Pietro Fittipaldi was the surprise call up by the Haas team to replace injured Romain Grosjean, the 24-year-old Brazilian, out of a drive for the past year made the most of his big break by dialling himself slowly but surely.
At the end of the day, after FP2, the debutant was only three tenths and a bit off down on the best time set by veteran Kevin Magnussen in the sister car; all in all a solid start to Pietro’s first steps in the top flight.
He said at the end of his first day as a fully-fledged F1 driver, “It’s been both fantastic and exciting today. It’s been a year since I’ve driven a Formula 1 car, eight months since I’ve driven anything on track.
“I took the day step-by-step, I just kept my focus and kept calm. I was really happy with the day. The team have helped me with everything, the engineers did a great job talking me through things, and the mechanics have done a great job as well.
“The only set-back was in FP1, we had a lock-up that damaged my tires, I couldn’t do any further running. I kept my cool and we just went into FP2 and got through our run plan.
[Saturday] I’ll make another step, slowly turn up the volume, and push when it comes to qualifying then the race,” explained the first grandson of an F1 driver – Emerson Fittipaldi – to make it on to the F1 grid and the fourth Fittipaldi to race in F1. The other two were Wilson and Christian.
Team boss Guenther Steiner was happy with their substitute, “In FP1 Pietro lost a few laps – he flat-spotted the tires, so he couldn’t go out anymore. For sure though, FP2 was good because the most important thing for Pietro was getting laps in.
I thought he did very well in FP2. I hope he’s not too worn out now because of the physical demands,” added Steiner.
“I think Pietro has gotten up to speed really well. Hopefully he’s enjoying it.”