#9 Hall of Fame: Emerson Fittipaldi

2021-04-09 00:00

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#Hall of Fame, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Ylenia Lucia Salerno,

#9 Hall of Fame: Emerson Fittipaldi

The Brazilian motorsport public took quite a long time to discover Formula 1 for two reasons. Europe is the crib of Formula 1 since the beginning. Any


The Brazilian motorsport public took quite a long time to discover Formula 1 for two reasons. Europe is the crib of Formula 1 since the beginning. Any sort of competition, if it wants to involve a Brazilian, can go through the Brazil nation. The first idol of the green-gold crowds in the Formula 1 world is Emerson Fittipaldi. He is a two-time world champion who drove for two different teams in the first half of the ’70: Lotus in 1972 and McLaren in 1974. It is too reductive to just call Fittipaldi a Formula 1 world champion. There are other ways to describe the greatness of his personality. The Brazilian has Lucanian origin. His name has been linked to the 1989 CART championship title. Furthermore, Fittipaldi triumphed at the Indianapolis 500 in 1989 and 1993. He is the one of most successful drivers in the top open-wheel championship together with A.J. Foyt, Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton, Rick Mears, as well as Juan Manuel Fangio and Mario Andretti. Emerson Fittipaldi is born in San Paolo on Thursday 12 December 1946. He is the son of dad Wilson, who was an amateur motorcycle driver and later on a sport journalist. Wilson races with Sedan cars after WW2 and earns his living as a radiophonic and television commentator of the football matches. From then on, Wilson starts to comment the motorsport races. Motorsport is his passion. Emerson’s mom is also an enthusiastic person. In 1952, when the future world champion is almost six years old, she is driving a Mercedes-Benz 180 diesel car at Interlagos. The famous circuit is inaugurated in 1940. Two years later, in 1954, Wilson takes Emerson to the San Paolo public park to watch a motorcycle race. It is a dangerous place to race with bikes. On that day, John Surtees wins the race at the wheel of a Manx-Norton. John is a fantastic driver on both two and on four wheels. Emerson would later tell John that he saw him winning the San Paolo race when he was 7 years old. The cars are his first love. In order to be able to race in Brazil, Emerson has to be at least 17 years old. In the meantime, the young Brazilians starts to drive bikes at the age of 14. He enters a couple of races at the wheel of a small 50cm3 bike, who he personally prepares. Emmo thus learns to be a mechanic on his own by making trials and errors, whilst formally studying mechanical engineering. Soon after, the Brazilian starts working on Wilson and Carlos Pace’s kart, who is his older brother and friend. Emerson is very proud of his mechanic role, especially when Wilson is crowned Brazilian kart champion. The races cost a lot and Emerson is only a teenager. The Brazilian uses his skills of good mechanic to his advantage.


At the age of 15, Emmo starts a car accessories business and licenses an aluminium steering wheel with leather finishes. He would later sell them as Formula 1 steering wheels to the Brazilian drivers and to Volkswagen Beetle. Emerson also sells magnesium, sports exhausts, conversions of double-carburettor engines and builds mini-karts. At the age of 16, Emmo buys a motorcycle that has a much bigger engine. When his parents discover this, they decide to take away his bike. They forbid their son to race in it. The frustrated Brazilian tries his luck on hydrofoil races, which is something that Wilson was already doing for quite some time. These hydrofoils mount outboard engines that are very fast and incredibly dangerous. During a race, Wilson approaches a wave a little too quickly, at around 70 miles an hour (113 km/h), raising the bow of his hydrofoil a little too high. The result is that the boat suddenly flips upwards, performing a violent loop in mid-air. There is enormous shunt. Wilson escapes from the shunt unscathed. The two brothers see this episode as a lesson and decide to quit the hydrofoil in order to focus on mainland races. On Thursday 12 December 1963, at age 17, Emmo is finally old enough to race in karts. The following season, the Brazilian wins his first amateur race on a track outside San Paolo. This is just the start to the path that will lead him to become Brazilian kart champion in 1965. At 18, Emerson feels the desire to race with cars. The Brazilian starts with a Renault Gordini, a small Sedan that has a rear engine. The first race is at a street circuit of the San Paolo university city in 1965. A couple of laps until the end, Emmo excessively wears the brakes. At the end of the start/finish straight, he takes a corner way too fast and smashes against the perimeter fence. The car blows up, hurtling through an area where the spectators are watching the race. Emmo miraculously does not hit anyone. This is the last time in all his racing career that he rolls over in a racing car. Emmo luckily does not have any injuries but the car is completely destroyed. Soon after, the Formula Vee category starts to take place in Brazil. It is an open-wheel single-seater racing formula based on the pre-1964 Volkswagen Beetles. Emmo obviously decides to participate in it. The Brazilian works on the car on his own. He covers it with a fibreglass body supplied by his friend Jerry Cunningham, who is an Anglo-Brazilian guy. The work on the car is done in a small factory near the Interlagos circus. In 1967, Emerson becomes Brazilian Formula Vee champion. In the same year, The Brazilian triumphs the 6H Interlagos race at the wheel of a Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. 


He also claims victory at the 12H Porto Alegre in 1968. In 1968, Jerry Cunningham and Emerson Fittipaldi discuss at length on what to do next. The Brazilian demonstrated that he is fast enough to win races in Brazil. Furthermore, he understands that he would not be good enough to compete with the best drivers in the world - who are all European and most of them British. The 21-year-old Brazilian guy never left his home country before and considers Graham Hill, Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart as heroes of another universe. Jerry confides in Emerson that he should be the one to take the plunge and go to England. On February 1969, the duo flies from San Paolo to Gatwick. When the British Boeing 727 Caledonian lands at Gatwick, Emmo’s mind is tormented by two thoughts:


"What a grey, foggy and cold country".




