Emerson Fittipaldi was one of the world’s best racing drivers in the ’70s and ’80s. Fittipaldi had a long and successful career winning both the Formula 1 Championship and the Indianapolis 500 twice each, as well as the CART championship once.
He was the Formula One champion in 1972 with Lotus and then in 1974 with McLaren. In total, he recorded 144 F1 starts between 1970 and 1980, winning 14 times.
He was the CART Indy Car champion in 1989, while driving for Patrick Racing. In the same year, he won Indianapolis 500 for the first time. His second win at Indy 500 came in 1993 with Team Penske.
Passion for racing inherited from his father
Emerson Fittipaldi was born in Sao Paulo in December 1946. His father was one of Brazil’s famous motorsport journalists and a radio commentator, so Emerson was exposed to the world of racing from an early age.
As a teenager, he was racing motorcycles and hydrofoils, but after his brother’s accident, he decided to stay off races on water and moved onto racing karts.
Video : Emerson Fittipaldi speaks about his career
Departure to Europe and first Formula 1 World Championship title
In the late ’60s, Emerson Fittipaldi went to Europe with an ambition to sign with some racing teams. In 1970, he moved to Lotus Formula 2 and finished the season in the third place. The same year, he also had some Formula 1 experience with Lotus. In his first full year as Lotus' lead driver in 1971, Fittipaldi finished sixth in the drivers' championship.
Armed with what was arguably the greatest Formula one design of all time, the Lotus 72D, Fittipaldi proved dominant in 1972, winning five of 11 races and easily clinching the F1 Drivers' Championship.
The second Formula 1 title was won with McLaren
In 1974, he left Lotus for the more-promising McLaren team. With three victories and four podium finishes, he easily outraced Clay Regazzoni in a close battle for his second championship title. He was in good form the next year too, clinching two wins and four podiums, but finishing as a runner-up behind the indomitable Niki Lauda.
Unexpectedly, Fittipaldi moved from McLaren to his brother’s newly formed Fittipaldi Automotive team which was a total newbie team in the series. But, Emerson spent five years there and failed to make any notable success. Finally, he moved in the management of the team alongside his brother. The team struggled on for another two years with minimal sponsorship, ultimately going into receivership at the end of 1982.
Racing in the CART Series and win at Indy 500
Two years later, Fittipaldi returned to the track, this time in the CART series. He stayed five years with the Patrick Racing team, recording six victories and solid finishes in the overall standings. In 1989, he had five wins and finished in the top five in every race he completed, giving him a CART championship. It was that year that his never-to-be forgotten epic win at the Indianapolis 500 race took place, when he led 158 of 200 laps and had a great battle with Al Unser Jr. in the final laps of the race.
The next step in Fittipaldi’s journey was the move to the Penske Racing team in 1990. He stayed among the leading drivers of the competition, winning at least one race per season for six years. In 1993, he added a second Indianapolis 500 victory by taking the lead from the defending Formula One World Champion Nigel Mansell on lap 185 and holding it for the remainder of the race.
Retirement after injury and proud father of seven
Though he was approaching 50 years of age, he was still with Champ Car in 1996 when an injury at the Michigan International Speedway ended his career. Fittipaldi did not return to the series as a driver after the injury. Fittipaldi finished his Champ Car career with 22 wins.
In the recent years, Fittipaldi sporadically appeared as a driver, mostly in charity races, but also tried himself as a journalist, writing blogs and columns and being active on social medias and websites.
In 2001, he was inducted in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. Emerson Fittipaldi married three times and has seven kids – four daughters and three sons.