Brazilian driver Pietro Fittpaldi will make his Formula 1 debut in this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix, stepping in for Romain Grosjean who sustained injuries in a dramatic crash at the start of the Bahrain Grand Prix yesterday.
Haas Team Principal Guenther Steiner visited Grosjean in hospital today and said afterwards that they decided to give the Frenchman “at least one race” off to recover, with the 34 year old dealing with burns to his hands.
Fittipaldi – the grandson of two-time F1 champion Emerson Fittipaldi – is Haas’s current reserve driver, and has attended the majority of F1 races this season with the team.
In that role, he has previously tested the 2018 and 2019 car, but he’ll get his first taste of the 2020 machine when he gets behind the wheel in practice on Friday.
“After it was decided that the best thing for Romain (Grosjean) was to skip at least one race, the choice to put Pietro (Fittipaldi) in the car was pretty easy,” said Steiner.
“Pietro will drive the VF-20 and he’s familiar with us having been around the team for the past two seasons as a test and reserve driver. It’s the right thing to do and it’s obviously a good opportunity for him.
“He’s been patient and was always prepared for this opportunity – and now it has come. That’s why we want him in the car and I’m sure he’ll do a good job. It’s very demanding being called in at the last minute, but as I said, I think it’s the right thing to do for Haas F1 Team.”
Fittipaldi added: “Most importantly I’m happy Romain is safe and healthy. We’re all very happy his injuries are relatively minor after such a huge incident.
“Obviously, it’s not an ideal set of circumstances to get my first opportunity to compete in Formula 1, but I’m extremely grateful to Gene Haas and Guenther Steiner for their faith in putting me behind the wheel this weekend.
“I’ve been with the team a lot this season, both trackside and working on simulator sessions, so I’m familiar with the team’s operating procedures on a grand prix weekend. It’s going to be exciting to make my first career start in Formula 1 – I’ll be giving it my all and I look forward to starting in free practice on Friday in Bahrain.”