Heading into 2022, Enzo Fittipaldi remained somewhat of an unknown quantity in Formula 2. The Brazilian had suffered a scary accident in Jeddah that resulted in injury and a long path to recovery.
Since then, he has gone from strength to strength in F2. Scoring his maiden podium at Imola, he notched up a further five podium finishes across the season, putting him in the frame for top rookie honours. Although he ultimately lost out in that fight, he says his 2022 campaign has made him a better driver and person, physically, mentally, on track as well as off it.
With time to look back after the Yas Marina finale, Fittipaldi says his comeback was hugely satisfying. He also believes there was even more performance on the table in the early rounds while he was lacking full fitness.
“For the first few races after my injury, I still physically wasn't 100% yet during the first two rounds in Bahrain and Jeddah,” Fittipaldi admitted. “It was very difficult. I had to make the throttle travel much shorter than I ideally would’ve liked, and I just wasn't driving the way I wanted to, because of my condition physically.
“But after Jeddah, there was a bit of a break until the next race at Imola. I had a lot of time to do more physiotherapy and focus on my recovery. So, when I arrived in Imola, I was much better prepared physically and that was where I got my first podium, with second place in the Feature Race.
“It was great because I started 15th and then had an amazing race, made a lot of overtakes and we were the fastest on track, it was amazing. Then from that result onwards I was always fighting in the top 10 and it was getting more fun. I got a lot more podiums after that. It's been a great season.”
Having to wait to get back to full strength made for quite a frustrating period for Fittipaldi, who says that he knew better results were being left on the table. Persevering through the pain, the Brazilian says that it was a difficult time in his career, believing that his trials stemming from the accident was having a huge impact on his potential.
Despite the tough opening to the 2022 campaign, he fought back to where he felt he should be physically and then, the results began to flow. It was a hugely satisfying experience, with Fittipaldi saying that his life in and out of racing have gone into a more positive space following his struggles and fightback.
“Looking at timing screens during those first few rounds, I remember thinking I could have been much faster if I was better physically and 100%, but because I just wasn't driving the car like how I wanted to, everything became a lot more difficult, and I was in pain. For sure I lost a few tenths just because of the physical pain I was in.
“I mean it is frustrating, but I think things happen for a reason. After my accident from last year, I really do believe that it was probably the hardest time in my life and my whole career. And I really do believe that I came out from that accident a much stronger driver in general off the track and on the track.
“Personally, mentally, and physically, I was just much stronger after having gone through such a difficult experience overcoming an injury like that. I believe it was a bad experience but at the same time, it was also a good thing, because I learned a lot about myself. I'm just very happy the season has gone how it's gone. It's frustrating when you look at the first two rounds, because I wasn't 100% physically but like I said, everything happens for a reason.”
Those overdue performances began flowing with a podium finish in the Imola Feature Race, but that highlight was far from the only one in his season. Points finishes included a Sprint Race podium at Silverstone and another Feature Race runner-up result, this time coming at the Red Bull Ring.
It was a stellar patch that included just two non-scores across 10 races, a hugely impressive run of consistency that had him inside the top five in the Drivers’ Championship. A blip at Le Castellet was instantly corrected, with a double podium weekend in Budapest launching Fittipaldi back up to fourth in the standings.
Looking back at his performances, the 21-year-old says that he felt they were the type of results he was always capable of and, in fact, due. The positive momentum and atmosphere they generated within the Fittipaldi camp and the Charouz Racing System team was a reward for his and the team’s perseverance.
“The first podium, because that was like two and a half months after my accident, was a great feeling for not only me, but for the whole team. It gave a big boost of motivation for me and the whole team. Budapest in the Feature Race when I went from P9 to second, almost got the win there, that was also a great feeling.
“I've always known what I was capable of. It was just a matter of time, getting everything right and working well with the team. I’m just really happy with how everything has gone this year. The synergy between me and the team, that chemistry has been really good. I know what I can do, and I know I can finish top three.”
He will have heightened expectations to deal with in 2023. Not just his own, but from higher ups in Red Bull, having signed with the team’s junior driver programme during the 2022 Brazilian Grand Prix weekend.
It’s something that Fittipaldi welcomes though, an opportunity of which he is hugely grateful for.
“You don't get an opportunity like that without performance. To get an opportunity with Red Bull, I'm just very grateful for to Red Bull, Dr. Helmut Marko, and Christian Horner. The chance they’re giving me now, it's even more motivation and even more hard work ahead. But at the end, it's a great step forward in my career, and I'm just so happy with the opportunity and I'm going to grab it and do my best.”