Teams Emerson Fittipaldi
Races: 149Emerson Fittipaldi: A Champion of Many NationsBy Jeremy McMullenPage: 1
Career Points: 281
Emerson Fittipaldi's star would rise ever higher when, on the 30th of May in 1993, he would sneak by the then World Champion Nigel Mansell to come through and take what would be his second victory in the Indianapolis 500. The Brazilian's victory would be greeted with a chorus of cheers. His choice of drinking orange juice over the tradition milk would be the only negative that would draw some ire from the fans. Nevertheless, the victory and the reception only highlighted what a truly international champion Fittipaldi had truly become.
Fittipaldi's rise to international fame would start in Formula One. Fittipaldi would be thrust onto the public as much as he would be thrust into his role as the number one driver with Team Lotus. In fact, when Fittipaldi came through to win the United States Grand Prix in 1970, just his fifth race with the team, the victory would have many remarking 'Emerson who?!'
In reality, there would be much more to the story of Fittipaldi's first Formula One victory than what appeared on the surface. In many respects the moment would come to define Emerson's racing career—being in the right place at the right time.
Emerson Fittipaldi would be born in Sao Paulo, Brazil in December of 1946. His life's work was almost already laid before him when he was born to Jozefa 'Juzy' Wojciechowska and Wilson Fittipaldi Sr. Both of his parents would have careers racing production cars in the years immediately following the Second World War. But Wilson Fittipaldi Sr. would be a man of much depth as he would also become a motorsports commentator and race promoter. In fact, it would be Wilson's father that would be one of the instrumental figures in the creation of the Mil Milhas Brasileiras, an event inspired by the Mille Miglia. Being surrounded by such an incredible motorsports influence Emerson, who would be named for Ralph Waldo Emerson, would come to either love or hate the sport.
Not only would motorsports have an early influence on Emerson, but his ability to be adopted as an international champion was nearly as much a foregone conclusion. He may have been born in Sao Paulo, and his heart definitely resonates with the Brazilian people, but the blood coursing through his veins comes from about as varied a background as one could get. Fittipaldi's father was from an Italian family. His mother was of Russian descent. The two would immigrate to Brazil from Poland soon after being married. This interesting mixture could be cited as the source of his abilities behind the wheel of a racing car, but it could also be used to argue as to the reason why he would become so popular around the world.
But the world was not quite on Emerson's radar when he decided to become his brother's mechanic in karts in the local go-kart championship. At this time Emerson was just 14 years of age. The age of Formula One seemed far off into the distance. However, his talents behind the wheel, and other circumstances, would see to it that he would be racing in the pinnacle of motorsports just a handful of years later.
|Fittipaldi's rise through the ranks could not be describe in any better term than meteoric, especially after he took the Formula Vee championship in Brazil in 1967. But while he would enjoy success in Formula Vee, there would be very little in the way of success in his father's race, the Mil Hilhaus. Both he and his brother would take part in the race with very little success. Still, the success in Formula Vee would encourage Emerson to make the jump across the Atlantic to England in 1969 even though he didn't have a drive and couldn't speak the language. |
|1980||F8||Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8|
|1980||F7||Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8|
|1979||Fittipaldi F5A||Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8|
|1979||F6A||Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8|
|1979||F6||Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8|
|1978||Fittipaldi F5A||Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8|
|1977||FD5||Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8|
|1977||FD04||Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8|
|1976||FD04||Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8|
|1975||McLaren M23||Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8|
|1974||McLaren M23||Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8|
|1974||McLaren M23||Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8|
|1973||72D||Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8|
|1973||72E||Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8|
|1972||Lotus 72||Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8|
|1971||56B||Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8|
|1971||56B||Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8|
|1971||Lotus 72||Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8|
|1971||72D||Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8|
|1970||49C||Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8|
|1970||72B||Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8|
|1970||72A||Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8|
Emerson would find work as a mechanic and would sacrifice so that he could buy his own Formula Ford. Funding his own racing career, Fittipaldi would rely on his talents to make up the difference. And the difference he would make up as he would go on to win three races before the end of the season. This led to a drive in Formula Three. And, even though he would not come into the series until halfway through, he would still manage to win the championship.
