Pietro Fittipaldi admitted Friday at the Bahrain International Circuit was both ‘fantastic’ and ‘exciting’ as he competed in his first official practice sessions for the Haas F1 Team.
The Brazilian was drafted in to replace the injured Romain Grosjean for the Sakhir Grand Prix as the Frenchman recovers from his horror crash in last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix. Fittipaldi had not driven a racing car in anger for over eight months prior to first practice, with his last test in a Formula 1 car coming back in 2019.
However, aside from a big lock up that lost him a set of tyres in first practice, Fittipaldi showed well, improving his performances significantly across the two sessions, even though he ended up setting the nineteenth and eighteenth fastest times respectively.
“It’s been both fantastic and exciting today,” said Fittipaldi. “It’s been a year since I’ve driven a Formula 1 car, eight months since I’ve driven anything on track.
“I took the day step-by-step, I just kept my focus and kept calm. I was really happy with the day. The team have helped me with everything, the engineers did a great job talking me through things, and the mechanics have done a great job as well.
“The only set-back was in FP1, we had a lock-up that damaged my tyres, I couldn’t do any further running. I kept my cool and we just went into FP2 and got through our run plan. Tomorrow I’ll make another step, slowly turn up the volume, and push when it comes to qualifying then the race.”
“I think Pietro has done really well today” – Kevin Magnussen
Team-mate Kevin Magnussen gave praise to Fittipaldi for stepping into the VF-20 at such short notice and without any testing, and he was happy the Brazilian was able to get up to speed quickly.
“I think Pietro has done really well today,” said Magnussen. “It’s a big ask to be thrown into a car just a couple of days before a race weekend with no testing.
“I think he’s gotten up to speed really well. Hopefully he’s enjoying it.”
Magnussen says the short layout of the outer track of the Bahrain International Circuit is a ‘challenge’, but like many other tracks in 2020, the team are just not fast enough to be genuine contenders for the top ten in either Qualifying or the race in normal conditions. He ended up seventeenth in the first session Friday, although he would have been encouraged a little to be fourteenth in the second session.
“Well, it’s certainly a very short track with a lot of traffic – it’s very narrow as well, very bumpy,” said the Dane. “It’s certainly a challenge. Unfortunately, we’re not fast enough, either on the normal track or this new one.
“We’ve also got to work on the balance of the car, it’s not just the straights where we’re slow – we have to work on the corners. We’ve got to try and manage all that.”