Haas F1 Team announced that Pietro Fittipaldi will be making his Formula 1 debut in the upcoming Sakhir Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit on Sunday, December 6, while replacing the injured Romain Grosjean.
Fittipaldi, the 24-year-old grandson of two-time Formula 1 world champion and two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Emerson Fittipaldi, serves as a test/reserve driver for Haas, a role he has held since 2018. The Miami-born Brazilian has attended the majority of F1 races this season.
The news of Fittipaldi’s F1 debut comes a day following the Bahrain Grand Prix, where Grosjean was involved in a harrowing accident on the opening lap following contact with AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat and sliding into the barriers in Turn 3 at high speed that resulted with his Haas VF-20 being split into half and bursting into flames. Following his incident, Grosjean was able to escape the flaming carnage with minor burn injuries to his hands and ankles before being transported to the Bahrain Defence Force Hospital for further evaluation.
While Grosjean continues to recover in the hospital with hand injuries, Guenther Steiner, Haas’ team principal, made the decision to have Fittipaldi replace Grosjean for the penultimate F1 event of the 2020 season, where he will compete alongside teammate Kevin Magnussen.
“After it was decided that the best thing for Romain [Grosjean] was to skip at least one race, the choice to put Pietro [Fittipaldi] in the car was pretty easy,” Steiner stated. “Pietro will drive the VF-20 and he’s familiar with us having been around the team for the past two seasons as a test and reserve driver. It’s the right thing to do and it’s obviously a good opportunity for him. He’s been patient and was always prepared for this opportunity – and now it has come. That’s why we want him in the car and I’m sure he’ll do a good job. It’s very demanding being called in at the last minute, but as I said, I think it’s the right thing to do for Haas F1 Team.”
Fittipaldi’s racing career started in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, where he won the 2011 track championship at Hickory Motor Speedway while driving for Lee Faulk Racing. He went on to win the 2014 Protyre Formula Renault Championship, the 2015-16 MRF Challenge and the 2017 World Series Formula V8 3.5 title while driving for Lotus. In 2018, he made six career starts in the IndyCar Series for Dale Coyne Racing.
In November 2018, Fittipaldi was named a test driver for Haas F1 Team for the 2019 F1 season. During the 2018 and 2019 seasons, he has made seven test appearances for Haas. While he has tested Haas’ VF-18 and VF-19 in the past two seasons, he will compete in the VF-20 for the first time on Friday, December 4, during the practice session for the Sakhir Grand Prix.
Fittipaldi’s F1 debut will mark his first form of motorsports competition since the 2019-20 F3 Asian Championship, where he competed with Pinnacle Motorsport. He is also set to become the fourth member of the Fittipaldi family to compete in Formula One racing, joining grandfather Emerson and his brother Wilson along with Wilson’s son Christian.
“Most importantly, I’m happy Romain [Grosjean] is safe and healthy,” Fittipaldi stated. “We’re all very happy his injuries are relatively minor after such a huge incident. Obviously, it’s not an ideal set of circumstances to get my first opportunity to compete in Formula 1, but I’m extremely grateful to Gene Haas and Guenther Steiner for their faith in putting me behind the wheel this weekend. I’ve been with the team a lot this season, both trackside and working on simulator sessions, so I’m familiar with the team’s operating procedures on a grand prix weekend. It’s going to be exciting to make my first career start in Formula 1 – I’ll be giving it my all and I look forward to starting in free practice on Friday in Bahrain.”
The 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit will feature two practice sessions on Friday, December 4, while a third practice session and qualifying will occur on Saturday, December 5. The main event will occur on Sunday, December 6.