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Fittipaldi celebrates 50 years of Brazil’s first F1 title away from the country and linked to politics


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This Saturday (10), Emerson Fittipaldi will travel back in time. He will be aboard the Lotus 72, the same car with which he won Brazil’s first F1 title, exactly 50 years ago.

Inside the cockpit designed by the legendary English team, the paulista will make a presentation at the Monza circuit, in Italy, where he became world champion on September 10, 1972 – the event will take place moments before qualifying practice for the Italian GP, this Sunday (11).

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At 25 years, 8 months and 29 days, he became at the time the youngest driver to win the title. It was like a mark of the pioneering spirit for which he would be recognized in motorsport.

Two years earlier, in 1970, he had become the first Brazilian to win a race in the category. It was in the United States, in Watkins Glen, on the outskirts of New York.

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It was not an easy time for Lotus. The team had just lost its number 1 driver, the German based in Austria Jochen Rindt. Leader of the season that year, he suffered a fatal accident in Italy, when he was leading the championship by hand with three more races left (Canada, USA and Mexico).

On Canadian soil, the English team chose not to take their cars to the track, mourning the death of Rindt, aged 28. In the next stage, in the USA, Fittipaldi was raised to the number 1 car of the team. With his victory, and not the Belgian Jacky Ickx, from Ferrari, the São Paulo confirmed the title of Rindt, until today the only posthumous champion of F1.

In the 1972 season, the Brazilian was already the team’s first driver and had a great championship. He climbed to the top of the podium in five of the 12 stages (Spain, Belgium, England, Austria and Italy). For him, the main one was precisely the last one, in Monza, where he confirmed the title.

In that race, the Brazilian started sixth. His biggest rival for the championship, Scotsman Jackie Stewart, from Tyrrell, was third on the grid.

During the race, while the Brazilian gained positions, Stewart had problems with his car’s clutch, which prevented him from completing the race. Fittipaldi, on the other hand, was determined to win.

“At Monza, I lost a great friend and champion, Jochen Rindt. Before going to the track, I had to erase that memory of 1970, because it could get in my way. I was determined not only to win the championship, but I also wanted to win the GP from Italy”, he said, in a recent interview with TV Globo.

He accomplished his goal, driving the local public into a frenzy. “When I got back to boxing, the Italian crowd started to invade the track,” he recalled. By winning on Italian soil, he closed the championship with 61 points, 16 more than Stewart.

While at the racetrack, the pilot also received a telegram from the president of Brazil at the time, Emílio Garrastazu Médici (1905-1985). In the text, the third president of the country during the period of the Military Dictatorship highlighted the youth of the newest champion.

“By bringing you my hug of happiness for your remarkable victory in the Italian Grand Prix, I find in the youngest world champion of motorsport, the answer of the Brazilian youth to our confidence in its value and in its role”, said excerpt from the message, reproduced by Sheet on September 11, 1972.

Emerson Fittipaldi would still take some time to finally find the Brazilian public. The return to the country would only occur at the end of October. Upon landing at Congonhas Airport after a brief stopover in Rio de Janeiro, the champion was greeted by a crowd of fans.

For almost three hours, he paraded in an open car from the airport to Ibirapuera. There, around 11 am, he was received by Mayor Figueiredo Ferraz (1918-1994) on a platform.

Little did the young man know that, years later, he would also enjoy taking up political platforms. At 75, he is currently running for the senate in Italy for Fratelli d’Italia, a far-right party.

The entry into political life took place after an invitation by Italian-Brazilian deputy Luis Roberto Lorenzato, a supporter of former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini in the League and a convinced Bolsonarist.

The next election in Italy will be on 25 September. In Brazil, completed ballots must be sent to consulates by the 22nd.

The two-time world champion recently received support from the Bolsonaro family. Federal deputy Eduardo Bolsonaro (PL-SP) recorded a video asking for votes for the former runner.

To the Italian agency Ansa, the former pilot said recently that he had already had invitations to enter politics in Brazil as well, but he declined the proposals. In the country, he responds to at least 145 lawsuits filed by the most diverse creditors, including labor, who charge him debts estimated at more than R$ 55 million, according to a survey carried out by the Sheet in 2020.

As he carves out his space in the Italian Senate and tries to settle his debts, the two-time champion seeks to use his prestige to pave the way for Brazil to return to F1. No driver from the country has raced in the category as a starter since Felipe Massa retired at the end of the 2017 season.

Pietro Fittipaldi, grandson of Emerson, competed in two races in the category in 2020, for the Haas team, in the stages of Sakhir and Abu Dhabi, when one of the team’s holders at the time, Romain Grosjean, was recovering from an accident and the Brazilian was the immediate booking.

The two-time champion hopes to be able to repeat what he did in the past, when his success opened up space for Brazilians who wanted to reach F1.

Three-time champions Ayrton Senna and Nelson Piquet passed through this treadmill, as well as great names who came close to winning the title, such as Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa.

Since Emerson’s first victory, Brazil has won a total of 101 in the category. Currently, only Germany, with 179, and the United Kingdom, with 307, are ahead of Brazilians.

Brazil is also the third with the most titles, with eight, two of them by Fittipaldi, in 1972 and 1974.

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