Enzo Fittipaldi’s passion for racing has been there for as long as he can remember. But on his journey to becoming a Formula 2 race winner, the Brazilian, affectionately known by his legion of fans as “little shark” has had plenty of obstacles placed in his way but that has only served to make him stronger.

Fittipaldi hails from impressive racing pedigree with his grandfather, Emerson, a double Formula 1 World Champion back in the 1970s. But for him it was watching his older brother Pietro – who has been serving as Haas’ F1 Team’s reserve driver since 2019 – in action that inspired his want to drive fast.

Enzo Fittipaldi: My Greatest Influences

After plenty of pleading, which involved insisting he could be faster than his brother, he finally convinced his father to give him a go in a kart at three-years-old before competing in his first race at just four. “I just fell in love with speed and with the adrenalin you get from it and the competition,” Fittipaldi explained.

He competed in the USA and won the East Coast Championship back in 2014, before making the move to single seater racing in 2016. By the end of that year, he signed to the Ferrari Driver Academy, joining the likes of Charles Leclerc, Zhou Guanyu, Marcus Armstrong, Callum Ilott, and Robert Shwartzman.

Fittipaldi R was inspired to start racing by his brother Pietro L
Fittipaldi (R) was inspired to start racing by his brother Pietro (L)

“It was super important,” said the 22-year-old explaining why signing with the FDA was critical. “That's what really gave me the opportunity to race in single seaters. You can imagine at the time my brother was racing world series, which is the equivalent to Formula 2 nowadays, and for my dad to have another son to race in single seaters was very expensive.

“To have one is already expensive but two racing at a high level is very expensive. So, having the opportunity at Ferrari helped to secure my budget to race my first season in single seaters, and helped to secure sponsors in Brazil, so it was crucial for my career.”

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Fittipaldi remained with the Italian outfit until they parted ways end of his first season in FIA Formula 3 in 2020 when he raced for HWA RACELAB. He says he is “grateful” for the opportunity afforded to him by Ferrari and that he still enjoys a “great” relationship with them.

But, losing his place within the FDA as well as the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic brought about a “difficult time” for Fittipaldi as he did not have the budget to continue racing in Europe. He then made the move back to the US and started competing stateside, only to receive a late call-up to race in F3 for a second year from Charouz Racing System.

“That season with Charouz was very last minute,” explained Fittipaldi. “I did my first race there in the US and then I got a call from Charouz saying 'Hey we have a seat in Formula 3, we need a good driver with experience to come and drive' and I didn't think about it.

Fittipaldi returned for a second season in Formula 3 with Charouz in 2021
Fittipaldi returned for a second season in Formula 3 with Charouz in 2021

“I said, 'Hundred percent I will be there tomorrow' and that was a week before the first race weekend. So, it was really very last minute and then I jumped into the car in Barcelona and was already fighting for a win with David Schumacher.”

Fittipaldi and Schumacher would collide in that race as they battled for the lead, leaving the Brazilian without a point until the seventh race of the year when he finished fourth in Spielberg. The shining moment, however, came in Budapest a few races later when he placed second. This, he discloses, was the turning point.

A race in my words: Enzo Fittipaldi

“That podium in Budapest was the key for me to get my opportunity in F2 midseason,” he revealed. “So, I did my first race in Monza, without ever driving the car before. So, it was my first experience driving a car with carbon brakes and it was unbelievable.

"I qualified 11th I think in my first ever qualifying. After Free Practice and a couple of laps in qualifying, I adapted very quickly, so it was very good, and then after that we had Jeddah, and I had the massive crash, so that was not good.”

That “massive crash” in Jeddah ruled the young Brazilian out for the rest of the Formula 2 season as he was forced to undergo surgery to his brain and on his right heel, something which he believes has made him stronger.

Fittipaldi made the step up to Formula 2 with Charouz halfway through the 2021 season
Fittipaldi made the step up to Formula 2 with Charouz halfway through the 2021 season

“That accident looks like something negative in my career but the recovery process - I completely reset there,” Fittipaldi says. “Those times are definitely the toughest moments in my career, and it was super difficult. I was in a moment where I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to race the year after, I wasn't even sure if we were going to have the budget to race in Formula 2.

“But we were just thinking about me being recovered. It was some very tough moments for sure, a lot of pain, and just times where you think and you just say, 'Am I going to be able to race again, am I going to have a chance again'.

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“Everything was kind of up in the air and I was having many surgeries and just at home there with my family in a lot of pain and all I was thinking about at the time was that drive, wanting to get back in the car and it was really what helped me to recover and recover as fast as I did.

“The doctor told me ‘You won't be able to walk for six months,’ and I said, ‘Well that can't be because I have to be racing in two and a half months, so I'm going to have to find a way.’

"So, what I started doing to help my heel recover faster was I would train every single day my upper body, whatever body part I could train that wasn't injured, that helped the blood flow, and sent blood to my foot to help it recover faster.

Fittipaldi scored his first F2 podium in Imola back in his rookie season in 2022
Fittipaldi scored his first F2 podium in Imola back in his rookie season in 2022

“So, instead of sitting at home and waiting for my body to recover I was at the gym training a couple days after the surgery. It was a moment where I definitely learned a lot about myself, I learned that if you really have a hunger for something, any determination, if you really have the will to do it, you can do it. It was a good moment and that's where I learned a lot about myself, and I think that's a big reason why I had such an amazing rookie season last year.”

That rookie season saw him start the 2022 campaign with Charouz once again, as he finished on the podium six times and wound up eighth in the championship. For 2023, it was one of change for Fittipaldi, as he moved to Rodin Carlin and signed to the Red Bull Driver Academy.

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On track, he scored his maiden victory at the Sprint Race in Spa, to go along with his four other podium finishes. He ended 2023, seventh in the Championship, and speaking at the season finale in Abu Dhabi, he admits he had hoped for more entering the year.

“It’s been a good season, but it’s not been the season that I wanted,” he acknowledged. “This year the goal was obviously to be fighting for the Championship and we've been pretty unlucky in some situations. Like Austria that was our win there in the Feature Race and we were just very unlucky with the transition from VSC to Safety Car.

“Silverstone as well, very unlucky we were fighting for a podium there in the Feature Race and again the Safety Car. We boxed and then the Safety Car came out just after we boxed so we went all the way to the back.

Fittipaldi believes he and Carlin were unlucky at various points in the 2023 campaign
Fittipaldi believes he and Carlin were unlucky at various points in the 2023 campaign

“We could have been definitely higher up in the Championship, but it’s just been a little bit too inconsistent. We have one weekend where we are fighting for pole, like Barcelona and Baku, I think Red Bull Ring as well we were up there.

“And then one other weekend where we just struggled to find pace. So, we were never consistent enough to be at the front. But it's been an amazing year with Rodin Carlin.”

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It’s been a long journey for Fittipaldi, one which he will continue with a third season of F2 in 2024, but this time with Van Amersfoort Racing. As he reflects on his career so far, he reveals what he has learned the most.

“The biggest lesson that I've learned is to never forget to enjoy what you are doing,” he says. “Sometimes it can be as difficult, some days where you are just very frustrated, you didn't have a good race and you go out there and sometimes you forget to enjoy what you are doing.

"It's a very competitive sport, it's very serious, so we have lots of ups and downs. So, it’s important as well when you have your ups and downs to not been too down or too high.”