Such performances would certainly attract the attention of team owners. Colin Chapman would be one of those that took notice of Emerson, and, because Lotus was one of the best cars up and down the paddock, Fittipaldi would sign a contract with the famous Chapman. Initially, the contract was for a Formula One test. Emerson would impress in the test and the contract would quickly turn into a drive with the Formula One team in 1970. So in just a little more than a year Emerson had gone from freshly arriving in England to landing a seat with arguably one of the best Formula One teams of that period.
Fittipaldi would get to drive the third car, but he would not see this as anything but an opportunity to impress, and he would do just that. His first Formula One race would come at the British Grand Prix. He would finish a solid 8th place. This would seem like a rather unassuming result considering he was driving a Lotus 49C at the time. However, the result, and his abilities, would be put into perspective when the fact he started the race 21st becomes apparent. This already impressive debut would be followed up by a far more impressive performance. Emerson would start the German Grand Prix from 13th on the grid. However, by the time the race would come to an end Fittipaldi would be in 4th place earning his first-ever World Championship points.
After a subdued 15th place in the Austrian Grand Prix, Emerson's place as the third driver within Team Lotus seemed secure. However, the next race of the season would be the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Fittipaldi was just settling into the notion of being a Formula One driver as he took to the circuit for practice for the Italian Grand Prix. Jochen Rindt and John Miles had taken to the circuit in the fast but unstable-feeling Lotus 72. Neither Rindt nor Miles felt comfortable behind the wheel of the car but Chapman would not hear any of it. But then, just prior to the Parabolica, Rindt's Lotus would go spinning off the end of the circuit. Rindt would be practically strangled to death; Chapman's team would die right along with the Austrian.
Rindt's death would strike Lotus hard. Miles would be hit hard by the death and the frustration concerning the car believed to have taken the life of Jochen. As a result, Miles would leave the team. Suddenly, the already-gutted team was without a clear number one driver. But then there was Emerson.
Emerson had competed in just three Formula One races when he would be approached by Chapman to help lead the team out of the abyss it was currently experiencing. This was a difficult and monumental task for the inexperienced driver, but he would shoulder it like a steely-eyed veteran.
Team Lotus' first race after Rindt's death would come in the United States at Watkins Glen. It would be difficult for any team to come back after a death of such a driver as what Rindt had been in the sport, but Fittipaldi would revel in this challenge. Suddenly, the new number one driver would start from the second row of the grid.
After a poor start, he would recover and would hang around the top five nearly all afternoon as Jackie Stewart dominated the proceedings. However, an oil leak would drop Stewart out of the race and would promote Pedro Rodriguez to the lead. By this point in time Fittipaldi was lurking in 2nd place. It was just his fourth race in Formula One, no one expected the Brazilian to come through and take the lead. But with just under 10 laps remaining in the race that is exactly what he would do. Many had left the circuit when Stewart was still in the lead believing the Scot would take an easy victory. Others would leave when Rodriguez took over the lead because there was no way the inexperienced man from Sao Paulo would come through and snatch victory. Yet, much to the surprise of many, that is exactly what would happen. Many that would tune in on the radio to catch up on the final results would pause and exclaim 'Emerson who?!' However, there would be plenty more opportunities for the world to become acquainted with the Lotus driver.
After a mildly successful 1971 campaign, Fittipaldi would seem to be finally set to launch his assault on the World Championship. Armed with the Lotus 72D, Emerson would storm through the 1972 season. Driving the black and gold John Player Lotus, he would go on to score a total of five victories and would earn his first World Championship at the age of 25. This would make him the youngest-ever World Champion, a record that would stand for over thirty years.
The beginning of the 1973 season seemed to suggest Fittipaldi could secure back-to-back championships. However, the introduction of the 72E partway through the season and an ever-improving Ronnier Peterson would push Fittipaldi into making uncharacteristic errors. And, after a strong start to the season, Fittipaldi would end up finishing in 2nd place behind Jackie Stewart by the end.
Sensing a shift of favoritism toward Peterson, Fittipaldi would leave Lotus for McLaren in 1974. The move would prove to be the correct one as he would be coming into the team right when they were on the rise. Three victories and four other podium finishes would result in Emerson collecting his second World Championship. Unfortunately, it would be his last. Page: 1 Sources:
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Benson, Andrew. 'Formula 1's Greatest Drivers. Number 17: Emerson Fittipaldi', (http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/formula1/17743265). BBC Sport Formula 1. http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/formula1/17743265. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
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