Pietro Fittipaldi says he has been getting advice from his grandfather Emerson as well as other family members who raced in Formula 1 and the driver he will be replacing — Romain Grosjean — ahead of his debut at the Sakhir Grand Prix.
Grosjean’s spectacular first-lap crash in Bahrain last weekend left him with burns to his hands and an injured ankle that have ruled him out of driving at this weekend’s race, offering Fittipaldi the chance to make his debut. The Haas reserve driver has had advice from two-time F1 world champion Emerson, as well as family members Max Papis and Christian Fittipaldi who have also raced in the sport.
“Yeah from (Emerson), also from my uncle Max and Christian,” Fittipaldi said of the talks he’s had so far. “All of them saying first, enjoy it — you never have your debut in F1 again. So really go out there and enjoy it, take it step by step and then pedal to the metal.
“I’m not driving for the best team but for me it’s an amazing group of people. I think the group of people we have at Haas, they’ve been helping me a lot, the engineers, mechanics, I’ve known them for two years.
“Kevin (Magnussen) as well, Romain, they’ve been very supportive and open with me because they know it’s my first race, it’s going to be difficult with all the procedural stuff in F1. But the team has been amazing — that helps out a lot.
“It’s a great feeling for sure — I’ve been dreaming of racing in Formula 1 since I started racing. I was four years old when I started karting, so it’s surreal. Obviously it’s not under the best circumstances, my debut, with Romain having his crash, but he’s very lucky. Obviously he burned his hands and hurt his foot but very lucky to come out of that the way he did — it’s really a miracle.
“It’s difficult but obviously I’m happy with the opportunity. I’m grateful to the team for the trust they have in me. I’m looking forward to going out already tomorrow.”
Despite all the support and getting to fulfill a lifelong ambition, the Miami-born Brazilian admits he is expecting a shock to the system from a physical point of view jumping in for his first race weekend.
“It’s been about a year since I’ve last driven this car,” he noted. “I had the opportunity to drive the car a lot last year. I think I did about six or seven test days with Haas. But you do sim work, you try to keep physically fit. It’s just difficult to simulate the G-forces that you have in F1 cars in the gym — it’s almost impossible. You try to keep your neck fit, your upper body, but at the end of the day, the best training you can do is driving. I don’t know how this track will be physically — it’s a shorter track, longer straights, fewer corners but heavy braking zones.”
“I know it’s going to be a bit of a shock to my body on Friday. But we’re going to manage it and I’m confident we’re going to be good. So just trying to look through all the procedural stuff you have to do, the run plan for the first practices and then take it from there after Friday.”