Name: Emerson Fittipaldi
DOB: Dec 12 1946
Place Of Birth: Sao Paulo
Most Races For: Fittipaldi - 74
Most sports persons retire by the time they reach their mid 30s. But Emerson Fittipaldi, at age 50 was still setting fastest laps, albeit in Champ Cars. That makes one wonder what it is about Brazilians and their need for speed, for it is a nation that has produced some extraordinary racing drivers, and Emerson Fittipaldi is the foremost of them.
Born on 12 Dec 1946 in São Paulo, Brazil, Fittipaldi was genetically programmed to race. His parents were both racing drivers, and his older brother was also in Formula One. It was only a question of when, more than if, young Emerson would start his racing career. At age 21, after winning the Brazilian Formula Vee Championship, he left for Europe and raced there in Formula Ford and Formula Three, and continued to impress. It wasn’t long before Colin Chapman, owner of Team Lotus noticed him, and in 1970, offered him a race seat in his team.
He competed in only five races in 1970, but proved his worth by winning the United States Grand Prix, starting from third. The following season, in his first full year in the sport, he finished on the podium three times, to end the year sixth in the drivers standings. In 1972, he won his first Drivers’ Championship with Team Lotus. Winning five out of the eleven races that year, he completely outraced defending champion Jackie Stewart, securing the title with two races to spare. In 1973, the reverse happened. Stewart got his revenge over Fittipaldi, and took the title away from the Brazilian, who finished second in the standings that year.
In 1974, “Emmo”, signed up to race for McLaren. It turned out to be a good move, as he won the title for the second time, and how! The fight for the championship went down to the last grand prix. Any one of Fittipaldi, Clay Regazzoni andJody Scheckter had a shot at the winning it. But with Regazzoni and Scheckter not finishing the race, Fittipaldi sailed through in fourth, and with that, won the title by three points.
In 1975, Fittipaldi was unable to defend his crown, losing out to Niki Lauda and his Ferrari. In 1976, the two time world champion shocked the sporting world and left McLaren, to race for his brother’s team, Fittipaldi Automotive. From then on till 1980, Emmo looked a shadow of himself. Coming on the podium only two times in five seasons, he retired from Formula One at the end of the ‘80 season.
Fittipaldi started of his glorious Formula One career on a high, becoming the youngest World Champion in 1972, and ended it on a low, winning nothing in his last five years in the sport. But despite the blip in his career, Emerson had done enough to permanently engrave his name in the echelons of Formula One world champions.
-Rohhan A Divanji
- Emerson Fittipaldi held the record of being the Youngest Formula One World Champion from 1972, till Fernando Alonso won his first title in 2005
- Emerson Fittipaldi was the first Drivers Champion to come from Brazil.
- Fittipaldi is currently acting as team principal for the Brazilian A1 GP entry.
“He was the computer. I would have a dinner with him, if the car wasn't handling well on the Friday, and would explain to him what it was doing at different parts of the track. He would go back to the garage, and call the mechanics. And by Saturday morning the car would be fantastic. Only Colin Chapman could do that. Of all the engineers I worked with, all the team managers, Colin was a genius who had the intuition to do it.”
– Emerson Fittipaldi on Colin Chapman
Most successful drivers to have raced with Emerson Fittipaldi