Pietro Fittipaldi admitted it felt “crazy” to make his F1 debut not only because of the action on track but also the pressure off it from all the cameras in the Bahrain paddock.
Fittipaldi, who as the grandson of former world champion Emerson becomes the first third-generation driver to compete across an F1 weekend, said he already felt settled in his Haas and is now ready to “raise the volume”.
“That was fantastic,” said the Brazilian, who finished 19th and 18th in the two sessions. “It’s exciting. I come out here and take it step by step but it’s crazy, you’re on the big stage now, this is the big league.
“You go out in FP1 and it’s different because it’s a bunch of cameras, everyone filming, taking pictures, you’ve got to keep focused, keep calm and I was really happy with today, the team helped me through everything.”
The Haas test driver, who has stepped up in place of the injured Romain Grosjean this weekend, made a mistake in first practice, flat-spotting a set of soft tyres that prevented any further running in that session.
Fittipaldi improved in FP2 and added: “I felt pretty good with all the procedural stuff, that’s what I focused on and I felt really good with the starts and the pit stops.
“In FP2, we did all the running, we closed the gap which was really good. You always make a step each time you go back out. I knew those steps were going to be big. That’s what we did.”
Fittipaldi is not the only driver making his debut this weekend as Briton Jack Aitken has also stepped up to fill the space at Williams vacated by George Russell, who is replacing the Covid-hit Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes.
Aitken finished his first session last of the 20 drivers and was last of the runners in the second, finishing 19th as Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc failed to post a time due to a driveshaft failure.
That was to be expected as Williams is the slowest of the cars on the grid, but Aitken was clearly buzzing from his experience, despite narrowly escaping the barriers in a spin and ending up at the back.
Asked how he felt, he said: “Pretty cool. I had a couple of slip-ups, nothing too major, got lots of laps under my belt and it’s a pretty solid foundation to build on when the fun starts tomorrow.
“I just got a bit too confident at the wrong time with the tyres and luckily it didn’t cause any damage, just cost us a few laps. I got up to speed pretty okay, there is a bit of work to be done on one-lap pace but the race run was encouraging.”
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