Pietro Fittipaldi, the 2017 Formula V8 3.5 champion, will make his Formula 1 debut with Haas in this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix as a replacement for the injured Romain Grosjean.
A fiery opening lap crash in last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix destroyed Grosjean’s car, and the Frenchman made a lucky escape from the burning wreckage to be without serious injuries.
He is currently in hospital being treated for burns, and set to remain there until Tuesday, and Haas has announced that its reserve driver Fittipaldi will take his place.
“Most importantly I’m happy Romain is safe and healthy,” said Fittipaldi, the grandson of double F1 champion Emerson.
“We’re all very happy his injuries are relatively minor after such a huge incident. Obviously, it’s not an ideal set of circumstances to get my first opportunity to compete in Formula 1, but I’m extremely grateful to Gene Haas and Guenther Steiner for their faith in putting me behind the wheel this weekend.
“I’ve been with the team a lot this season, both trackside and working on simulator sessions, so I’m familiar with the team’s operating procedures on a grand prix weekend. It’s going to be exciting to make my first career start in F1 – I’ll be giving it my all and I look forward to starting in free practice on Friday in Bahrain.”
The Sakhir GP runs on the same Bahrain circuit as last weekend’s race, but uses the ‘Outer’ layout of the track.
Fittipaldi was supposed to race in Super Formula this season with B-MAX Racing with Motopark, but pulled out of his seat last-minute, having secured the FIA superlicence needed to race in F1 in Asian Formula 3 at the start of the year.
Haas team principal Guenther Steiner said: “After it was decided that the best thing for Romain was to skip at least one race, the choice to put Pietro in the car was pretty easy.
“Pietro will drive the VF-20 and he’s familiar with us having been around the team for the past two seasons as a test and reserve driver. It’s the right thing to do and it’s obviously a good opportunity for him.
“He’s been patient and was always prepared for this opportunity – and now it has come. That’s why we want him in the car and I’m sure he’ll do a good job. It’s very demanding being called in at the last minute, but as I said, I think it’s the right thing to do for Haas F1 Team.”