Wilson Fittipaldi

25/12/1943 - 23/2/2024

Record updated 24-Feb-24

Wilson Fittipaldi Jr participated in 38 Formula One Grands Prix, debuting on May 1, 1972, scoring a total of three championship points. He ran the Fittipaldi Formula One team between 1974 and 1982.

Wilson Fittipaldi
Born on Christmas day 1943 in São Paulo, Brazil, Wilson Fittipaldi Jr is the eldest son of prominent motorsports journalist and radio commentator Wilson Sr and his wife Juzy, who had both raced production cars shortly after the Second World War. Wilson Sr was also responsible for the first Mil Milhas race in 1956, in Sao Paulo, having been inspired by the 1949 Italian Mille Miglia. Wilson Jr is often referred to as 'Wilsinho' or 'Tigrão'. He unsurprisingly became a keen motorsports enthusiast from an early age.

Wilson Fittipaldi is the older brother of CART champion and double Formula One world champion Emerson Fittipaldi. Like Jimmy Stewart and Ian Scheckter he remained in the shadow of his younger and more illustrious sibling in top level motorsport. He is the father of former CART, Formula One and NASCAR driver Christian Fittipaldi and has a daughter, Roberta.

Wilson Fittipaldi started racing the karts that he and his brother built in Brazil in the 1960s, before moving on to Formula Vee.

He made a brief trip to Europe in 1966 to race in Formula Three, but the opportunity fell through due to conflicts with the team he drove for in Brazil. He did not return to England until 1970, following his brother's success in Formula Two. That year he raced a Jim Russell Driving School entered Lotus 59 in British Formula Three, beating Carlos Pace and works Lotus driver Dave Walker, among others, to a victory at a BARC Championship round at Silverstone. At various times during the year he was also competing with future Formula One champions Niki Lauda and James Hunt. Combined with some other good results, particularly in the latter part of the year, including wins in two non-championship rounds, this enabled him to move up to the European Formula Two championship for 1971.

Here he scored several more good results racing alongside his brother for Team Bardahl-Fittipaldi in Lotus and March chassis, including a second place behind François Cevert at Vallelunga. These results were sufficient to gain him a deal with the Brabham Formula One team for the 1972 season as a pay driver.

His Formula One career started with a podium at the 1972 Brazilian Grand Prix - however, this was a non-championship race and he would not be able to repeat the performance in the world championship. He was a moderately competitive midfield runner for Brabham in 1972 and 1973. He scored no points in the 1972 championship. In 1973 he scored his only Formula One World Championship points with a fifth and a sixth place.

Wilson took a break from driving in 1974 to set up a Brazilian Formula One team. The team, initially known as Copersucar-Fittipaldi, did not have great success in their first racing season in 1975. Wilson was the sole driver and managed only six finishes, the highest of which was a 10th, and last, place at the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, and failed to qualify several times. Wilson stepped down from driving to look after the management of the team in 1976 when his brother, Emerson, joined the team from McLaren. His career total of three points, scored in 1972 and 1973 with Brabham, made him the most successful sibling of a Formula One World Champion until the arrival of Ralf Schumacher in 1997.

Wilson has occasionally returned to competitive driving. In the 1980s and early 1990s he drove in the Brazilian Stock Car championship, winning several rounds. In 1994 and 1995 he was victorious for Porsche in the classic Mil Milhas race founded by his father, on the former occasion sharing the car with his son Christian. In February 1998 he announced his return to competitive driving in the Brazilian Stock Car championship. In 2000 he was a guest driver for Mercedes-Benz at the Nürburgring round of the FIA European Truck Racing Cup, finishing 8th and 11th.

Although their father was reluctant to fund racing careers for them, the Fittipaldi brothers were able to finance their early racing careers by setting up a successful custom car accessory business while still in their teens, and then businesses building karts and Formula Vee cars. There was also a Fittipaldi-Porsche project - a one-off sports car chassis with Porsche mechanicals that the brothers built and raced in 1968.

Towards the end of 1973 Wilson had persuaded Brazilian sugar and alcohol conglomerate Copersucar to sponsor his Formula One team, and from 1976 he had retired from driving and to concentrate on the management of the team, which ran with occasional flashes of success in Formula One from 1975 until it shut down in 1982.

Since then he has involved himself with the family's business interests, including a Mercedes-Benz dealership. He has also carried out some TV work, and been involved in the racing career of his son, Christian, managing him from 1996. In 2004 he became technical director of the WB motorsport team in Brazilian V8 stock cars. This led to the younger Fittipaldi testing one of the cars in 2004 before taking part in the championship in 2005 with a different team.