Pietro Fittipaldi will replace Romain Grosjean in F1’s second race Sunday at Bahrain

Pietro Fittipaldi Hickory champion
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SAKHIR, Bahrain — Romain Grosjean has been ruled out of the second Formula One race in Bahrain, and the Haas F1 team named Pietro Fittipaldi, a grandson of former F1 champion Emerson Fittipaldi and former Hickory Motor Speedway champion, as the replacement Monday.

Grosjean was hospitalized with burns on the back of both hands after a fiery wreck Sunday on the opening lap of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Haas said it anticipated Grosjean would be discharged Tuesday, but his injuries will sideline him Sunday for the Sakhir Grand Prix, the second race in Bahrain, which will use a shorter outer loop at the same venue. The circuit has been compared with an oval-type layout — which is fitting for the team’s replacement driver.

Fittipaldi, 24, will bring an American background to Haas F1, which has a base in Kannapolis, North Carolina, and is owned by U.S. businessman Gene Haas. The Brazilian won a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series championship at Hickory Motor Speedway in 2011.

Fittipaldi also made six NTT IndyCar Series starts in 2018. He had been slated to race in the 102nd Indianapolis 500 that season before missing more than two months because of a broken left leg and fractured right ankle in a May 4, 2018 qualifying crash at Spa-Francorchamps in the World Endurance Championship sports car series. After returning at Mid-Ohio, he finished ninth for Dale Coyne Racing at Portland International Raceway.

Haas F1 hired Fittipaldi as its test driver in November 2018. The team said he has attended the majority of Formula 1 races this season in his test and reserve driver role. After testing the team’s VF-18 and VF-19, Friday’s opening practice will mark his debut in the VF-20 car.

“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,” Haas 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.”

When Fittipaldi makes his debut, it will mark the third generation of his family to race in F1. Emerson Fittipaldi and his brother Wilson raced in the 1970s and 1980s, and Wilson’s son Christian Fittipaldi drove for three seasons in the early 1990s. Emerson Fittipaldi was champion in 1972 for Lotus and in 1974 for McLaren. He also is a two-time winner of the Indy 500 in 1989 and ’93.

Pietro Fittipaldi last raced in the Asian Formula Three championship in February.

“Obviously, it’s not an ideal set of circumstances to get my first opportunity to compete in Formula One, but I’m extremely grateful to (team owner) Gene Haas and Guenther Steiner for their faith in putting me behind the wheel this weekend,” Fittipaldi said.

“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.”