"I cannot believe that I am now in Hill, Clark e Stewart’s land".


A thrill of excitement suddenly runs through the Brazilian’s back. Emerson says to himself:


"If I can start only one Grand Prix, I will be happy. It will be enough".


The most obvious path for Emerson to take is Formula Ford. However, the Brazilian does not have any cash. He thus decides to offer his mechanic services to a guy called Dennis Rowland. The latter accepts Emmo’s offer and brings him to work at his office in Wimbledon, south of London. Emerson works on the set-up of the Ford Cortina engine. The payment corresponds to an engine for a Formula Ford car, a Merlyn. The Brazilian decides to race in England during the spring and summer of 1969. On June 1969, Fittipaldi wins his second race in Formula Ford at Snetterton. He would then go on to win two more races in succession with the small car, which would be named Magic Merlyn. The reason behind the nickname is that Colin Vandervell would buy the car at the end of the 1969 season. The Englishman would then go on to win many races with the Merlyn in 1970 before giving it to Jody Scheckter. The South-African driver will also win races in 1971 with it. Jody will later on sell it. A while later though, he would re-buy the Merlyn car in order to restore it. Afterwards, the Magic Merlyn would then become part of Scheckter’s private collection in the Hampshire villa, in England. He also owns the Ferrari T4 (with which he will become the 1979 World champion), the Wolf WR1 (finishing 2nd in the 1977 World championship), the beautiful McLaren M23 and many others. In the meantime, Jim Russell is keeping a close eye on Emerson. So much so that he invites Emmo to race with the Lotus 59 Formula 3 in Guards Trophy, at Brands Hatch. The Brazilian’s mechanic is Ralph Firman. The latter would then establish the Van Diemen company in 1973, which would become one of the most successful cars’ manufacturers in the history of Formula Ford. The two work together well. Emmo is unable to qualify for the first Formula 3 race. However, he goes on to win the second race and finish 3rd in the third one. It is not a bad debut in Formula 3 at all. More importantly, the Brazilian demonstrates that he is able to compete with the young and brilliant European drivers, having beaten the likes of Ronnie Peterson and James Hunt. James was driving a Brabham BT21 whilst Ronnie the Lotus 59. It was the same car that was driven by Emmo. Colin Chapman, Lotus’ founder and team principal, notices Emmo’s performance and so does Frank Williams. Both call Emmo to congratulate on his debut performance. After winning for the third time in Formula 3, Colin calls the Brazilian a second time to offer him a Formula 1 seat. On the spot, Emerson is amazed but refuses the invitation. He does not believe to be yet ready to do this step. Frank flies on a private jet to Emmo’s Norwich home, in Norfolk, to also offer a seat in Formula 1. The Brazilian once again refuses. Despite the refusal, Colin Chapman continues to keep an eye on the Brazilian.


The Lotus patron doesn't let this talent slip away from his hands. In the midst of 1969, he makes Emmo debut in Formula 2. Emerson does not win any races. At the same time, the Brazilian demonstrates that has the capacity and the talent, in terms of driving and car’s development, to make the step to Formula 1. Patron Chapman likes those skills very much. In 1970, Emmo feels ready to drive in Formula 1. When Colin invites Emmo to drive one of the Lotus cars in a Formula 1 Grand Prix, the Brazilian answers affirmatively. The Hethel team needs a third driver in their quest to take the world championship away from Jochen Rindt. Emerson tries a Lotus 49 at Silverstone: the test satisfies the Lotus team. It is thus decided that Emmo’s debut in Formula 1 will take place at the British Grand at Brands Hatch Prix on Saturday 18 July 1970. Emerson loves that circuit. Emmo’s teammates are Jochen Rindt and two-time world champion Graham Hill. Rindt is at the wheel of the brand-new Lotus 72 while Hill and Emmo are driving two Lotus 49 cars. The Brazilian feels nervous yet exited at the same time and qualifies in 22nd place. This may not seem like the best of debuts but the Brazilian is happy with this result. He achieves the goal that he had set for himself on that grey and foggy day, the day he landed at Gatwick just over a year before. Emmo receives even better news. Graham will line up next to him in 23rd place. On race day, despite having a technical problem in the Lotus 49 at the end of the formation lap, Emmo makes his way through the field together with Graham Hill. Jochen wins the race at the wheel of the Lotus 72, whilst Hills crosses the line in 6th place. The Brazilian finishes in 8th position. Emerson then scores an impressive 4th place finish at the German Grand Prix, in Hockenheim, after starting 13th. He takes his first 3 points in Formula 1. Jochen Rindt wins once again. Jochen is an amazing driver and an adorable guy. The Austrian is also incredibly gentle with Emmo, ever since the first Formula 1 test at Silverstone. Jochen is very always eager to help his young teammate in his race preparation. The following race is in Austria. Jochen’s engine blows up whilst Emmo is at least able to finish 13th. The worst is yet to come. Immediately after this race, it is time to look forward to the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Emerson is really excited to race in Italy. On Saturday morning, a bit before qualifying, the Brazilian has breakfast with Jochen at the Hotel de la Ville. It is the place where most of the drivers, to this day, are staying at. Jochen says to his young teammate:


"Emerson, I do not want to race in Formula 2 and in Formula 1 next year like I did previous years. Bernie [Ecclestone, Jochen’s manager and commercial partner] and I would like you to race for us in Formula 2 next year, what do you say?"


Emerson responds: 


"Jochen, of course I accept your offer".


