The man who started the flood of world-class Brazilian drivers into Formula 1 in the 1970s, Emerson Fittipaldi, is celebrating his 65th birthday today!
Emerson became the (then) youngest ever World Champion when he took his maiden title in 1972 at the age of 25 with Team Lotus.
Renowned for his smooth driving style and being a tactical racer, ‘Emmo’ also sported the meanest pair of sideburns ever seen in F1.
Alongside his (less successful) brother Wilson, Emerson was a prodigious talent in karting and junior formulae to the point that Lotus had signed him into a long-term deal after just a year of single-seater competition in Europe in 1969.
He made his F1 debut in 1970, and by his fourth race he found himself as de facto team leader following the death of team-mate Jochen Rindt, winning at Watkins Glen (just his fourth F1 race) to ensure Rindt took the sport’s only posthumous title.
He bounced back from a disappointing 1971 season to take the title the following year in the excellent Lotus 72.
Finding himself paired with Ronnie Peterson for 1973, they took several wins apiece, but pinching points off one another allowed Jackie Stewart to take the championship.
He took a big bucks offer and joined McLaren for 1974, which proved a clever move en route to his second championship, but lost out the following year to Niki Lauda’s Ferrari.
But in 1976, he stunned everyone by announcing that he would join his brother’s new Copersucar F1 team, but it proved a disastrous move and it effectively ruined much of the good he had achieved, and he retired from F1 racing in 1980.
He would later go on to achieve considerable success in the United States, twice winning the Indianapolis 500 and taking the 1989 CART championship title. His second Indy 500 win would prove controversial for his post-race behaviour, where he refused to drink the winner’s milk – an act that many die-hard Indy fans still never forgave him for.
Despite this, he continued to race well into his 40s, and retired from the American racing scene in 1996 after an accident at the Milwaukee International Speedway.
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