Emerson Fittipaldi

Emerson Fittipaldi is a semi-retired Brazilian automobile racing driver. He has won both the Formula One World Championship as well as the Indianapolis 500 twice, and the CART championship once.

Emerson Fittipaldi Bio

Fittipaldi was born on 12 December 1946 to a Brazilian motorsport family. He and his brother were already well-immersed in racing from a very young age. The two were also children of a very-well respected motorsport journalist in Brazil. Emerson became his elder brother’s mechanic when he was 14 in a local go-cart championship. Three years later, he followed in the footsteps of his brother and K started Kart racing and became the Brazilian national champion.

The following year, the duo won another championship and moved on to single-seater racing. Both of them funded their careers by building custom car accessories and karts. Later on, they built their own Formula Vee car which enabled Emerson to enter the Brazilian championship in 1967. He was massively successful in the local racing scene and soon his success allowed him to move to Europe. He moved to England on his own in 1969 but was unable to speak English at that time.

When he arrived in England, he bought himself a Formula Ford and kept working as a mechanic to fund his ventures. He then went on to win three races before moving up the Formula Three halfway through the season. Despite not being a part of many championships, he still managed to win the big title that year.

His success was quickly raising a new bar and caught the attention of big teams. In 1970, Colin Chapman finally signed him up for his well-known Lotus Formula Two Team. After impressing Chapman over and over again, he earned himself a long term deal which gave him access to Formula One test. He won his third car midway through the 1970s season. He then managed to finish his first race in the eight place after starting at the 21st position and scored points on the second outing to come at the fourth place. But before his fourth race, tragedy struck and the Lotus’s championship leader Jochen Rindt was killed during a practice session for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

After the accident, the team went down under as the second driver John Miles also walked away from Formula One. With this, the team had no choice but make Fittipaldi the leader and he duly responded by winning his first Grand Prix victory. He began driving the legendary 72 but had a tough season in 1971 following his amazing debut. He was only able to take three podiums in the year.

In 1972, he came back with a reckoning force. He took six consecutive podium finishes early on – including three wins. This put him in good control of the driver’s championship. Later on, back to back victories in Italy and Austria made him the youngest ever world champion at only 25 years of age and 273 days. This record was beaten by Fernando Alonso in 2005 when he won a title.

Fittipaldi continued to show his talent in the following year but was later joined by Lotus by Ronnie Peterson who proved to be quite a match for Fittipaldi. While he still won three of the first four races and another run of six consecutive podiums, it became a two-horse race between Jackie Stewart and Emerson Fittipaldi. During the mid-season run, three retirements cost him dearly. Peterson successfully beat him to win at Monza by less than a second. This result gave Stewart the championship that year and became the catalyst that caused Fittipaldi to move to McLaren next year.

This was a very smart move by the racer. The competitive car proved to be reliable in a very close season which featured seven winners. With only five races to go, Niki Lauda was in the lead for the championship but failed to finish the next race. With only three to go, Fittipaldi was at fourth position in the standings and just a race win behind Clai REgazzoni, the current leader. He held the second position in Italy and secured a win in Canada. This sent the pair to the final race of the season which was held at Watkins Glen and tied on 52 points. But Regazzoni struggled and allowed Fittipaldi to take the fourth place to win his second title. In 1975, he followed with another competitive season in which he finished second overall to Lauda.

Despite being the world champion two times and two times runner up in consecutive seasons, Fittipaldi made a bad move in 1976. His family pride and loyalty to his country made him pair up with his brother at the Copersucar sponsored team. But the two together just didn’t work out and they were unable to create the same success of Fittipaldi elsewhere. After failing to qualify several times over the next five seasons, he finally decided to retire from Formula One.

But the charm of racing proved hard for Fittipaldi to resist. He was eventually drawn back after receiving an invitation to drive at the IndyCar at Long Beach. He raced well and finished at the top to make his full-time return to racing. He then went on to win the 1989 IndyCar championship as well as the Indianapolis 500, a race which he won for the second time in the year 1993. But three years later, a heavy crash in Michigan left him with a fractured vertebra and a partially collapsed left lung. Soon afterward, he was part of a plane crash. With his newly acquired injuries, Fittipaldi decided that it was time to say goodbye to racing.

Fittipaldi Career High

Fittipaldi’s career-high was when he won Monza in 1972 to clinch the world championship. He became the youngest world champion ever at that time. He held this record for 33 years.

Fittipaldi Career Low

He went scoreless for 17 races in a car bearing his name across the 1979/80 seasons. This is the same time period when he decided to retire.

Other Notes:

Emerson Fittipaldi said in October of 2019 he wants to bring Formula 1 racing to Florida.  (Miami, in specific – at the Hollywood Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.)