Following his horrific crash at the Bahrain Grand Prix, Romain Grosjean has been ruled out of this weekend’s race around the outer layout of the Bahrain International Circuit.
While the Frenchman has no serious injuries beyond burns to his hands, Haas has opted to draft in a replacement for the upcoming race, which will be the penultimate round of the 2020 season.
In arrives Haas’ reserve driver, Pietro Fittipaldi, who will become the 776th driver to compete in F1, coming from a lineage that is no stranger to the sport.
Fittipaldi, 24 is the grandson of Emerson Fittipaldi, the World Champion in 1972 and 1974, while grand uncle Wilson and first cousin once-removed Christian also competed in Formula 1. Pietro’s younger brother, Enzo, is backed by the Ferrari Driver Academy and placed 15th in Formula 3 this year.
But Fittipaldi has not followed the conventional route to his unexpected Formula 1 debut.
In 2013, he made his single-seater debut in the Protyre Formula Renault Championship and the BRDC British Formula 4 Championship, where there was little success. However, the following year he won the Protyre Formula Renault, winning 10 out of the 15 races, which saw him graduate to the more prestigious FIA Formula 3 European Championship.
After finishing 16th in the 2015 Drivers’ Championship with 32 points in a field that contained names such as Charles Leclerc, George Russell, Lance Stroll and Alexander Albon, Fittipaldi won the 2015/16 MRF Challenge Formula 2000 and then spent two years in the Formula V8 3.5 Series, claiming the championship in his second campaign.
Stability was hard to find over the next handful of years. In 2018 he made six appearances for Dale Coyne Racing in the IndyCar Series, with a best result of ninth at Portland. He also had one outing in Super Formula. His foray into IndyCar came after recovering from breaking both legs in a high-speed accident in the World Endurance Championship round at Spa-Francorchamps.
Formula 1 had looked a distant dream but at the end of 2018 an opportunity arose with Haas and the youngster tested its VF-18 at the Yas Marina Circuit. Fittipaldi signed with Haas as its test driver for 2019 and then got behind the wheel of the VF-19 pre-season in Spain and during in-season running in Bahrain.
Although Fittipaldi is Haas’ reserve driver for 2020, he has not yet driven this year’s car, owing to the limited opportunities for non-race drivers. But Fittipaldi has remained embedded within the Haas organisation in his role as test and reserve driver, attending the relevant meetings and debriefs where required.
Fittipaldi will get his first taste during the opening practice session of the upcoming grand prix weekend, becoming the first third-generation driver to compete in a Formula 1 event, and the first Brazilian since Felipe Massa in 2017.