Fastest rookie Fittipaldi ready for Indy 500 debut
Haas F1 reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi will line up among the 33 starters of Sunday’s 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 with the hope of upholding his family’s legacy at the Speedway.
As the grandson of two-time F1 champion and two-time Indy 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi, Pietro feels it’s a privilege to compete in the biggest race in the world while bearing his famous surname.
And the 24-year-old Dale Coyne Racing driver got off to a great start last weekend when he qualified 13th as the fastest of the two rookies that are part of this year’s field, with fellow Indy 500 debutant Scott McLaughlin clocking in 17th.
“I was awarded the fastest rookie for the Indy 500 award, which they’ve been doing for many years, as I was the fastest rookie in qualifying,” Fittipaldi said in an interview published on Haas’ website.
“My name was put on this special trophy that they have every name and speed in qualifying of the fastest rookie each year.
“There are names on there such as Michael Andretti and Jacques Villeneuve, so to be put on the same trophy alongside some of those legends was a huge honor for me.
“When I was there waiting to qualify on Saturday, every car goes out one-by-one and you’re waiting by your car – the adrenaline that builds up is crazy and is unlike any other thing I’ve done.
“It was amazing to go out and qualify and to be averaging 230 miles per hour for four laps was something incredible and something I really enjoyed.”
Fittipaldi’s young age means he never saw his grandfather Emerson race at the Brickyard.
However, in 1996, as a young 10-year-old who dreamt of following in his family’s footsteps, he witnessed the efforts at Indy of his uncle, Max Papis.
“I’m very excited because I’ve been watching the Indy 500 for a long time,” he said. “I think the first 500 I went to was when my uncle, Max Papis, was racing in 2006, and ever since I’ve watched every year.
“For me, it’s the biggest race in the world and if you win that, you make history, so to be racing in it I’m super-excited and looking forward to it.
“I think it’s huge, not only in the US but in the world, because if you win the 500 it makes such a difference for your personal career and for your team as well. You win the race and it’s going to be remembered for years.
“When you go there yourself, you realize how huge the race is. I was there on the grid that year when my uncle was racing and there were 400,000 people in the stands.
“When everyone stands up for the engines starting, you can hear the vibrations of the crowd. I’ve never been to a race where you have so many people watching it together at the same time.
“I’m proud as well to be representing Haas in the Indy 500, even if it’s only in a small way, I’m super proud and happy to be doing it.”
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Fortunately, Sunday’s milestone event won’t be Fittipaldi’s baptism of fire on a speedway, having competed with Dale Coyne Racing in his first two oval races at the Texas Motor Speedway earlier this month.
“We had the two races in Texas, which was super-important for me,” he explained. “The first race was actually quite good as we were running in the top 10 for most of the race.
“We took a risk with the strategy to try and go for more, which could’ve given us a podium or a win, but in the end it didn’t pan out the way we wanted and we finished 15th.
“The goal in the second race was to run the whole race and try and finish in the top 10 but unfortunately there was that accident at the start.
“Luckily everyone was ok, cars up ahead started, then checked up and we had nowhere to go and it was a big accident.
“It was a shame to have that incident, but it was good to get one full race before the Indy 500 under my belt.”
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