Emerson Fittipaldi was McLaren’s first world champion. He joined the team in 1974 and it was that same year that he secured the world championship – his second (his first being won in 1972) but the very first championship for McLaren. As well as the drivers’ championship, McLaren were also victorious in the constructors’ championship. They beat Ferrari by eight points.
Brazilian Fittipaldi was born in 1946 to respected motor sport commentator and journalist Wilson Fittipaldi Snr. His older brother, Wilson Fittipaldi Jnr, was also a racer and later became a team owner. He started racing from a young age, trying motorcycles and karts. Before joining Formula One in 1970, Fittipaldi raced in Formula Vees, Formula Ford, Formula 3 and Formula 2.
Fittipaldi joined Formula One mid-way through the 1970 season, and became Lotus’ lead driver for the following season. He stayed with Lotus and became the youngest world champion (at that time) aged 25 when he won the championship in 1972. In 1975 he took two race victories and a handful of podiums but it was not enough to beat an impressive Niki Lauda. He finished second for McLaren that year. In a shock twist for 1976, Fittipaldi chose to leave McLaren for his brother’s team Copersucar Fittipaldi. His highest championship finish between leaving McLaren in 1975 and retiring from the sport in 1980 was tenth place in 1978.
After retiring from driving, Fittipaldi moved into a team management role, but the team folded in 1982. He resumed his racing career in 1984, racing in CART. He won the championship in 1989. He continued racing until 1996 until an injury put paid to him continuing. Since 1996 he has still been involved with racing, however, as a team owner in Champ Car, as well as team principal for the Brazilian A1GP entry. He has dabbled in racing returns, racing in the GT3 Championship with his brother in 2008 for example.
Fittipaldi is now a regular blogger for the McLaren team. He blogs about a number of different topics, including a recent post where he outlined his highlights of racing for McLaren.
Tomorrow’s ’50 in 50′ post will look at the iconic McLaren Technology Centre, which houses the McLaren Group.