Your children and grandchildren are constantly in the race. Are you glad that Fittipadli’s name has not just disappeared from the world of motorsport?
Of course. My dad will also be very happy, because he started racing. Apart from me, my brothers kept doing it. Now Enzo, for example, is involved in motorsport (Fittipaldiho vnuk)who races in Formula 2 for the Antonin Charouz team. And Antonín liked it very much, because he really liked motorsport, he had a great passion for racing. Luckily, he recovered from the accident…
Oh yes. Last year’s Carrom Enz in Jeddah must have really scared you…
I was there! I was standing on the terrace above the track when they met Pourchair. He was a few rows ahead of Enzo, still standing on the bars, and Enzo bumped into him. The voice came. Fortunately, the secure chassis works. He injured his leg but survived.
And what about your other grandson, Pietro? How disappointed was he not to get a racing seat at Haas after Nikita Mazepin was fired?
Yes, he’s sad, but it’s just a team decision. Gene Haas chose Kevin (Magnussena), who is a very experienced racer and knows the whole team well. I love Kevin and so does his dad, they are both great pilots.
We have something in common, I really liked Jan Magnussen during his years at Corvette Racing…
That’s right, in general, I would say that a number of great riders are from Denmark, one of which is Tom Kristensen. And this actually applies to all of Scandinavia.
We talked about your family, which also brought me to the current situation in Ukraine. Is it true that your mother is from there? She has the surname Wojciechowska, doesn’t she?
Is that true. That’s why I’m very sad about what’s happening there now, what Ukraine is going through now. Something similar happened to my mother and grandmother when they left Ukraine after the First World War. Finally they got to Brazil, but they didn’t know the language, they didn’t know the country. That’s why they have to start a new life.
Did you know that you still have relatives in Ukraine?
We lost all contact. Most of my family, grandmother and grandfather went to Canada. And the grandfather broke up with his other brothers and they never had contact with each other again. When the Communists came to power in the East after the First War, my grandmother had to flee with everyone in a cart pulled by two horses. She brought her four children, my mother was the eldest of the siblings, she was seven years old. The three younger brothers are five, four and three years old. Meanwhile, my grandfather had to hide because he was a member of the Tsar’s army. If they found him, they would kill him immediately. They traveled like this to Hamburg for two months. Grandmother cooked grass soup for the children on the trip because they had no food. Today I will broadcast the news about Ukraine on television and what I saw was very, very sad.
How would you describe your relationship with the Czech Republic?
It’s been a long time. I know a Czech who made me a team manager when I was very young. He used to be a racer and kept track of my career, he helped me a lot in the beginning. We met in Brazil at the turn of the fifties and sixties, his name was Mirek Polák. Even though I later raced in Formula 1, we kept in touch. He is a big man.
And did you know that here in the Czech Republic, it is admirably said “You drive like Fittipaldi”?
Yes, I know, but I hope the recipient of the compliment doesn’t violate it (laugh). But still it’s fantastic, it’s definitely an honor for me.
Let’s get to Formula 1. In Colin Chapman’s car, you win one of your two world titles. How do you remember Colin?
In his time, he was the best racing car designer. He is an aeronautical engineer and always strives to have the upper hand in thinking of others. He was a great mentor to me personally, teaching me for five years. It’s been great to learn from him, and he’s been so kind to me. It was a difficult time for him, at that time he lost several pilots, the last one being Jochen Rindt. Then I came to the team and at that time Colin was said to be cold and emotionless. However, he has a very warm heart and a great human being. He came to me once and told me that he didn’t want us to be too close friends because it would be too hard for him to lose me. The heaviest loss for him was the death of Jim Clark. Jim was like his own son to him. Indeed, they had a father-son relationship. And Colin is a very emotional man. I was very surprised when he came to me and said what I had mentioned. That he didn’t want me to be his close friend for fear of further loss.
Were you worried about your life when you were competing in the “queen of motorsport” of the seventies?