The two shake hands. A couple of hours later, Jochen loses control of the Lotus 72 while going through the high-speed Parabolica corner. He slams into a guardrail post and passes away. Emerson Fittipaldi does not qualify for the race and will also miss the Grand Prix in Mont-Tremblant. This is because Colin decides that the Lotus team will not take part in the Canadian Grand Prix. At 23, the autumn of 1970 is a period of time where everything seems to be going wrong for Emerson. The Brazilian misses his family during this time. Colin decides to take part in the following United States Grand Prix, which will take place at Watkins Glen. Emerson arrives at Glen, knowing that he does not have enough experience to be the n.1 driver at Lotus. As a result, the Brazilian feels enormous pressure to perform. On Saturday, he qualifies in 3rd place with the Lotus 72. This result gives a moral boost to the team. During the evening, Emmo starts to develop a high fever that forces him to go to bed early. The Brazilian cannot sleep and calls a doctor to prescribe some medicines. Emmo does not sleep at all. As a result, he feels tired and indisposed during the following morning. Everything seems to go wrong and he feels nervous and uncomfortable. When the mover waves the chequered flag to indicate the start of the race, everything suddenly seems to change for the better. Emmo is in 2nd place, behind Rodriguez’s B.R.M. The Lotus 72 car seems competitive. Emerson is growing in confidence at the wheel of the British car, despite not overtaking neither Pedro nor Jackie. Emmo is confident that he can at least finish 3rd. He thus starts thinking about his first podium appearance in Formula 1.  Jackie’s Tyrrell retires due to an oil leak. Emerson thus has the possibility of finishing 2nd, behind Pedro’s B.R.M. Emerson tells to himself that 2nd place will be enough. However, the Brazilian does not know that Pedro is starting to run out of fuel. With eight laps to go, Pedro dives into the pits for a quick re-fuel and drops to 2nd. Emmo, in his fourth race appearance in Formula 1, is leading a race. The remaining laps are like a dream for the Brazilian. 


At the end of the final lap, Emmo sees that Colin is running across the track and throwing his cap in the air. As a child, Emerson saw so many pictures of Colin doing the same move with Jim Clark and Graham Hill. It is now his turn to enjoy Colin’s celebration. Emerson Fittipaldi wins the 1970 United States Grand Prix. This result is really important for him and the Lotus team. His debutant teammate Reine Wisell crosses the line in 3rd. Ferrari driver Jackie Ickx is unable to score enough points to take the championship fight to Mexico. Rindt thus wins the world championship despite losing his life. It is the first and only posthumously awarded driver’s title in Formula 1 history. The season ends in Mexico three weeks later. Fittipaldi does not finish the race, due to an engine problem during the first lap. This finale does not detract from the Brazilian’s extraordinary (half) debut in Formula 1. Within a couple of races, Emerson has already made a name for itself in Europe and becomes the first Brazilian to win a Grand Prix in the top tier of open-wheel racing. The 1971 should be the consecration year, although it is quite common for events to not follow the seemingly most logical route especially in the history of motorsport. Emerson will drive alongside Reine Wisell in the 1971 season. Colin Chapman aims to create a turbine Formula 1 car. The new Lotus 72D, which will debut in the second race in Spain, is not a worthy car for the title. The car even struggles to finish on the podium. The most disappointing result is in Monaco. Emerson manages to finish 17th. Things do not improve in the following weeks. The project is completely abandoned at the end of the season. Emerson is able to run noteworthy races during the summer. He scores two 3rd place finishes. at Le Castellet and at Silverstone. The Brazilian finishes 2nd at the Austrian Grand Prix, finishing only four second behind race winner Jo Siffert. The latter thus wins his second and last victory in Formula 1. Emerson will only then take a points-finish at the Monaco Principality. Throughout the other races, he has many retirements. The car at his disposal is unreliable. After abandoning the turbo idea in 1971, the team starts to work on the Lotus 72D. It is the evolution of the Lotus 72 that won the championship two weeks prior. The car/driver combo to beat this season is Tyrrell and reigning world championship Jackie Stewart. Emerson Fittipaldi drives alongside Dave Walker, last year’s test driver. The latter replaces Reine Wisell, who moved to B.R.M.


The first race of the season takes place in Argentina, at the Buenos Aires circuit. Fittipaldi lines up in 5th place. The race is under wet conditions. Fittipaldi is forces to retires 2/3 into the race with a suspension issue. The defending champion Stewart wins the race and boosts his ambitions of defending the world title. It is not a great start for the Brazilian. Despite the DNF, Emerson does not get discouraged. At the second race in Kyalami, South Africa, he crosses the line in 2nd place, The race winner new championship leader is Denny Hulme. Emerson goes on to win the third round of the championship in Spain, at Jarama, under rainy conditions. Starting on the second row of the grid, Fittipaldi overtakes everyone and imposes a frenzied rhythm. Jackie Ickx is the only driver who is not lapped, The Ferrari driver in fact finishes in 2nd place, albeit 18 seconds behind the winner. The others are lapped by the Brazilian. The Brazilian could also win at Monte-Carlo, given that he takes a precious pole position on Saturday.  Rain pours down throughout the race and Emerson is forced to give way to Beltoise, the B.R.M. French driver. The latter thus wins B.R.M.’s first and last victory. Ickx finishes in 3rd place. Fittipaldi scores his second win at the Belgium Grand Prix, Nivelles. The Brazilian scores pole and victory and takes the lead in the world championship with 28 points. The gap between him and Hulme is 9 points, while Stewart is a further 7 points behind. The English driver goes back to winning ways by winning the French Grand Prix at Le Castellet. Emmo is 2nd. The top 2 reserve position at the British Grand Prix, at Brands Hatch. At the end of the English round, the gap between them is still 16 points. Meanwhile, Denny Hulme is losing ground to the two. He is in fact 22 points behind Fittipaldi. The 1972 championship seems like a two-horse race between Emmo and Jackie. Jackie Ickx takes victory at the German Grand Prix, which takes place at the Nürburgring circuit. Both contenders are unable to finish. The gap remains the same. With four races to go, the Formula circus moves to Spielberg, Austria. Pole-sitter Emerson Fittipaldi withstands Denny Hulme’s daring comeback from 7th and achieves a crucial victory. The New Zealand driver crosses the line in 2nd, 1.18 seconds behind Emerson. Stewart finishes 7th and scores no points. He is now a long way behind in the standings. The gap between Stewart and Fittipaldi is now 25 points. The title is only a formality for Emmo, with three races left to go. The Lotus driver does not miss the first match point at the Italian Grand Prix. The Brazilian takes advantage of Ickx and Regazzoni’s retirements to win for the fifth time this season. The two Ferrari drivers are very unlucky, since they appeared very competitive in qualifying. 


