SAO PAULO — Almost five decades after Emerson Fittipaldi opened the way for Brazilian drivers in Formula One, his 17-year-old grandson Enzo is keen to carry on the famous name in the series.
The Fittipaldi family has a lot of history in F1: Emerson won 14 races and world titles in 1972 and 1974. His brother Wilson competed in the 1970s in a car crafted by the Fittipaldi family. Wilson’s son, Christian, took part in 40 races in the 1990s.
It could soon be Enzo’s turn, after he became the only driver of Ferrari’s academy to win a title this year, with eight wins and 14 pole positions in Italy’s Formula 4.
The teenager hopes to move to Formula 3 next season, eyeing a possible move to Formula One within years.
The young Fittipaldi wants to follow another Ferrari academy driver, 21-year-old Charles Leclerc, who will race for the Italian team next year.
“I am making the best out of the academy now; we are going step by step,” Enzo told The Associated Press in the Interlagos paddock on Saturday before the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Enzo started in go-karts at age four with grandfather Emerson in attendance.
“I never forgot that day,” an emotional 71-year-old Fittipaldi said. “He looked at me as he drove, went straight and crashed. I went there to say, `You need to make the turn, Enzo!”‘
Now granddad feels his advice is not so useful anymore.
“Drivers like him start early, they have all the electronics. Even in go-karts they have telemetries now. In my days it was all about mechanics,” Emerson said.
Enzo hopes one day he will be able to race his 22-year-old brother Pietro, who was named on Friday as Haas’ test driver for the 2019 season. The two are expected to share an apartment in Maranello, Ferrari’s base.
“We already race each other in simulators every now and then,” Pietro said. “Racing for real would be a dream.”
Emerson believes there’s a good chance his grandchildren will meet in F1 races.
“I raced my brother Wilson for three years. Michael Schumacher raced against Ralf, too. It surely could happen to Enzo and Pietro,” he said.
Asked what he will do if the two fight for a position in a race, Emerson spoke as a grandfather rather than a racing great.
“I will close my eyes for sure.”