain was to skip at least one race, the choice to put Pietro in the car was pretty easy,” team principal Guenther Steiner said. “Pietro will drive the VF-20 and he’s familiar with us having been around the team for the past two seasons as a test and reserve driver.
“It’s the right thing to do and it’s obviously a good opportunity for him. He’s been patient and was always prepared for this opportunity — and now it has come. That’s why we want him in the car and I’m sure he’ll do a good job. It’s very demanding being called in at the last minute, but as I said, I think it’s the right thing to do for Haas F1 Team.”
The 24-year-old Brazilian — who was born in Miami — has been part of the Haas setup since late 2018, and also started six IndyCar races that year with a best finish of ninth in Portland.
“Most importantly I’m happy Romain is safe and healthy,” Fittipaldi said. “We’re all very happy his injuries are relatively minor after such a huge incident. Obviously, it’s not an ideal set of circumstances to get my first opportunity to compete in Formula 1, but I’m extremely grateful to Gene Haas and Guenther Steiner for their faith in putting me behind the wheel this weekend.
“I’ve been with the team a lot this season, both trackside and working on simulator sessions, so I’m familiar with the team’s operating procedures on a grand prix weekend. It’s going to be exciting to make my first career start in Formula 1 — I’ll be giving it my all and I look forward to starting in free practice on Friday in Bahrain.”
While the Sakhir Grand Prix takes place at the same Bahrain International Circuit, it will be run on a different layout with the outer circuit used that has long straights, just four braking points and nine real corners. Qualifying lap times are expected to be comfortably under the one-minute mark.