Emerson Fittipaldi is thus the first Brazilian driver to become Formula 1 World Champion. Jackie Stewart wins the next two races while Fittipaldi has a 11th place finish at Canada and a retirement in the United States. However, the English driver is unable to fight for the title. In 1973, the grid has a new reigning world champion: Fittipaldi. He has all the odds to win again. In fact, the Lotus 72D is still the car to beat. In the meantime, the Lotus team is working on the brand-new Lotus 72E. However, the drivers’ line-up of the British team is a bit different. Emerson’s teammate is not Dave Walker anymore, since he failed to score any points last season. The talented 29-year-old driver, Ronnie Peterson, will drive alongside the defending world champion. The Swede took a number of podiums at the wheel of the underperforming March car. The most dreaded car manufacturer for Lotus is Tyrrell. Jackie Stewart drives alongside the French driver Francois Cevert and in some races, with New Zealand’s Chris Amon. Emerson’s start of the season goes off to a great start. Emerson wins three out of the first four races, in Argentina, Brazil and Spain, at the wheel of the debutant 72E car. Stewart though is a constant and reliable driver. The British driver win the fourth round of the champion in South-Africa and stepped on the podium in the previous three rounds. The Tyrell driver was forced to retire in Spain after suffering brake problems. Ronnie Peterson instead retires three times in four races. Despite the unlucky start, Peterson is learning to adapt to the new car and understand its limits. Stewart dominates the Belgium and the Monaco races. On the other hand, Fittipaldi is forced to make do with two podiums, including a 3rd and 2nd place finish at Zolder and Monte-Carlo. At the end of the first six rounds, Emmo leads the driver’s championship with 41 points. Jackie is 2nd with 37. However, the arrival of summer initiates a sudden and unforeseeable drop of performance for Emerson and the Lotus team. In Sweden, Emmo is forced to retire with brake issues. Furthermore, he is involved in racing incidents at Le Castellet and Brands Hatch. Peterson takes his first maiden win in France. Despite this result, Stewart is able to overtake the Brazilian in the standings. After Silverstone, it is now 42 against 41 in favour of the British driver. The bad luck does not leave Emerson in the following three races, scoring only one point in Germany. He retires at the Dutch Grand Prix with physical problems and accuses engine-related issues in Austria. This time though, Stewart capitalises on Emerson’s misfortunes. With an upgraded and much competitive Tyrrell 006, the British driver takes victory in the Netherlands.


He also stands in the podium at the end of the Austrian Grand Prix, finishing behind Peterson. The Swede is fully blossomed and projecting towards the lead of the championship. Stewart still leads with 66 points whilst Emmo is stuck at 42. The many technical problems on Emmo’s cars are starting to become suspicious. Emmo accuses Colin Chapman of favouring his Swedish teammate, who is showing a competitiveness that he never had before until now. The relationship with the team becomes tense. The most controversial episode is at Monza, during the third-to-last round of the championship. Peterson and Fittipaldi are in the lead of the Italian Grand Prix. Emerson needs to win the race in order to keep his championship hopes alive. He thus expects Peterson to let him through at the right time to take the victory. However, it does go as expected for Fittipaldi. Ronnie Peterson triumphs at Monza, resisting the multiple and repeated attacks from the Brazilian world champion. The latter finishes in 2nd place, only 0.8 tenths behind his Swede teammate. Thanks to an honest 4th place, Jackie Stewart is crowned world champion for the third time.  Fittipaldi is upset with the Lotus team and with his teammate. According to him, Peterson did not respect the pact. Peterson’s win enables the Lotus team to become constructor champions. This result will not be enough to avoid the divorce between Emerson and the Lotus team at the end of the season. The Brazilian is trying to identify a team who would offer him a n.1 role and a competitive car, after the sensible progress made in the last two seasons. Fittipaldi thus chooses the Ford-Cosworth powered McLaren. He will drive alongside world champion Denny Hulme. The car prepared for the title fight is the McLaren M23, which is designed by Gordon Coppuck. Before the start of the season, the Woking team conducts many tests in order to improve the car. Teammate Hulme wins the season opener in Argentina, whilst Emmo finishes in 10th after mistakenly shutting down the engine. The airboxes are critical in this period of time, since they suck dust from the whole circuit and sometimes opening the F1 cars’ butterfly valves. McLaren did not want this to happen at the end of a long straight. McLaren thus fitted an electronical principal switch on the steering wheel. Emerson was expected to not touch the swich. During the race, though, he did so and the engine shut off. It is shame because the old circuit of Buenos Aires has the longest and fastest and longest curve in the entire Formula 1 calendar. 


