Formula 1 legend Emerson Fittipaldi believes that the Saudi Grand Prix this weekend will be a mirror last Sunday’s race in Bahrain because teams have little time to develop their cars amid the 2022 Formula 1 season-opening doubleheader.
Speaking ahead of the weekend in Jeddah, Round 2 of the championship, Fittipaldi told Vegas Insider: “I expect the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix to play out in the same way as Bahrain
“In my opinion, it would be very interesting to see in Jeddah, the confirmation of what happened only one week ago, they didn’t have the time to take the car back to the factory. It’s a very short time.
“Thus the cars should start in Jeddah, very similar to how they finished in Bahrain. I don’t think they have time to do any major aerodynamic modification or final tuning of the aerodynamics,” ventured Fittipaldi.
One team that did not finish and need to finish on the top step of the podium is Red Bull; their World Champion Max Verstappen fighting for victory against Charles Leclerc to the bitter end, only to be denied points when the car expired. Ditto Sergio Perez in the sister car. A double-DNF at the opener was not the right way to start the season.
Nevertheless, provided the reliability issues that failed on three of their four cars, Red Bull cannot be discounted from the equation in Saudi Arabia says Fittipaldi: “The other team that can be running strong in Jeddah but they have engine problems is Red Bull. They’re right there. They’ll be very strong. Max will be strong again.
“And then to our surprise, was (Kevin) Magnussen in the new Haas car, who, similar to the Ferrari, got their act together on the new rules package. The car was strong in practice, strong in qualifying and was strong in the race.
“This shows the potential for this year, that Haas has. They have already, what I call the package, correct with the new rules,” predicted Fittipaldi, whose grandson Pietro is the Haas team reserve.
Fittipaldi: McLaren was disappointing
On the other side of the coin, Fittipaldi said of Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton: “And then who was a little disappointing for everybody for sure was Mercedes. Even Lewis (Hamilton), as always the racer, he was on the podium there but they’re not as strong as before.”
Hamilton was in danger of being lapped by the pace-setters and set for fifth place had the safety car not intervened and the Red Bull not capitulated. Third was a flattering bonus, made sweeter by teammate George Russell soldiering on to fourth. It was a mighty damage limitation on the day for the Silver Arrows.
Also disappointing was the McLaren slump, which Fittipaldi – who won a title for the Woking team – delved into: “McLaren was disappointing. Zak Brown made a statement that they know they need to work, they need to recover and McLaren, for sure, has the technology, the people, the capacity to recover.
“I’m sure they’ll find out soon why it’s not working and come back with a strong answer and improve. My opinion is that it’s going to happen more in the European races.
“McLaren have more time to work for that,” reckoned Emmo, Brazilian F1 World Champion of 1972 and 1974.