Tal­ented test driv­ers raise Brazil’s hopes

Ca­mara, Fit­ti­paldi are yearn­ing for GP fu­ture

Bangkok Post - - FORMULA ONE -

>> SAO PAULO: For the first time since 1970, there will be no Brazil­ian driver in a For­mula One race in Brazil.

So fans in the rac­ing-crazy South Amer­i­can na­tion, home to eight F1 ti­tles by three cham­pi­ons, are putting all their hopes on two young test driv­ers who will have a big­ger role in the se­ries next year.

Pi­etro Fit­ti­paldi, the 22-year-old grand­son of for­mer F1 cham­pion Emer­son Fit­ti­paldi, was an­nounced on Fri­day as test driver for Haas start­ing af­ter the sea­son-end­ing Abu Dhabi GP.

Ser­gio Sette Ca­mara, the 20-yearold who is the only Latin Amer­i­can driver in For­mula 2, will be McLaren’s test driver next year.

Ca­mara is sixth in the F2 stand­ings with one race to go this sea­son, while Fit­ti­paldi drove as a part-time driver in the IndyCar Se­ries. Both had their sea­sons marred by crashes that forced them to miss races.

De­spite not hav­ing the same im­pres­sive re­sults as some of the for­mer Brazil­ian driv­ers be­fore they reached F1, Ca­mara and Fit­ti­paldi are the clos­est the coun­try has to F1 since Felipe Massa re­tired last sea­son af­ter a suc­cess­ful ca­reer in the se­ries.

The stan­dards are high for Brazil­ian fans who were used to cheer­ing for rac­ing greats such as Nel­son Pi­quet and Ayr­ton Senna, and more re­cently for less leg­endary names such as Massa and Rubens Bar­richello.

“I hope th­ese test driv­ers are bet­ter than fans ex­pect. What are their names again?’’ said 45-year-old en­gi­neer Au­gusto Daniel, wear­ing a Mer­cedes cap. “I love rac­ing re­gard­less of see­ing any Brazil­ian on the grid, but it is ob­vi­ously dis­ap­point­ing not to be able to wave our flag for a lo­cal driver. It will be a strange ex­pe­ri­ence this time, it will be a bit less emo­tional too.’’

Senna was the last Brazil­ian to win the F1 ti­tle, in 1991. Pique won his three world ti­tles in the 1980s, and Fit­ti­paldi won two in the early 1970s.

Massa came close with Fer­rari in 2008, los­ing the ti­tle by one point to Lewis Hamil­ton in the last lap of the sea­son-end­ing race at In­ter­la­gos.

“There are just too many rea­sons as to why we have no Brazil­ian driv­ers on the grid,’’ McLaren’s sport­ing di­rec­tor Gil de Fer­ran said. “There is the lack of spon­sor­ship deals for younger driv­ers, there needs to be a bet­ter or­gan­i­sa­tion of the lo­cal rac­ing cal­en­dar, pro­fes­sion­als need bet­ter pay. Also, the coun­try is in a long econ­omy cri­sis. It is just too many fac­tors. We have to root for our test driv­ers to suc­ceed for now.’’

Ear­lier in the week, five-time world cham­pion Hamil­ton said he doesn’t know what Brazil is do­ing to put driv­ers into F1, but he can see what other na­tions are do­ing well.

“Mex­ico is putting a lot of money to put their driv­ers in F1, Rus­sia too,’’ the British driver said.

Hamil­ton said he did not know much about Ca­mara, who had just been an­nounced as McLaren’s test driver.

“But there’s def­i­nitely space for Brazil, this is a coun­try of hard­core rac­ing fans,’’ the Mer­cedes driver said.

Mex­i­can Ser­gio Perez of Force In­dia is the only Latin Amer­i­can driver on the F1 grid this year.

Ca­mara trusts Brazil’s tra­di­tions in F1 to end the short drought of lo­cal driv­ers in the se­ries.

“This mo­ment will pass be­cause we had those mav­er­icks open­ing the way, we are ac­knowl­edged as a coun­try where ta­lent flour­ishes, even if our econ­omy is not as strong as Eu­rope’s,’’ he said.

Fit­ti­paldi said Brazil’s re­turn to F1 could have hap­pened ear­lier, as he was sup­posed to test for Haas be­fore the Hun­gar­ian Grand Prix this year. He couldn’t be­cause he broke both legs in a se­ri­ous ac­ci­dent while driv­ing in the World En­durance Cham­pi­onship.

He also be­lieves the short­age of samba on the grid will be gone soon.

“There are sev­eral young pi­lots, in­clud­ing me, Ser­gio. I am 100 per­cent sure there will be an­other Brazil­ian driver in F1 pretty soon,’’ the young Fit­ti­paldi said. “And there is also my brother, Enzo...’’

Rac­ing spe­cial­ists see 17-year-old Enzo Fit­ti­paldi as the big­gest up­com­ing Brazil­ian ta­lent. This year he had the best per­for­mance among all Fer­rari academy driv­ers and ended with a For­mula 4 ti­tle in Italy. He and Pi­etro will live to­gether in Maranello, where the youngest will be able to learn from F1 much be­fore he ever has a chance to fight for a cock­pit.

Pi­etro Fit­ti­paldi com­petes in the IndyCar Se­ries last month.

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