Moreover, the M23 car is extremely good in taking that corner. Finishing 10th in the first race for McLaren means even more pressure for Fittipaldi. The second race of the season is in in front of his home crowd. Emmo and his sponsors together chose McLaren. After this race, the Brazilian is called to respond to the media and the public questions: who took the right decision? The Brazilian Grand Prix responds to all negative questions. Emerson Fittipaldi wins at San Paolo after starting from pole position. The timing is perfect. This triumph represents the first McLaren victory and his first consecutive one in Brazil. Winning the home Grand Prix is very special for Emmo, since Interlagos is the place where he started racing at age 14. Emmo is ecstatic to win his home race in Brazil. The McLaren has a massive boost in confidence and enthusiasm, which is needed for the following races. Carlos Reutemann takes the maiden win at the South-African Grand Prix, at the wheel of a Brabham. The real championship contenders are identified: rising start Niki Lauda and Ticino driver Clay Regazzoni at the wheel of the two Ferrari 312 B3-74 cars. The Ferrari drivers finish 1-2 at the Spanish Grand Prix in Jarama, after stepping on the podium three times in the last three races. Niki Lauda wins the race ahead of Regazzoni. Fittipaldi is victorious at the Belgium Grand Prix while Niki Lauda is 2nd on the line. Emmo takes three consecutive points finishes at Monaco, Sweden and Holland. The title fight is wide open after the first eight rounds. Fittipaldi is leading the championship with 31 points. Lauda is 2nd with 30, followed by Regazzoni with 28. Ronnie Peterson and the Lotus team are victorious at Digione, in France. The two Ferrari cars finish on the podium, while Emmo retires with an engine failure. Nevertheless, McLaren continue to improve the car and plan the following races. The 1974 British Grand Prix is a prime and interesting example of it. During the season, the M23 car had numerous problems mainly on bumpy circuits. As a result, Gordon Coppuck, designs a new rear suspension that has a different geometry. This upgrade helps the two McLaren drivers at Brands Hatch. The English tracks has many bumps and an enormous compression in the downhill section after the first corner. Emerson is unable to take victory, finishing 2nd after starting from 8th position. In the standings, Fittipaldi still leads with 37 points. Lauda and Scheckter are 2nd with 32 points, while Regazzoni is 3rd with 31. The double trip to centre-Europe, in Germany and Austria, is a nightmare for Fittipaldi.


At the Nürburgring, Emmo is involved in a contact with teammate Hulme. A couple of laps later, the Brazilian is out of the race. In Austria, the engine that gives up on Emmo while he was fighting with Regazzoni for 3rd place. In the meantime, the Swiss driver wins in Germany and scores a 5th place finish in Austria. He is thus able to take the lead of the drivers’ standings with 46 points, a 5-points lead over Scheckter. Emmo is a further 4 points behind. There are three races to go and everything is up for grabs. It is time for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Niki Lauda lines up in pole position, after losing ground in the championship. Regazzoni starts ahead of Fittipaldi. The events seem to favour Ferrari, who wants to triumph at his home race in Italy. However, both Maranello drivers are forced to retire with engine-related issues. Peterson wins the race for Lotus, finishing ahead of Fittipaldi. The Brazilian is now only 3 points behind the leader. He is still in the running to take his second World Championship title. The last two races of the 1974 season are thus becoming more important. Four drivers are in contention for the championship: Emerson Fittipaldi, Clay Regazzoni, Niki Lauda and Jody Scheckter. Canada is the headquarter for the penultimate Grand Prix. Mosport Park is very rugged. It could become an obstacle for McLaren. Gordon Coppuck designed the new rear suspension. Luckily, the suspension change does also work at the Canadian track. Emmo is thus able to take an amazing pole position. Mosport is a small track. It is not very long but is extremely challenging to drive and to do the car set-up. Apart from the roughness, there are many climbs and curves that have a blind entrance. At the start, Niki takes the lead but Emmo is not worried. The Brazilian has great faith in his car, which would have become faster as the fuel goes down. The drivers need to strategically find a good balance between full and empty fuel tanks. Emmo likes to set-up the car to be much faster with low fuel during the second half of the race. The Brazilian driver also puts an emphasis on physical training, given how challenging is Grand Prix racing nowadays. In particular, Emmo wants to be also be much stronger at the end of a race. He thus trains with the Brazilian football manager through the season. This programme helps Emmo to become much more prepared and become fitter compared to his rivals. The Canadian Grand Prix is a perfect example of this. Emmo is still in very good shape in the second half of the race. He is leading the race, after Niki and Jody are forced to retire. The M23 continues to improve as laps tick by and the fuel starts to go down.


Emerson Fittipaldi wins the race, 13-seconds over Regazzoni. Peterson finishes in 3rd place. After taking the win, the Brazilian becomes is level on points with Clay Regazzoni. The championship is decided in the last race of the 1974 season at Watkins Glen, United States. Scheckter, Regazzoni and Fittipaldi are in contention for the championship. The South-African is 7 points behind the Brazilian and still has a change to take the title. Fittipaldi will start ahead of Regazzoni. This is the last time, through his entire career in motorsport, that Emmo would only sleep four hours the night before the race. Before the Indianapolis 500 race or the 1972 championship campaign with Lotus, he only slept eight hours. Emmo has never faced a situation like this one, being level-on-points with Ferrari rival Clay Regazzoni. Emmo feels the pressure to perform for himself and the entire McLaren team. The sponsors have great expectations. The Brazilian lines up in 8th place. At the end of the first lap, Clay is ahead of him. Emmo decides to close down on him. After courageously tackling the uphill S-section, he is right behind the gearbox of Clay Regazzoni. The McLaren then tries to send the Ferrari driver off line during the straight, before using the outside line at turn 1. In response, the Swiss driver pushes his rival towards the grass. Emmo already knows it, since he believes that Clay is a great driver. Despite it, the Brazilian does feel like going side-by-side with the Ferrari driver.


