Pietro Fittipaldi has gotten behind the wheel of a Verizon IndyCar Series car for the first time during a pre-season test session at Sebring International Raceway. The twenty-one-year-old Brazilian, the grandson of Formula One and Indianapolis 500 champion Emerson Fittipaldi, got behind the wheel of the #18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda on Thursday, as team owner Dale Coyne continues to evaluate drivers for his second car for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series.
Fittipaldi, last year’s Formula V8 3.5 champion, has tested numerous cars from varying categories over the last few months. Just last week, Pietro was behind the wheel of the Jaguar Formula E car during a rookie test at Marrakesh, having also tested for Porsche’s World Endurance Championship LMP1 car previously in November.
Pietro arrived at Florida’s Sebring International Raceway late on Wednesday for a seat fitting with Dale Coyne Racing before heading out on track in the #18 Honda, usually driven by Sebastian Bourdais who is Daytona International Speedway for the Rolex 24 that takes place this weekend.
Earlier this month, Fittipaldi claimed that he was still in the process of finalizing his 2018 race plans. He noted that alongside possibilities in Japanese Super Formula and Formula Two, a seat in IndyCar or Indy Lights was also available:
“My 2018 plans should be getting ready in the next week or two,” Fittipaldi told crash.net, “I’m not sure it will be F2. There’s some Super Formula opportunities open, even something in IndyCar, so we’ll see. We should have something in the next week or two.”
“We have a couple of options. I’m part of the Telmex programme, so they decide where I race. They’re analyzing and soon we’ll have a decision.”
Dale Coyne Racing currently holds the sole remaining full-time seat with under two months until the season-opening race in St Petersburg. So far, Zachary Claman DeMelo has been the most likely candidate for the seat having already tested the second car on numerous occasions, including for two straight days during the current Sebring test.
However, Fittipaldi’s test today could throw him into the mix. The young Brazilian even has former experience racing on ovals, albeit in a stock car as opposed to a single seater. Pietro started his car racing career back in 2011 in the NASCAR Whelan All-American Series, a series that he would go on to become the champion of later that season after having won four of the twenty races held that year. If Pietro is signed to an Indy seat, he’ll join his Lotus team-mate from Formula V8 3.5 last year, René Binder, who was signed by Juncos Racing on a partial schedule for this year.
A plethora of other teams and drivers were also in action at Sebring International Raceway. Andretti Autosport were out in force with all four of their drivers. They were joined by Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato, who were getting their first on-track taste of 2018 IndyCar’s for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
Newcomers Carlin were also in action with Max Chilton behind the wheel. This is their first appearance on track with other cars, having only turned an IndyCar wheel for the first time in a shakedown test at Homestead-Miami Speedway earlier this week.
The Verizon IndyCar Series teams and drivers will conduct further pre-season testing at Sebring before heading to both Sonoma Raceway and the ISM Speedway for final pre-season tests next month. After that, the series will head to the site of the season-opening race of the 2018 season, the Grand Prix of St Petersburg, which will be held on March 11.