Former F1 driver and team owner Wilson Fittipaldi dies aged 80

The father of Indycar racer Christian and elder brother of two-time Formula One World Champion Emerson had been unwell for a while.

His birthday fell on Christmas Day, and he had been admitted to the hospital after choking on some meat. His family couldn’t get his airway cleared, which led to a heart arrest.

Wilson Fittipaldi Sr., a prominent player in Brazilian racing, and his father encouraged him to drive a wide range of vehicles when he was younger. He was born in Sao Paulo.

He had a brief Formula 3 run in Europe in 1966, but it was his younger brother Emerson, who moved to the UK in 1969 and qualified for Formula One with Team Lotus the following year, who had the first major influence.

Wilson relocated full-time.

He made his Formula One (F1) debut in the non-championship Argentinian GP at the beginning of 1971, driving alongside Emerson in a works Team Lotus car.

He advanced to F2 with a Team Bardahl Lotus in that same year. He finished sixth in the championship, behind the likes of Ronnie Peterson and Carlos Reutemann, and gained points on six occasions, including a third place at Hockenheim.

That helped him land a spot as Graham Hill’s teammate in 1972 on Bernie Ecclestone’s Brabham F1 squad. It was a generally poor year, however he did get a third place in the non-championship race at Interlagos and seventh places in Spain and Germany.

He finished the 1973 Formula One season with Brabham, but he was still racing in Formula Two. Before retiring, Fittipaldi had a brilliant drive at Monaco, which he would later declare to be the race of his life. In Argentina, he placed sixth, and at the Nurburgring, he scored the lone points of his career.

His single race appearance in 1974 was in a non-championship race in Brasilia alongside Brabham. After that, he took a break from Formula One to form his own team in Brazil.

Although Copersucar, named for the sugar corporation that supported the team, debuted on the grid in 1975, his first car was uncompetitive, and his best finish came in the US GP (10th).

Wilson persuaded the team despite their lack of consistency.