"I will go back on track. If both cars touch, we will crash". 


Emmo thinks this whilst putting the front tyre against the Ferrari, right next to Clay’s cockpit. The Brazilian’s car jerks but is still able to go side-by-side with his Scottish rival. The latter does not expect this, since he thought that Emmo would have backed out if it. In the following moments, both arrive side-by-side in the braking zone. Emmo has the inside line and is able to overtake Clay. The Brazilian is much faster at this point of the race and immediately ekes out an advantage to the Ferrari driver. The last race of the season will not only be remembered for the uncertain ending unfortunately. It will also feature the fatal incident of Helmuth Koinigg. He is involved in a frightening crash where he practically died on impact. Despite this, the race must go on. In the most important moment of the season, Ferrari disillusioned expectations. Lauda retires while Regazzoni is forced to battle in the midfield. In the end, Reutemann takes his third win of the season. Fittipaldi does not take any risks and finishes 4th. The McLaren Brazilian driver scores three points, which are enough to seal the World Championship. He is a two-time world champion. McLaren’s party is complete after sealing the constructors’ championship for the first time. The season is over. Emerson releases interviews to the journalists and television crews, describing how he was able to overtake Clay Regazzoni during the first lap. He also pays tribute to McLaren’s professionalism and enthusiasm. Emmo enters either the Seneca or Lodge bar and finally realizes that he is a two-time world champion and that McLaren is the winner of the constructors’ championship. The mechanics are going to their hotel rooms to relax, after an exhausting yet rewarding season. It is an amazing and fantastic feat to win both the drivers’ and the constructors’ titles for McLaren.


That evening, the team puts on a fantastic party at the Seneca bar. Emmo was never a drinker and does not get drunk during the feast. Most of the McLaren mechanics instead drink as if there were no tomorrow, given how hard they worked throughout the season. In 1975, Fittipaldi wants to become championship for a third time. If he is able to do this, his name would be placed alongside big drivers such as Jack Brabham and Jackie Stewart. The German Jochen Mass signs for McLaren and will take Hulme’s place alongside Fittipaldi. There is an opponent who is ready for redemption that has a great talent: Niki Lauda. The Austrian driver is ready to be crowned champion. Nevertheless, the season gets off to a good start for Emerson. He takes victory at the season opener, ahead of James Hunt’s Hesketh. Carlos Pace, in the Brabham, wins the Brazilin grand Prix, ahead of Fittipaldi. The first disappointment of Fittipaldi’s season comes at the South African Grand Prix. In the first stages of the race, Emmo is up to 4th place. He then picks up an engine misfire. Due to this issue, he is forced to make numerous visits to the pits. Losing hand over fists to the others, he will not be classified. In the meantime, Scheckter thus takes the maiden win in Formula 1 for Tyrrell. In the first races of the season, the two Ferrari drivers do not show off yet picked up precious point for the final standings. This leads to the controversial Spanish Grand Prix, scheduled at the Montjuic street circuit. Most GPDA members do not believe that the track is safe. Some guard rails are either installed in very dangerous points or not fixed to the asphalt. The drivers decide to take part in the two free-practice sessions on Friday, given the danger of the guard rails. Jacky Ickx and Vittorio Brambilla only make some insight laps. The organization decide to re-assemble them with the help of the teams’ mechanics. On Saturday, Fittipaldi, Lauda, Hill and Jarier make a walking tour of the track, accompanied by a CSI delegate. 


From the inspection, the drivers continue to express their perplexity towards the track situation. The drivers, who took part in the GPDA meeting, announce that they will not take part in the two free-practice sessions. Mario Andretti, Jacky Ickx, Bob Evans, who do not belong in the organization, decide to race instead. The CSI continues to push the driver to participate in those sessions. A second GPDA meeting is held on Sunday which emphasizes a drift on the drivers’ front. Wunderink, Evans and Ickx take part in Saturday’s first free-practice session, in order to do some insight laps of the track. The drivers vote on whether or not to participate to the race during an additional meeting. If they decide to not do so, the organizers will call the Guardia Civil and confiscate the drivers’ cars, that are inside the Olympic stadium which is used as a paddock. The cars would be confiscated for a couple of months. The threat from the organizers pushes the teams and drivers to at least take part in the 4:00 p.m., qualifying session. Faced with this prerogative, almost all of the drivers accept to race. Everyone does so except for Emerson Fittipaldi. The latter is convinced that racing in the Montjuic street circuit is too dangerous. In order to prove his point, he goes out on track and sets the three laps that are required by the regulations in order to not qualified for the race. The irony is that Jochen Mass wins the race. The standings do not change at the top. The M38 car starts to show its limits from the fifth round onwards. The car is struggling with the handling and grip. The upgrades that are brought during the year do not bring the expected results. On the other hand, Niki Lauda, in the 312T, wins four of the following five races that are on the calendar from May to July. The only exception is Zandvoort, where he finishes in 2nd place behind Hunt. Fittipaldi instead scores a point at Monaco and finishes 4th in France. With 9 races gone, the Ferrari Austrian driver has 47 points compared to Fittipaldi’s 24. Considering this, the story of the world championship is already written. It is time to look forward to the British Grand Prix. For the first time in his career, Tom Pryce starts on pole position at the wheel of the Shadow-Ford car. At the start though, Carlos has a better start. With the use of the grip from the 2nd place spot, he gets ahead of the Shadow-Ford driver. Meantime, the two Ferraris are shuffling around. Clay Regazzoni gets the better of teammate Niki Lauda for 3rd place. Behind the top 4 are James Hunt, Jody Scheckter, Mario Andretti and Emerson Fittipaldi. On the 2nd lap, the racing action ramps up. Hunt overtakes Scheckter at Copse corner for 5th position whilst Fittipaldi muscles his way through to take the position away from Andretti.


