Enzo Fittipaldi and Fernando Alonso Saturday at the Brazilian Grand Prix. Photo: Getty Images

Teenager Enzo dreams of returning Fittipaldi name to F1

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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.”

Lewis Hamilton aims to match Michael Schumacher’s F1 win record

Lewis Hamilton Schumacher record
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SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton has set many Formula One marks over the years, but few are as significant as the Michael Schumacher record he can match Sunday at the Russian Grand Prix.

Victory for Hamilton at the Sochi Olympic Park would see him draw level with Schumacher at 91 career victories, more than any other driver in the 70-year history of F1.

It also would increase Hamilton’s commanding 55-point lead over teammate Valtteri Bottas in the championship standings, putting him closer to a seventh world championship, matching another Schumacher record.

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History is on the side of Hamilton, who won Sept. 13 at Mugello. He’s won four of the six Russian races so far, and all six were won by Mercedes drivers. His closest challenger is likely to be Bottas, who beat Hamilton in the 2017 edition of the Russian Grand Prix.

Elsewhere in the championship hunt, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen’s season has gone up in smoke since his Aug. 9 victory at Silverstone. An overheating engine forced the Dutch driver out of the Sept. 6 race at Monza and then a similar problem struck just before the start at Mugello. Verstappen was far slower off the line than the cars around him and was struck by Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo.

That leaves Verstappen 80 points off Hamilton in the standings and a 25-point deficit to Bottas.

If Hamilton does win to tie Schumachher at Sochi, more fans will see it in person than any other race in a 2020 season mostly run before empty grandstands because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Organizers say the race weekend is sold out but haven’t given final ticket sales figures.

Race promoter Alexei Titov previously told Russian state TV that the stands would be at 50 percent of their capacity, which equates to around 30,000 spectators.

That’s far more than the previous season high of 3,000 fans for the most recent race, the Tuscan Grand Prix at the Mugello circuit.

Unlike at the last two races in Italy, there will be a full entertainment program on offer for fans with concerts featuring some of Russia’s most popular musicians.

Russian organizers say they’re taking precautions to keep fans safe and will have medical staff posted at checkpoints around the venue, and that spectators will have their temperature measured on entry.