F1 hero's grandson enjoys 'special' win 18 months after terrifying brain surgery

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F1 hero
F1 hero's grandson enjoys 'special' win 18 months after terrifying brain surgery

It's been a long time coming, but Enzo Fittipaldi can now call himself a Formula 2 race winner.

The 22-year-old has come close on several occasions in the past. But the F2 events at last weekend's Belgian Grand Prix finally brought Fittipaldi the success for which he has waited so patiently.

He took victory in the Sprint at Spa-Francorchamps – a dream venue at which to take your maiden victory in any category. And as if that wasn't enough, the following day he made it a double podium with third place in the Feature race.

As he sits down to speak with Mirror Sport over a video call, back at home, it is Fittipaldi's P1 trophy which takes pride of place in the background. He shows it off with a smile which has clearly been etched upon his face for several days now.

"It meant a lot to me, to get my first win in Formula 2," he said. "It was a great feeling. Me and the team, we've worked so hard this whole year and it was definitely a nice moment."

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The Fittipaldi family is motorsport royalty, dating back to his grandfather Emerson's two Formula 1 world championship successes. Enzo's great uncle Wilson, brother Pietro and cousin Christian have also competed in the premier single-seater series.

And a great deal of them were there in Belgium to witness this latest milestone in Enzo's career. "I had all my family there, except for my dad. It was a great moment for us. It was a very nice feeling after the win, getting out of the car and seeing all my family there was very special. Giving a hug to all the team... those are moments I'll keep for the rest of my career."

F1 hero's grandson enjoys 'special' win 18 months after terrifying brain surgeryEnzo hugs his brother Pietro after securing his maiden F2 victory (Getty Images)

This is Fittipaldi's second full season in the feeder series directly below F1. Six podiums in 2022 were enough to earn an eight-placed finish in the championship and a spot on the prestigious Red Bull young driver programme.

With six races to go in this season, he is seventh in the standings having now stood on the podium four times, finally making it onto that top step. All this in the 18 months after he underwent brain surgery to relieve swelling after a crash at the end of 2021 which also caused serious damage to his heel.

One of the overriding emotions for Fittipaldi after his maiden victory is relief, given how close he came at the Red Bull Ring just a month ago. "I remember in Austria, after the feature race... I still finished sixth which was good points, but I've never been so frustrated or angry after a race, because the win was there," he said.

"It was such a difficult feeling, that the win slipped away from me there. We were six or seven seconds ahead of [Richard] Verschoor who ended up winning that race. In the Formula 2 Feature race you can box, but it doesn't count [as your mandatory pit stop].

"As I was coming to the pit entry it was still under the virtual safety car and I was waiting for the safety car to come out so I could go in the pits. I was going, going, going, and it wasn't coming out so I had to get back on track and missed the pit entry. As soon as I did that the safety car came out. Verschoor and [Ayumu] Iwasa behind me pitted, won the race and finished second, and I ended up sixth.

"I felt I had the win in my hands there and if the safety car had come out literally one or two seconds earlier, I would have won the race. In Formula 2 you do need a little bit of... I don't know if luck is the correct word because I believe you make your own luck with hard work and dedication, but sometimes you do need a little luck."

This time the stroke of fortune went in his favour and against Jehan Daruvala. The MP Motorsport driver was leading the Sprint at the start of the race, when his headrest came loose and fell into the middle of the track, forcing him to retire for safety reasons.

F1 hero's grandson enjoys 'special' win 18 months after terrifying brain surgeryAnother Fittipaldi member is targeting F1 (Getty Images)

Fittipaldi took full advantage and now his next steps are clear – a Feature race win, and the possibility of a challenge for third place in the championship this year. He said: "The win in a feature race is coming. I know it's coming. It's been very close, it's just a matter of things coming together and getting it done.

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"It was my best in terms of points for a weekend. It just beat Budapest from last year when I finished third and second in the races. It's very nice to score 26 points – it's like a feature race win.

"It's a lot of points and I feel like we're back in the mix for a top three in the championship. We're well in the mix now. Three race weekends to go and I feel like I have a lot of motivation and hunger to keep improving and get more wins. And I feel like we have a great pace, me and the team, to secure more wins and more podiums until the end of the season.

"The title is still open with three race weekends left and a lot of points on the table. But, realistically, my goal is to finish in the top three. That's what I'm focussed on. We've closed the gap a good amount to third in the championship and that's my goal at the moment. The top two are a little bit further ahead."

Daniel Moxon

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