The latter made a mistake at Becketts. Four laps later, the Italian-American driver gives up another position to Tony Brise. At this point of the race, the two Ferrari drivers are driving very fast. So much that Regazzoni gets ahead of Pryce on lap 9. Soon after, Stewart closes up on Pace and takes the lead of the race. At the tail end of the field, Brise tries to attack Hunt but goes wide in doing so. As a consequence, the Hill driver is forced to come back to the pits after having an excursion moment that punctures a tyre. Whilst this is happening, Mario Andretti tries to defend 10th place against Jean-Pierre Jarier but makes a mistake at Woodcote that flattens the tyres. The Parnelli driver is forced to makes an unscheduled pit-stop and is now in 21st position. On lap 13, Regazzoni leads the race followed by Pace, Pryce, Lauda, Scheckter, Fittipaldi and Hunt. In the meantime, dark clouds are appearing on the race track. The possibility of rain is very high.  During the 16th lap, Pryce gets through Pace for 2nd place. Two laps later, rain starts to pour on the Stowe area. The situation is not reported to Regazzoni, who spins at Stowe. Clipping the barriers, the Ferrari driver limps back to the pits to change tyres and the damaged rear wing. He re-joins the track in 21st place. Pryce thus re-takes the lead but is the first of many drivers to crash due to the slick tyres aquaplaning in the wet asphalt. On lap 19, Jody Scheckter makes good use of the rain to overtake Lauda and Pace. These moves were not seen by the cameras. The South-African is on charge. One lap later, he overtakes Pryce to take the lead. On the 21st lap, Niki Lauda and Scheckter dive into the pits for the rain tyres. The Scuderia Ferrari team does not put the tyre properly and it causes a slow puncture. The Austrian is once again forced to pit to change it. Pace moves into the lead, followed by Emerson Fittipaldi and James Hunt. On lap 27, the leading trio decide to not change tyres given that the rain is getting lighter. From the back of the pack though, Scheckter is arriving thick and fast behind the trio. Soon after, the South-African re-takes the lead of the race once again. Fittipaldi, in an attempt to defend against the Tyrell driver, misses the breaking point and loses a couple of places to James Hunt and Jochen Mass. However, Pace also makes a driving error and gets overtaken by the mentioned duo. At this point, the rain has stopped and there are dry lines forming on track. Mario Andretti thus makes the decision to put the slick tyres once again. 


Halfway through the race, Mass gets through Hunt whilst Fittipaldi does the same with Pace. On lap 30, Jean-Pierre Jarier, on rain tyres, overtakes Pace, Fittipaldi, Hunt and Mass for 2nd place. Jody Scheckter is the race leader but needs to make a pitstop. Before long, Jarier finds himself in the lead of the race. James Hunt is closing up very quickly on Jarier though. After two laps, the French driver dives into the pits to change tyres. The Hesketh driver is now leading the race, to the joy of the British fans, ahead of Emerson Fittipaldi, Carlos Pace, Jean-Pierre Jarier, Jody Scheckter, Jochen Mass, Mark Donohue and Vittorio Brambilla. On the 36th lap, Mass spins and gets relegated to 8th position whilst Scheckter overtakes Jarier. Soon after, the latter also makes a mistake that gives way to Mark Donohue and Vittorio Brambilla (now 5th and 6th respectively). Hunt will maintain the lead of the race until lap 42. An exhaust splits in the Hesketh car, which causes the engine to lose power. This is enough to get overtaken by Fittipaldi at Stowe. During the following lap, the British driver is continuing to struggle with this reliability problem and has no answer to Pace. Around the 45th lap, torrential rain is beginning to pour again on track and Emerson Fittipaldi decides to dive into the pits to put the rain tyres. The Club corner becomes a true meeting place for cars. One after the other, Carlos Pace, Jody Scheckter, John Nicholson, Brian Henton, Dave Morgan, James Hunt and Wilson Fittipaldi joins that point of the track for a quick excursion. This situation is proving to be extremely dangerous for the marshals, who cannot safely help the drivers to escape from the cockpits. They are even risking of being run over by some single-seaters. The Same situation is also happening at Stowe corner, with Donohue, Mass, Watson and Depailler going off track. The race direction decides to stop the race. With 56 laps completed, Fittipaldi has the satisfaction of winning the British Grand Prix for the 14th and last time in Formula 1. Carlos Pace and Jody Scheckter are on the podium, one lap behind the winner. Lauda finishes in 3rd place at Monza, behind teammate Regazzoni and Fittipaldi. The Austrian is thus able to seal his first championship title with one race to go. Fittipaldi closes 2nd in the drivers’ standings. Emerson is demotivated by a season far below his expectations but wants to continue with McLaren in 1976. However, he is mindful of the difficult coexistence with Ronnie Peterson. Instead of dividing the McLaren garage with a potential rival for the title, he chooses to accept the offer of his older brother Wilson.


