Former F1 world champion mentoring son
"Little Emo" is just nine years old
Fittipaldi won world title in 1972 and 1974
Emerson Fittipaldi and his nine-year-old son are on the road in a giant motorhome, and if their journey goes to plan it will take them all the way to Formula One.
The Brazilian two-time F1 world champion and Indy 500 winner, not far off his 70th birthday, is happy to play chauffeur these days rolling down the freeway under blue skies and in the shadows of palm trees.
It’s his youngest son – also christened Emerson Fittipaldi – who is now nurturing a racing instinct behind the wheel of a go-kart.
“I love driving,” Fittipaldi tells CNN’s The Circuit with a smile. “We’ve been traveling with the motorhome to different parts of the States.
“It’s great for the family because we are here together for race weekends. We’re sleeping here, eating here and then waking up in the morning at the race track. It’s so convenient.”
Emerson Fittipaldi: Raising a racer
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Known as “Little Emo,” Fittipaldi’s son is beginning his racing career karting in various championships in the United States and Italy.
Fittipaldi, whose own father was a motorsport journalist and inspired him and brother Wilson to become professional drivers, has seven children, but it’s his youngest that has shown an aptitude for racing.
“I was very fortunate that he has a passion,” Fittipaldi, who won the F1 world title in 1972 and 1974, explained. “My two oldest boys went to the Interlagos karting track in Sao Paulo one day but they never asked to go back. I never questioned (them). They have to love to do it.
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“‘Little Emo’ is learning, he’s improving. He’s very fast in the wet. He’s won many races when it’s raining, and you have to be very sensitive to drive in the wet.
“He listens if I give advice. He’s still a kid, (when he’s a) teenager then you can see better because they start to have their own personalities, their wishes, but he is learning already.”
A natural talent behind the wheel could be a mixed blessing for “Little Emo” – when your Dad is an F1 world champion the pressure to succeed must be just that little bit more intense.
Just ask Nico Rosberg who is, for the third year running, attempting to equal his pop Keke Rosberg, the champion in 1982, by winning motorsport’s most prestigious crown.
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Like father, like son
Many sons have followed in their father’s F1 tire tracks but only Graham and Damon Hill have entered the history books as father-and-son champions – Damon was crowned winner 28 years after his late father won a second world title in 1968.
“Well it’s tough,” says Fittipaldi, reflecting on the extra pressure on “Little Emo” of carrying his father’s name. “It opens a lot of doors but then at the same time when he finishes second or third they always ask why he finished second or third?
“There is always tremendous pressure but he’s taking it, he’s getting used to it.”
He may only be nine years old but “Little Emo” is already targeting a seat in F1 in 2026.
By then, Max Verstappen – whose father Jos was an F1 driver – could be the sport’s main man after an impressive debut season with Red Bull Racing in 2016.
Or maybe Mick Schumacher, the 17-year-old son of the sport’s peerless seven-time champion Michael Schumacher, might even have successfully stepped up from his promising junior career.
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“To go all the way to Formula One is very difficult,” concedes Fittipaldi, who carved a successful career in CART and IndyCar racing in the US after retiring from F1 in 1980.
“There are thousands of kids racing go-karts all over the world and this is the root, this is the beginning, so it’s extremely difficult.”
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F1 is a sport, however, that respects its traditions and heroes of the past and Fittipaldi is one of its most popular champions.
Who wouldn’t want to see another “Emo” on the grid?