When I arrived at the paddock, all I was interested in was the race car and the fast track. It’s a little ridiculous, but I don’t even have time to think about the dangers. Such thoughts often arise after a race. That’s when we talked about how we can improve track safety, how to improve helmets. Even the medical facilities on the circuit were terrible at that time. At that time, I was the first racer to start racing with his own doctor. I signed a special document for this, thanks to which I will be completely in his power in the event of an accident. Only he had to decide that in case of a brain injury they should take me to England. With burns for a change to Germany. With a broken bone to Switzerland. This collective agreement is the beginning of efforts to improve the background of circuit safety. Riders were dying in those days too because only nurses were needed on the circuit, not doctors.
Speaking of this sad topic, how would you describe Ayrton Senna?
I’ve known him since he started karting. He has high demands on himself. He drives a race car to its deepest limits in a way that no one else has shown. I am a friend of the Senns family. I remember riding a go-kart at Interlagos when he was fourteen. Then he went into the pits and I called him, Ayrton, come over, come over. But it took time because he used to be shy. In the end, however, he smelled Formula 1. I also want to remember his father, he was a very nice guy.
And what about Niki Lauda? How do you remember it?
He is a fantastic pilot, a great talent and I have a very good relationship with him. Outside the cockpit, we respect each other. Niki is a joker, he likes to make fun of almost everything with me. When he had a serious accident and suffered burns, he remembered that the best plastic surgeon of that time came from Brazil. I called her, told her that Niki wanted her to see her burn because she specializes in facial reconstruction. So they made an appointment together, and after that I asked Niki how she was doing. And she replied that she loves him too much (laugh). It was Niki’s signature joke.
The current Formula 1 star is Lewis Hamilton. What makes it special?
Firstly, his talent, secondly, his passion for racing. I’ve seen his gradual progress since the start of his Formula 1 career. At first he was too aggressive, he made mistakes, like when he entered the pits in Shanghai in 2007. But then he improved and improved, even with the help of his team, because Mercedes is undoubtedly one of the best. best stable.
In fact, it was Niki Lauda who convinced him to move…
Yes. Riders must be compared to, among other things, their teammates. When you look at Lewis, he almost always leads at the end of the race. Last season, it was one of the best Grand Prix races for me at Imola. There he found himself in a situation where most athletes would give up. But he didn’t. He struggled, biting at the command, showing how determined he was. And how fast he is. He’s just a real racer.
You also have a lot of experience with IndyCar. Do you see an opportunity today that a current IndyCar driver could become an F1 star? Names like Colton Herta or Patricio O’Ward were heavily influenced…
Several times pilots have come from Europe to IndyCar and have succeeded. One example for all is Jacques Villeneuve. Or Juan Pablo Montoya. He could have been world champion, but instead decided to return to the US and compete in NASCAR. Nigel Mansell, Jim Clark, who won the Indy 500, Graham Hill, and Jackie Stewart, besides me, went the other way from F1 to IndyCar. At the moment, there is a lot of great talent in IndyCar, for example, I see Colton Hert as a very fast driver.
He even signed a contract with McLaren and became its development pilot…
Yes, he is very fast. He’s very hard to keep up with the current IndyCar monopost, it’s a very strong formula and pilots will deal with it. In fact, it’s a great Formula 1 training for drivers, because I think it’s easier to drive an F1 monopost these days than an IndyCar. In IndyCar they have less downforce, high performance, very tight races because they all have the same Dallary chassis. Only two engines can be used, Honda and Chevrolet. Formula 1 will always be Formula 1. But growing up in the US first and then coming to Europe is a good way.
And the last question. Lots of great movies made from racing environments. Rivals, Le Mans, Le Mans 66. Do you have a favourite?
Yes, but I’m going to go into deeper history. The best film for me is the John Frankenheimer Grand Prix. I went to the cinema in Brazil about seven times. My dad already told me I was crazy, but I always told him I wanted to go again, so let him give me a ticket. (laugh).