For most people, an ideal vacation is a warm destination and possibly near the ocean. For Pietro Fittiapldi, the ideal spot is the comfortable surroundings of his home in North Carolina. Once you look at the schedule of MoneyGram Haas’ reserve driver, you’ll understand why.
As this year comes to a close, Fittipaldi will have spent 36 weekends at a racetrack. Along with his test and reserve role, the Brazilian-American is also a full-time driver for the Jota team in the World Endurance Champion LMP2 class. It was recently announced that Fittipaldi will join IndyCar’s Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing for the 2024 season, where he will be driving the No. 30 car.
While the traveling can be daunting to even fathom, for Fittipaldi, the more races, the better.
Motorsports is somewhat of a birthright in the Fittipaldi household. Pietro is the grandson of two-time Formula 1 world champ Emerson Fittipaldi while his younger brother, Enzo, currently is a junior driver for Red Bull in Formula 2.
Right now Pietro Fittipaldi is in his fifth season as Haas reserve and test driver. In 2020, he made his Grand Prix debut for the final two rounds of the season in place of Romain Grosjean, who was injured in a horrible crash at the Bahrain Grand Prix. His duties extend far beyond being ready to be on call, however. Ahead of this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix, he spoke with M&F on his relationship with Haas and the preparation behind approaching each race weekend as if he will compete. Fittipaldi also discussed how he’s managed to curb jet lag and ruining his diet by always being on the go.
Consistency is Key For Pietro Fittiapldi
This season marked Fittipaldi’s fifth straight season with Haas. It’s the longest relationship he’s had with a team and the bond goes deeper than team and driver. Guenther Steiner has been the team principal for Haas since 2014 and has developed a genuine relationship with Pietro Fittiapldi. The pair lives a short distance from one another in North Carolina and Steiner’s daughter attends the same high school that Fittipaldi did.
If you’re a Netflix Drive to Survive fan, you’re familiar with Steiner’s blunt nature. Fittipaldi says that’s a trait that makes his relationship with his boss and the team so special.
“Gunther has been an amazing boss to work with,” Fittipaldi says. “He’s very direct, honest, and straightforward. I think that’s the best type of person to work with because when you’re doing great, he’s going to acknowledge that. When you’re doing a poor job with something, he’s going to tell you as well. He’s a great guy and a great team leader. I’ve learned so much with Haas.”
How Pietro Fittiapldi Fights Jet Lag
There is nothing else Pietro Fittiapldi could envision himself doing outside of racing. He thoroughly loves the sport, the adrenaline rush, and the competition. One thing he can do without is the time-consuming aspect of the travel. Given the accumulation of air miles and switching time zones on a consistent basis, the driver has come up with certain methods to help fight off the effects of jet lag.
In the days leading up to the travel, Fittipaldi will go through his normal schedule. On the day of his flight, he internally tries to switch to the time zone he is traveling to. He uses the flight to determine whether he is going to sleep or stay awake.
“The mistake people make sometimes is they arrive tired in the morning of wherever they are,” Fittipaldi says. “They sleep until early afternoon and are unable to sleep at night. It’s going to take another two days to get used to the time difference. Even if I’m extremely tired, I’m going to stay awake, and I’m going to make sure that when I go to sleep, I sleep at the right time.”
Pack Your Diet
In both F1 and the World Endurance Championship, the lighter you are, the faster you are in the car. In F1, drivers must weigh a minimum of 80kg (176 lbs.) and that includes their driver’s seat. Failure to meet the requirements can range from fines to disqualifications from race results. At 5’7” and 65 kg (143 lbs.), Fittipaldi doesn’t have to worry about the requirements. In the WEC, he also divulged that 10 less kilos in the car can equal 0.3 in lap time, which is a lot of time for cars that can hit speeds of up to 200 mph.
Fittipaldi isn’t too strict with his eating habits but does follow a low-carb diet throughout the year. It’s a solution he’s found to stay lean while also feeling fit. No matter what country or continent he’s on, it’s a diet that travels well.
“I eat my carbs in the morning before I go train,” he said. “The rest of the day, it’s all vegetables and protein. Obviously, the foods are different everywhere, but it’s pretty easy to have carbs in the morning and all my other meals are veggies and protein. It might be different types of vegetables and protein but that’s where I’m going to keep consistent wherever I am.”
How Pietro Fittiapldi Prepares For Endurance Racing
With races that can last anywhere between six to 24 hours, endurance racing is a test of both driver and vehicle. There is no amount of training that can prepare drivers of any level for what they experience in the car. Heart rates can peak at 200 beats per minute for both F1 and endurance racers, which is similar to the heart rate of an Olympic sprinter. Depending on the circuit, drivers can experience G-forces of up to 6gs.
With switching time zones as often as he does, another area of consistency Fittipaldi focuses on keeping is his gym routine. He wakes up early and spends an hour and a half at the gym focusing on cardio or strength training. Neck strength as well as lower back, core, shoulders, arms, and wrists are extreme areas of focus for drivers with being locked into a seated position for a long duration.
Fittipaldi says he prepares himself by tailoring his workouts to be as comfortable as possible with those physical demands.
“What I try to do in my workouts is do my strength routine with the elevated heart rate and the only way I can get to do that is by doing a lot of circuit stuff,” he said. “That way, my body gets more used to being able to do heavier weight and heavier exercises even with the high heart rate. That kind of builds my strength for that.”
One of the most difficult aspects of being a reserve driver is mentally approaching each race weekend as if you will be racing, according to Fittipaldi. You can go an entire season without even driving the car, but you must remain prepared to race.
Fittipaldi arrives at the track on Thursday morning and goes through the driver meetings with teammates Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg, where the strategy for the weekend is gone over. Fittipaldi helps with the driver data and onboard footage analysis throughout Friday’s practice sessions and compares the data to other teams to see areas where they’re losing time. He then passes on that information to the engineers, who communicate to the drivers throughout the session.
This helps him stay engaged and also gives him critical information if he does have to step in for one of his teammates that weekend. “Because I’m always seeing what our weaknesses are from both race drivers — when someone is faster, why they’re faster — that gives me a lot of information for when I do get the chance to jump in the car,” Fittipaldi said. “I can implement everything I’ve learned.”
If he is not needed for qualifiers on Saturday, then his weekend is essentially over as a reserve driver must participate in the qualifier to start the race. If a driver who qualified can’t race, the gird position stays empty.
Follow Pietro Fittiapldi on Instagram @pifitti