After winning the Formula V8 3.5 championship last year, Pietro Fittipaldi knew he wouldn’t be short of offers this season. But it turns out he’s about to become one of the busiest men in motorsport.

When talks for a Formula 1 role stalled over the winter, the Miami-born Brazilian switched his focus elsewhere and secured deals to race in Japan’s Super Formula series, a two-race WEC cameo and a seven-race IndyCar deal, with this debut in the latter coming on Saturday night in Phoenix.

After testing an Indy Lights car at Sebring, a chance meeting with team boss Dale Coyne led to him being offered the chance to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, Emerson, by racing in IndyCar this season.

“The two days after [the Indy Lights test] IndyCar were testing there, so I stayed on Wednesday and met Dale. Sebastien [Bourdais] had to go to the Daytona 24 Hours practice so no one would be testing his car on Thursday. Dale had heard that I ran well in the Indy Lights test and he said ‘I want to test you out’,” Fittipaldi explains.

“It was crazy, I was just there for Indy Lights, and then I get the opportunity to test the IndyCar. I ended up using Sebastien’s seat with some padding as we didn’t have time to make the seat. The test went really well, and Dale said: ‘Next week we’re going to be testing at Sonoma. Seb will be testing, and I want to test you in the other car.'

“That test went well again, and they said ‘We want you to do seven races. Zach [Claman De Melo] will be doing the other 10; I want you to do the other seven including the Indy 500’. Obviously, I’m really happy and even more so to be doing the Indy 500. I’ve been [to Indianapolis] several times but never to drive. You get there, and you feel the passion that everyone has for racing.”

With Emerson having won both the IndyCar championship and the Indy 500 twice, Fittipaldi is not short of advice ahead of his debut this weekend in Phoenix. “He raced there back in his day, and he was explaining to me how the corners are. The ovals are all about setting the car up, so he was saying ‘I usually set the car up for [turns] one and two, and sacrifice three and four’, and he gave me all these tips,” Fittipaldi says. “He’s excited. He retired while racing in IndyCar, so a lot of the things he’s telling me are still relevant.”

In addition to his seven-race IndyCar deal, Fittipaldi will be racking up the air miles this year with a five-race deal to compete in Japan’s Super Formula championship. After testing the car for the first time at Suzuka just a few weeks ago, Fittipaldi says the team moved quickly to secure his services.

“There was a three-day test, and they had Kazuya Oshima (who will be Fittipaldi’s teammate) testing all three days, and then Oliver Rowland doing the first two days, so I was testing on the last day,” Fittipaldi explains. “The test went well and then about a week later they called me saying for me to come to Fuji to test, and asking if I wanted to do the season with them. It all came a bit out of the blue, but I’m very happy for the opportunity!”

Several well-known names have popped up in Super Formula in recent years, with current F1 drivers Stoffel Vandoorne and Pierre Gasly both sharpening their skills after winning their respective GP2 titles. Fittipaldi recognises the level of competition will be high this year.

“The car is very fast; I think it’s the lightest single-seater chassis in the world and has a very powerful engine as well. I have some friends who’ve raced there before, like João Paulo de Oliveira and Andre Lotterer who said I’d love the car,” says Fittipaldi.

“It’s a very competitive series; you’ve got some Japanese drivers who’ve been driving there for 10 or 15 years. Obviously, the cars have changed, but it’s the same tracks, so these guys become specialists. That’s why it’s so difficult.”

If combining a dual IndyCar and Super Formula season wasn’t punishing enough, Fittipaldi will also make his WEC debut next month at Spa after landing a two-race deal with privateer LMP1 outfit DragonSpeed.

Although there’s no Le Mans deal on the cards just yet, Fittipaldi admits he’d jump at the chance to compete in the famous 24-hour event: “What driver wouldn’t want to do Le Mans? If I could get a Le Mans drive that would be amazing. It’s one of the biggest races in the world. I’m doing Indy this year so if I can do Le Mans that’ll be another tick in the box.”

By splitting his season across two championships, Fittipaldi will have to adapt to some brutal time differences this year, such as the 16 hours between the Super Formula race in Okayama and the IndyCar finale in Sonoma the following weekend.

“Holy shit, yeah I didn’t think about that,” he says. “I guess it’s an amazing opportunity, and I’d race every weekend if I could. At the end of the day, results are what matters, but I’ve been blessed with these opportunities, and I’m really happy.

“You obviously don’t want to arrive somewhere and get in the car jet-lagged, so the main thing is arriving at the race weekend with enough time and days to rest and be fully rested before you get in the car.

“It is tricky, but it’s a sacrifice I want to make. At the end of the day, when you jump in the car, and the adrenaline starts pumping I think you forget how tired you are.

“In Mexico City, there was a time when I was racing with food poisoning. I stayed up the whole night puking; it was horrendous. I didn’t sleep at all, and I was still feeling like shit the next day. But once you get in the car, you sort of forget about it.”

With no Brazilian drivers currently in F1, Fittipaldi is aware there is a huge gap that sooner or later someone will fill, and he retains hope that he can still be the country’s next F1 star.

“I’m blessed with the opportunity to be racing in IndyCar, racing in WEC and in Super Formula, but of course I have other objections, and F1 is still one of them. I still think we have a chance; I just need to keep getting results, and hopefully, the opportunity presents itself.

“F1 is very political, and you have to have a lot of financial support behind you. The best thing you can do is just drive as fast as you can!”

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