F1 Legend

Emerson Fittipaldi

Brazilian

  • São Paulo, Brazil Place of Birth
  • 12 December 1946 Date of Birth
  • 1970 British Grand Prix F1 Debut
  • Fittipaldi Current/Last Team

Named after American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson, Fittipaldi was born on December 12, 1946, in Sao Paulo. His father, Wilson Fittipaldi, a well-known motorsport journalist and radio commentator, influenced both Emerson and his older brother, Wilson Jr., to follow motorsport passionately. Despite their father’s reluctance to fund their racing careers, the brothers became successful entrepreneurs in their teens. Starting with a custom steering wheel made by Emerson, they developed a thriving car accessory business and later built and raced their own karts, with Emerson becoming the Brazilian kart champion at 18. In 1967, the brothers constructed Volkswagen-powered Formula Vee single-seaters, and Emerson won the Brazilian championship driving one of them.

NationalityBrazilian
BornEmerson Fittipaldi
12 December 1946
São Paulo, Brazil

Emerson’s rapid success in Brazil prompted him to leave his mechanical engineering studies and test his skills abroad. In 1969, speaking only Portuguese, he arrived in England, bought a Formula Ford, and won immediately. His success continued in Formula Three, leading to a Lotus Formula Two contract in 1970. His impressive performance in F2 earned him a place in the Team Lotus Formula One team by the end of the 1970 season. Initially intended to gain experience, tragic events, including the death of Jochen Rindt, thrust Emerson into a lead drive at Lotus.

Despite a serious road accident in France in 1971 that affected his confidence, Emerson returned in 1972 to win five of the 12 races in the dominant Lotus 72, becoming the youngest World Champion (at the time) in Formula 1 history at 25.

In 1973, despite feeling overshadowed by his faster teammate Ronnie Peterson, Emerson’s consistent results earned him second place in the championship behind Jackie Stewart. Seeking new challenges, he joined McLaren in 1974, where he won three races and claimed his second World Championship. After finishing runner-up in 1975, Emerson made a surprising move to drive for his brother’s Copersucar-funded team, a decision driven by family loyalty and patriotism.

Unfortunately, the Copersucar team, later renamed Fittipaldi Automotive, struggled to compete, and Emerson’s career suffered. The team folded in 1982, and Emerson returned to Brazil to manage family businesses. However, his racing career wasn’t over. Moving to the USA, he became a star in IndyCar racing, winning the 1989 championship and the Indianapolis 500 twice. A severe crash in 1996 ended his racing career, but he recovered, found a new purpose as a born-again Christian, and remained a respected figure in motorsport.

Emerson Fittipaldi Formula One World Championship career

F1 Career1970–1980
TeamsLotus, McLaren, Fittipaldi
Entries149 (144 starts)
Championships2 (1972, 1974)
Wins14
Podiums35
Career points281
Pole positions6
Fastest laps6
First entry1970 British Grand Prix
First win1970 United States Grand Prix
Last win1975 British Grand Prix
Last entry1980 United States Grand Prix

Teammates

Driver Nationality Current/Last Team F1 Debut Status
Austrian Team Lotus 1964 Austrian Grand Prix Died, F1 Legend
New Zealand McLaren 1965 Monaco Grand Prix Died, F1 Legend
Finnish McLaren 1978 South African Grand Prix F1 Legend

Teams

Team Nationality Debut Season Status
Team Lotus British 1958 Historic
McLaren British 1966 Current
Fittipaldi Brazilian 1975 Historic