Enzo Fittipaldi: Young Red Bull driver hopeful of F1 opportunities after maiden F2 win

Red Bull Formula 2 driver Enzo Fittipaldi wants to give Christian Horner and Helmut Marko a headache as he fights for an F1 place. With Sergio Perez, Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda under pressure, can the Brazilian-American known to his fans as ‘Baby Shark’ stake his claim?

With Adam Williams

14:14, United Kingdom, Tuesday 15 August 2023

While Max Verstappen’s 2023 season will be one of the most dominant the sport has seen, fellow Red Bull drivers Sergio Perez, Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda are under scrutiny – and the pressure to perform isn’t just coming from the top.

Formula 2 star Enzo Fittipaldi headed into the summer break on a high having claimed his first F2 victory in the sprint race in Belgium, before finishing third in the feature race to shoot himself into future Formula 1 contention with three matches to go.

In a weekend that challenged both experienced and new drivers, the Brazilian-American found success in the sprint races with an emotional victory on Saturday, before taking his third step on the race podium.

“It’s a great race weekend for us,” said a smiling Fittipaldi Sky Sports.

“We won a lot of points, two podiums, a race win, P3 in the feature race.

“And it’s special for me to get my first win at Spa – my family was there apart from my dad, who was at home.”

Enzo is the grandson of two-time champion Emerson and brother of Haas reserve driver Pietro, so he has racing in his blood as well as a huge name to live up to.

Emerson Fittipaldi won the F1 world championship in 1972 and 1974

Despite the pressure that may come from expectation, Fittipaldi is “laser focused” on beating his fellow F2 drivers to make it to F1, and weekends like this will help his case.

“When you’re in F2, performance is the first step, so as long as I continue with this momentum in the next few race weekends, who knows what can happen,” Fittipaldi said.

“If you perform and do really well – especially in the league – opportunities will come.

“So right now what I’m focusing on is to keep doing well, keep improving as a driver every time I go out on the track and hopefully opportunities will present themselves.

“Dr. Marco on race weekend congratulated me on winning the race.”

Head of the young driver program, Dr Helmut Marko is a key player in every Red Bull driver’s career and is known to be hard to please.

Helmut Marko (right) is known for his high standards when choosing which Red Bull drivers come and go

Marko described Red Bull’s Perez as “waking up from his world title dream” after the Mexican’s poor run, while he also lost patience with Nyck de Vries at AlphaTauri after just 10 races.

Red Bull’s new driver program has always been a sink or swim environment.

But Enzo will be hoping to give Marko reasons to help his development, and with all Red Bull drivers apart from Verstappen under intense scrutiny, the end of the F2 season could be crucial for progression through the ranks for 2024 and beyond.

“There are no friends on a good path”

With Perez battling a dominant mechanism, albeit under contract until the end of 2024, Ricciardo hoping to regain his mojo and Tsunoda still relatively untested, there is the potential for change in three of Red Bull’s four F1 positions in next few years and Fittipaldi is one of many young Red Bull drivers waiting in the wings.

Super Formula driver Liam Lawson and Fittipaldi’s Carlin teammate Zane Maloney are Red Bull’s official reserve drivers, while Jak Crawford, Isack Hadjar, Dennis Hauger and Ayumu Iwasa make up Red Bull’s young talent that are flooding F2 this year.

Fittipaldi’s superb weekend of 25 points at Spa puts him seventh in the championship, 36 points behind Red Bull’s leading driver Iwasa in third.

The maximum number of points a driver can score in a weekend is 39 and with just three rounds of the F2 season remaining, the competition to impress Marko, Christian Horner and the rest of the Red Bull hierarchy is fiercer than ever.

When he battled team-mate Malony in a sprint battle that saw the two make contact but continue, Fittipaldi explained that “there are no friends on the track”.

“Obviously, it was very close – a close call – to fight him on the track very close to the limit,” said the 22-year-old.

“Definitely, me and Zayn have a good relationship off the track – as teammates, we work really well together.

“But when you get on track, we all try to do our best there and, as I said, our aim is to get to Formula 1 – there are no friends on the track, it’s every man for himself and it’s a big battle on track – you just have to make it.”

“Part of the greatest Formula 1 team of all time”

Red Bull claim another F1 trophy as they celebrate Max Verstappen’s Belgian GP win

Red Bull’s young driver academy has come under fire in recent years, with homegrown drivers Alex Albon and Pierre Gasly leaving for the external recruitment of Perez.

The last successful young Red Bull driver to progress to Red Bull Racing was Verstappen, whose brilliance raised the bar for both the academy and the Formula 1 field.

“Max wins every race – he’s so fast,” said Fittipaldi.

“And for young drivers coming up the ladder – personally, I look up to Max – he’s one of the best, if not the best ever.

“They are just dominating at the moment and being part of the Red Bull family and a driver in the Red Bull youth team – it’s amazing to be part of the greatest Formula 1 team of all time.”

The F1 podcast team discuss whether Red Bull and Max Verstappen broke another second driver in Sergio Perez and what he can do to stay with the team

The future of Red Bull’s young team AlphaTauri may be hotly debated, but with the successes of Sebastian Vettel, Ricciardo and Verstappen, there are plenty of examples of why young talents like Fittipaldi should be given a chance.

The 22-year-old will head into the final three rounds of the F2 season with the bright lights of F1 in his sights – if he can make it through the gates, will Red Bull let him in and who could he unseat?

Watch Enzo Fittipaldi and the rest of the F2 drivers do battle between the dunes at Zandvoort live on Sky Sports F1 from 25-27 August.

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