Fittipaldi proving he is not just with Haas "as a mascot" - Steiner
Haas team principal Guenther Steiner believes Pietro Fittipaldi's Formula 1 debut this weekend proves he has not simply been with the team "as a mascot".
After two years waiting in the wings as Haas' test and reserve driver, Fittipaldi will finally be given his opportunity this weekend as a stand-in for the injured Romain Grosjean who is convalescing from burns sustained in his fiery crash on Sunday.
The 25-year-old Brazilian, grandson of two-time F1 champion Emerson, will drive in the Sakhir Grand Prix around the Bahrain International Circuit's high-speed outer track.
It is the opportunity Fittipaldi has long craved. Steiner said: "It will be easy for him to be brought in. We didn't bring him with us as a mascot. He knew this could be coming. He's not here because he doesn't know what to do.
"I was more worried about having a Covid case with one of the drivers than having someone injured, so I asked him to come out here [to the Middle East] for three weeks.
"In the beginning, he was like 'Okay, but that's a long time'. I said "Well, we're not taking you as a mascot. You're there to fulfil your duty if something happens'."
Steiner believes Fittipaldi is worthy of his chance as a reward for his work with the team over the past two years, and his patience, but is not expecting miracles given the lack of performance from this season's car.
"I couldn't put anybody else in other than him," added Steiner. "He has put in a lot of effort to be around. To you guys, it might look cool to hang around for a race weekend but after a while that gets old for a 20-something.
"There will be challenges, and it will be difficult to have a good result given our car performance this year, especially on this race track, which is basically three straights connected by three corners, or a little bit more but not many.
"But I think he did some oval races so maybe that helps him!
"He will do a good job. It will help that he has been with a lot of teams and in a lot of different cars in his career to adapt to something pretty quick.
"We will help as much as possible. Kevin [Magnussen] has offered up his help as well [saying] 'Anything you need you can come and ask me', so we will try and help as much as we can to make it successful for him."
From a commercial perspective, the fact the Fittipaldi name will be racing in F1 again for the first time in 40 years represents a welcome end-of-season bonus for the team.
Steiner insists such a prospect is welcome but has reiterated Fittipaldi is not in the VF-20 simply for his name.
"You cannot be unhappy," declared Steiner. "Emo was, in his time, like a rock star, and having that name is good, but that is not the main reason why we have him.
"He's done a good job in the simulator, he's driven our car a few times, and we decided a few years ago he would be the reserve driver."
"the Fittipaldi name will be racing in F1 again for the first time in 40 years"
More like 26 years, as Christian Fittipaldi was racing in F1 in 1994.
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