Let’s give some background to this proposal. Wilson jr. creates the Copesucar-Fittipaldi team with the support of Brazilian sponsor Copersucar. It is 100% a Brazilian team. Emerson replaces his brother as a driver and brings to the team some British engineer and designer Maurice Philippe, his friend and ex Lotus designer. The Brazilian team signs important names for the following season. However, 1976 is a disappointing year. The Copesucar FD03 lacks competitiveness in both high and low-speed tracks. Emerson only scores three-points finishes in the United States, Monaco and Great Britain race. He closes the season in 16th position in the drivers’ standings. The title fight is between Niki Lauda’s Ferrari and James Hunt’s McLaren. The season is influenced by Lauda’s famous incident at the Nürburgring. In the end, Hunt takes home the 1976 World Championship title. At the beginning of the 1977 season, the FD04 Copesucar-Fittipaldi starts to show some progress. However, it will soon turn out to be an illusion. The season is dominated by Niki Lauda and Ferrari. During the first races, the Austrian is forced to race with last year’s car. The San Paolo driver has a good start to the season, finishing 4th in Argentina and Brazil. At the Long Beach Street circuit, in the United States, he crosses the line in 5th. The new F5 car arrives in Belgium but the long-awaited leap forward in performance is not forthcoming. The Cosworth engine is underpowered. The Brazilian is forced to retire with reliability issues in the following races. In Italy and Germany, the Brazilian is unable to qualify for the race. He would then score a 4th place finish in the Netherlands, before closing the season early in order to concentrate on 1978. The Copesucar F5A car seems to have some potential. In some track conditions, it can exploit the Goodyear tyres better than anyone else. Thus, Emerson continues to demonstrate that he is not getting old, as someone starts to write through the international press.  After a disappointing debut race in Argentina, the team scores a home podium at the Jacarepaguá circuit, near Rio de Janeiro. Unfortunately, the subsequent races disillusion these good premises. Soon after, Fittipaldi sinks back to the tail end of the field. The second half of the season goes a bit better. The upgrades start to work on the new Copesucar-Fittipaldi car. Emmo will score two 4th place finishes in Germany and Austria and two 5th place finishes in the Netherlands and the United States. He closes the season in 10th place, whilst the team is 7th in the constructors’ championship with a total of 17 points. Mario Andretti is crowned the world champion, at the wheel of the Lotus 79.


The 1979 is undoubtedly the worst year of the Brazilian world champion’s career. The F6 car is neither competitive nor reliable. Emerson previously convinced designers Peter McIntosh and Ralph Bellamy to join the project of the Copesucar-Fittipaldi, after working for Lotus. The season starts with a 6th place in Argentina start at the wheel of last year’s F5, scoring one point. The rest of the season will only bring many retirements and several finishes outside the top positions. The points scored in Argentina will remain his only one. Ferrari and South-African Jody Scheckter are crowned champions, after an exciting fight with Jacques Laffite. In 1980, Copesucar disengages from the project and is replaced by sponsor Skol. In the meantime, the team is called Fittipaldi Automotive. This time though, the Brazilian is driving Keke Rosberg, who will immediately finish on the podium in Argentina. Emerson will also do so at the United States Grand Prix, at Long Beach. Brazilian compatriot Piquet wins his first race of in his Formula 1 career. At Monaco, Emerson will further add to his tally with a points-finish, after starting from 18th place. The second half of the season is less than satisfactory. The lack of reliability will not will no longer allow him to conclude any races in the top-6. At the end of the season, Emerson Fittipaldi is unmotivated by poor results and decides to retire from the Formula 1 world at the age of 34. To his credit, he has 14 wins, 6 pole positions, 6 fastest laps and, more importantly, the 1972 and 1974 championship titles for Lotus and for McLaren. Despite the retirement, Emerson Fittipaldi continues to be part of the Fittipaldi Automotive team as Team Manager. Chico Serra is chosen to drive alongside Keke Rosberg. In 1981, the drivers’ line-up is the least of the problems for the Brazilian team. The car is not competitive at all and the team is running out of money, since the sponsor Skol decides to quit. The team is thus struggling to finish the races, let alone thinking scoring points. Serra is still able to finish behind the top-6 during the first race in the Unites States. In the second half, the car is unable to qualify for the race.


The only exemption is at the Las Vegas race, where Rosberg achieves a 10th place finish. However, this season will be remembered for Emerson’s lap of honour before his home race in Brazil. The hug of the Brazilian fans is worth much more than a difficult second half of his career. Emmo is able to have an unforgettable commotion moment that he will forever cherish. Despite the enormous financial difficulties, the Fittipaldi Automotive team is able to start the 1982 season. Chico Serra is the only driver for the team. Rosberg has joined Williams, with whom he will win the title. The season is unfortunately along the same lines as the previous one. At the Belgium Grand Prix though, Serra finishes in an impressive 6th place. It will be the only point scored by the team in 1982. Fittipaldi Automotive team retires from Formula 1 at the end of the year. Emerson will still have an active role in the World Championship. The Formula 1 chapter is now closed for Emerson Fittipaldi. However, racing still has a huge role in his life. In 1984, Emmo starts to race in the American series and is able to warm the hearts of the fans, as he did in Europe. On Sunday 1st April 1984, Emmo makes his debut for Patrick Racing. It is American team for which he will race for until the end of 1989. In 1985, he takes his first victory in the CART championship in Michigan. Three more wins will arrive during the season. In 1989, the Brazilian wins the CART championship, collecting five victories. On the same day, he triumphs at the Indy 500. In 1990, Emerson goes to Penske Racing and will race there until 1995. With this team, Emerson will take eleven more victories. In 1993, he comes close to take the championship, finishing only eight points behind Nigel Mansell. Despite this disappointment, the Brazilian wins the Indianapolis 500 race for the second time. In 1996, Emmo switches to Lola but does not achieve any significant results. The adventure in the CART championship ends with 22 victories, 65 podium, 17 pole position, 12 fastest laps and the 1989 championship at the wheel of the Penske-Patrick Racing car. In the 2000s, Fittipaldi goes on to drive at the Grand Prix Masters, category reserved for ex-Formula 1 drivers. Out of three races, he steps on the podium once in 2005.


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