Pietro Fittipaldi prepares for the 24 Hours of Le MansJune 7, 2022
Haas F1 Team Reserve and Test driver Pietro Fittipaldi is looking ahead to another landmark weekend in his racing career, as he prepares to race the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the very first time.
After racing in another of motorsports’ major events, the Indy 500 for Dayle Coyne Racing last year, the Brazilian racer is preparing for another headline event in North-West France.
He teams up with the Polish-based Inter Europol Competition for Le Mans and is eagerly anticipating the opportunity to compete in the most prestigious endurance race in world motorsport.
“I’m very excited for the race,” said the 25-year-old, who will compete in the LMP2 class with his team. “Obviously last year I raced the Indy 500 so I know how intense that was, and I’m expecting Le Mans to be something similar; just in terms of the intensity and preparation behind it.
“You’re there for two weeks basically preparing for the race and it means so much because Le Mans has so much history – it’s one of the most important races in the world, alongside the Indy 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix, they’re the big three crowns. Every driver wants to win it and to be racing in it for the first time is pretty cool.
“I’m taking the racing opportunities as they come, obviously I’d like to stick to one series so I can focus on it; whether it’s full-time IndyCar, full-time F1 or full-time prototypes in endurance racing.
“This opportunity came this season and for sure it’s a race that every driver wants to do. But obviously it wasn’t just a case of doing it to tick it off the bucket list, it’s an opportunity that came and I want to make the most of it.
“We have a good car, in the first ELMS race we were running in the top three with good pace but we had two tire failures. In the last race, we struggled a little bit with set-up but we hope to turn things around for Le Mans.”
Having competed in two European Le Mans Series races so far in 2022, alongside teammates David Heinemeier Hansson from Denmark and Swiss Fabio Scherer, Pietro is confident his squad are in a good position as they head to France.
But preparing for Le Mans, his first 24 hour race, will certainly be a step-up for the Miami-born racer, with a week-long lead up of events coming before this weekend’s race, plus extra preparations he’s gone through due to entering the race as a rookie.
“Right after the Barcelona GP, I flew to Paris because you have to do a mandatory Le Mans simulator day over there,” he explained.
“You basically stay from 9am to 5pm as they show you all the procedures; from the safety procedures, safety cars, the slow zones. They explain all this to you and it’s mandatory for every Le Mans rookie.
“From there, in between Spain and Monaco, I went straight to Austria and did two full days on the sim with the team preparing as well. So, we basically had three days on the simulator preparing.
“After Monaco I had a few days off and then last Wednesday went to Le Mans, and I’m there until the race basically.”
Following initial scrutineering and the traditional parade through the centre of Le Mans on Saturday and on-track test day on Sunday, practice sessions and qualifying follow on Thursday and Friday, ahead of the race start time at 4pm (CET) on Saturday.
It all makes for a much longer schedule than a usual ELMS event or Grand Prix weekend, which would commonly span three or four days.
You then have to factor in the physical and mental challenges of racing for much longer stints than in the regular ELMS season, plus adapting to driving in different light conditions as the race transitions from day to night, and then back to light again, which is something Pietro highlights as one of the biggest challenges.
“It’ll be very different preparing for this race compared to the others. One thing for sure is racing at night and getting used to that. I think the most difficult part of that isn’t actually when it’s full night because you have the headlights, it’s when it’s twilight and your vision is adjusting. That’s when it can start getting tricky – I know some drivers who have issues with that.
“When you’re in the full pitch dark, your eyes are accustomed to it because you have the headlights but when it’s at sunset and it’s starting to get dark, it’s that adjustment period.
“The other factor is having enough energy. It’s not like you’re just arriving for the race, you’re there for a week and a half. There’s all the events in the lead-up, when the team does scrutineering with the car you have to be there, you also go through the city with the car on the weekend before.
“Conserving your energy is very important, especially for the 24 hour race you have to really programme your schedule wisely, to make sure you know when you’re in the car and when you’re not in the car, to conserve as much energy as possible and if you can, go to sleep.”
Away from preparations for his racing plan for Le Mans and ELMS races, Pietro has once again been a key part of Haas F1 Team at the majority of races this year.
After getting the opportunity to drive the VF-22 on the opening day of pre-season testing in Bahrain, Fittipaldi has been on hand to support the team when he’s on-site at track as he enters his fourth year in association with Haas F1.
“I know a lot of the team here well now having been involved for over four years now, which makes me feel at home. I’m always looking for new things I can do to help and push the team even more.
“I got to test in Bahrain which was important for me to get a feel of this new generation of Formula 1 car because it’s very different. It’s much heavier than last year’s car and in my opinion, much more of a handful to drive, so it was good to get that experience.
“I try to help in-session by looking at live on boards and live data, comparing us to other teams and drivers and try to give feedback to our drivers through one of our performance engineers on where they might be able to improve on track, for example on lines and breaking points.
And with his younger brother Enzo competing in F1’s premier support series, Formula 2 at most race weekends, he’s also been able to lend his support to the Charouz driver and his team, who currently sits seventh in the standings after a run of five consecutive points finishes.
A podium finish in the Imola feature race was followed up by points scores in Spain and Monaco has impressed Pietro, especially considering the broken heel he suffered at the end of the 2021 F2 season after a serious accident at the start of the feature race in Jeddah.
“I’m very happy with how Enzo is doing and he had a massive accident in Saudi Arabia last year so he’s been recovering and people doubted how he would be on coming back, but I never had any doubt.
“He’s performed very well in Formula 2 so far this year, had his first podium in Imola finishing second, and then coming off the back of two top-five finishes in Monaco recently – a track he’s never raced on before.
“He did an amazing job finishing fourth and fifth in those races and I’ve got belief that he’s going to keep this momentum going.”