Pietro Fittipaldi will be a test driver for Haas F1 Team in 2019. Photo: IndyCar

For first time since 1970, Brazilian GP will have no homegrown drivers

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SAO PAULO (AP) — For the first time since 1970, there will be no Brazilian driver in a Formula One race in Brazil.

So fans in the racing-crazy South American nation, home to eight F1 titles by three champions, are putting all their hopes on two young test drivers who will have a bigger role in the series next year.

Pietro Fittipaldi, the 22-year-old grandson of former F1 champion Emerson Fittipaldi, was announced Friday as test driver for Haas starting after the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP.

Sergio Sette Camara, the 20-year-old who is the only Latin American driver in Formula 2, will be McLaren’s test driver next year.

Sette Camara is sixth in the F2 standings with one race to go this season, while Pietro Fittipaldi drove as a part-time driver in the IndyCar Series. Both had their seasons marred by crashes that forced them to miss races.

Despite not having the same impressive results as some of the former Brazilian drivers before they reached F1, Sette Camara and Pietro Fittipaldi are the closest the country has to F1 since Felipe Massa retired last season after a successful career in the series.

The standards are high for Brazilian fans who were used to cheering for racing greats such as Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna, and more recently for less legendary names such as Massa and Rubens Barrichello.

“I hope these test drivers are better than fans expect. What are their names again?” said 45-year-old engineer Augusto Daniel, wearing a Mercedes cap. “I love racing regardless of seeing any Brazilian on the grid, but it is obviously disappointing not to be able to wave our flag for a local driver. It will be a strange experience this time, it will be a bit less emotional too.”

Senna was the last Brazilian to win the F1 title, in 1991. Pique won his three world titles in the 1980s, and Fittipaldi won two in the early 1970s.

Massa came close with Ferrari in 2008, losing the title by one point to Lewis Hamilton in the last lap of the season-ending race at Interlagos.

“There are just too many reasons as to why we have no Brazilian drivers on the grid,” McLaren’s sporting director Gil de Ferran said. “There is the lack of sponsorship deals for younger drivers, there needs to be a better organization of the local racing calendar, professionals need better pay. Also, the country is in a long economy crisis. It is just too many factors. We have to root for our test drivers to succeed for now.”

Earlier in the week, five-time world champion Hamilton said he doesn’t know what Brazil is doing to put drivers into F1, but he can see what other nations are doing well.

“Mexico is putting a lot of money to put their drivers in F1, Russia too,” the British driver said.

Hamilton said he did not know much about Sette Camara, who had just been announced as McLaren’s test driver.

“But there’s definitely space for Brazil, this is a country of hardcore racing fans,” the Mercedes driver said.

Mexican Sergio Perez of Force India is the only Latin American driver on the F1 grid this year.

Sette Camara trusts Brazil’s traditions in F1 to end the short drought of local drivers in the series.

“This moment will pass because we had those mavericks opening the way, we are acknowledged as a country where talent flourishes, even if our economy is not as strong as Europe’s,” he said.

Pietro Fittipaldi said Brazil’s return to F1 could have happened earlier, as he was supposed to test for Haas before the Hungarian Grand Prix this year. He couldn’t because he broke both legs in a serious accident while driving in the World Endurance Championship.

He also believes the shortage of samba on the grid will be gone soon.

“There are several young pilots, including me, Sergio. I am 100 percent sure there will be another Brazilian driver in F1 pretty soon,” the young Fittipaldi said. “And there is also my brother, Enzo…”

Racing specialists see 17-year-old Enzo Fittipaldi as the biggest upcoming Brazilian talent. This year he had the best performance among all Ferrari academy drivers and ended with a Formula 4 title in Italy. He and Pietro will live together in Maranello, where the youngest will be able to learn from F1 much before he ever has a chance to fight for a cockpit.

Indianapolis 500 weather forecast: Rain chances decreasing for start

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INDIANAPOLIS — As the green flag keeps approaching for the 103rd Indianapolis 500, the chances of clear skies Sunday keep increasing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The chance of rain at the start of the race was down to about 30%, according to the wunderground.com site as of late Saturday night, and the forecast seemed good until late afternoon when the odds of precipitation rose to about 80%.

If the race starts on time at12:45 p.m. ET, that should be a long enough window to run the full 500 miles and certainly an official race (102 of 200 laps).

With Indiana on the western edge of the Eastern Time Zone and a 9:02 p.m. sunset on race day, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Doug Boles said the green flag probably could be held as late as 6 p.m. if a worst-case scenario of bad weather hits.

THE 103RD INDIANAPOLIS 500: Click here for how to watch

“We ran the NASCAR race (in 2017) almost right up to sunset,” Boles said. “The challenge of getting closer to sunset is just getting people out when it’s still light. The race itself is more than 2 hours and 40 minutes so you have to back-time yourself.

“We’ll sit down with IndyCar over the next 24 hours and at least have that in the back of our mind. If there’s a window to get it done, our intent would be get it in Sunday, so we would want to go as late as we could.”

Boles said National Weather Service representatives are on site this weekend to help with forecasting. Regardless of if there still is a threat of rain, the track will start the race on time as long as the surface is dry.

“I can’t imagine we’d postpone the start because we think it might rain,” Boles said. “If it’s not raining, we’re running the race.

Boles said track officials are monitoring Sunday’s weather daily but won’t discuss any potential contingency plans until Saturday night. Regardless of whether it’s raining Sunday morning, some pre-race ceremonies likely will remain in place.

“It’s hard to speculate on what’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s likely Sunday morning will be the first time that we have any definitive statement on what we think is going to happen. Instead of giving you information that we don’t know what it’s going to be like, I’d rather wait until that Sunday when we see the conditions, and we’ll let you know.

“Obviously, if it’s raining, then we’ll have to decide what the next steps are.”

Boles said Indiana weather traditionally is unpredictable, noting that qualifying was completed last Sunday despite predictions of a complete washout.

“Last year the prediction was it was going to rain on race day, we got up next morning, and it was perfect,” Boles said. “It just changes so rapidly around here.”

Should it rain, IndyCar officials will make every reasonable attempt to run the Indy 500 on time,. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway also recently used a new sealant on the track surface which makes it quicker to dry the racing surface.

During the previous 102 runnings of the Indy 500, there have been 12 impacted by rain: three complete postponements; two partial postponements and seven shortened races.

So what happens if it does rain? Some options:

Rain-shortened race

The Indy 500 could turn into the Indy 255. If more than 255 miles (102 laps) are completed in Sunday’s race, the race can be deemed official. If the race is called, driver’s finishing positions are based on their position in the race at the time of the caution flag for rain.

The Indy 500 has been shortened by rain only seven times, most recently in 2007. The race was stopped nearly three hours because of rain on Lap 113 and was declared officially over with Dario Franchitti in the lead when rain again hit at the 415-mile mark.

Partial postponement

If fewer than 102 laps are completed Sunday, the race will resume on the next dry day. With most Americans on holiday Monday because of Memorial Day, a partial postponement still might allow for a healthy audience at the track and watching on NBC.

The race has been partially postponed only twice in the 102 previous runnings, in 1967 and 1973.

Complete postponement

Fans shouldn’t worry too much about a complete postponement of the race, as it has only happened three times, most recently in 1997. If rain completely postpones the Indy 500, the race will be rescheduled for the next day with the start time dependent on the forecast.

The 1997 race ran 15 laps on Monday before rain again postponed the remainder of the race until Tuesday. The 1915 and ’86 runnings were postponed until the following Saturday.