The season that has just ended was not the easiest for Enzo Fittipaldi. His Formula 3 debut proved tougher than expected. Nevertheless, the 19 year old Brazilian, got stuck in and, working with his engineers from the Ferrari Driver Academy and the HWA Racelab team, he ended up fighting near the front. The rewards for that hard work came in the final rounds of the season, especially the very last weekend at Mugello, when Fittipaldi was a front runner. Now, he is already keen to get going next season and reacquaint himself with the podium, something he missed out on this year.
Let’s start with the usual question: how would you sum up your first Formula 3 season?
“It was a very complicated season. We began with back-to-back rounds in Austria and there was a lack of certainty. The team and I were a bit lost, we didn’t have baseline data for set-up or tyre pressures, both important elements if you want to do well in such a competitive environment with thirty cars on the grid.”
Not the best of starts…
“Yes and at the third round in Budapest we had to qualify in pouring rain. I was the best among my team-mates, but I was at the back of the grid, 2.7 seconds off the pole time. I was wrong-footed, because usually I like driving in the wet and I’ve always gone well in these conditions. It was a tough Friday night, but the next day in the dry, I got back in the car and managed to end up in the points.”
How did you begin to make progress in the second half of the season?
“We worked out it was all down to tyre management and we focussed totally on that. Obviously, I also made progress race by race and at Silverstone for example, where I was racing for the first time, it’s not easy to get it right in qualifying after just 40 minutes of free practice on a track you don’t know. I paid the price for that on the first weekend but in the second, I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel, qualifying thirteenth.”
It looked as though you and the team progressed together.
“Yes, I’d say that’s the case. We worked a lot and you have to remember that HWA Racelab only started in Formula 3 in 2019 and so did not have a lot of experience when compared to teams that had been in the series for a long time. We learned that everything depends on managing the tyres perfectly and we worked hard on this. Set-up, pressures, driving, everything was aimed at managing the tyres and we spent hours in meeting or on the phone studying the data to decide what to do. It wasn’t easy but in the end I think we found the right direction and the results confirmed it. The first step forward came in race pace, but qualifying was still a weak point and gradually we improved on this front, until I got fifth place in Mugello.”
A special weekend…
“Yes, because we showed that we had improved and I was happy for myself and also for the team. Maybe from the outside, qualifying fifth doesn’t look great, but you have to look at where we started from and I have to say it was very satisfying as I’d never done better than 12th in qualifying up until then.”
Do you think the race weekend format penalises the rookies a bit?
“Having just one 40 minute free practice session with qualifying soon after is not the best for a rookie, but in the end, it’s the same for everyone. Let’s say that if you get off on the right foot, in the end it also goes well, but when you have to fix problems in terms of driving or set-up, it’s a bit tight. In free practice we have four or five flying laps and no more, so you can’t approach a track you don’t know, working out if you can brake one metre later or accelerate a bit earlier: you have to push right from the start. That means pre-race weekend preparation is vital. When you get to the circuit you must already know where to brake, where to accelerate and the right lines to take and have a clear picture of what’s required. This way the free practice session is a verification of that.”
You started the season after just one test session in Bahrain in March. Do you think that if there had been more testing, you might have done better this season in terms of results?
“I don't know. I did the Bahrain test as planned. Then there was the long lockdown break and I found myself at the start of the championship at Spielberg in July. Maybe not having done more preparation in other cars before the start of the season, like many of my rivals did, had an effect, but it was not budgeted for, so I just had to adapt. But more than anything, what caused me problems in Spielberg was the fact my DRS would not open in either free practice or qualifying!”
In your career up to 2020 you had always raced with the Italian Prema team. What was it like working with the German HWA Racelab crew?
“The mentality is a bit different and I had to get used to it, but in the end I liked it a lot and I got on well with my engineer. In terms of a different approach, in the end it all converges on the will to win. It’s not easy challenging a team like Prema, but I think that in the final part of the season, we got very close.”
Where will we find Enzo Fittipaldi in 2021?
“I want to win. I missed the feeling when you are fighting for the victory. I am working very hard to be able to experience it again and want to finish regularly on the podium. Next year, I’d like to be a contender for the Formula 3 title and my efforts are going in that direction, also to make use of the experience gained this year. 2020 is the year in which I learned the most. I had a very experienced team-mate and I used that opportunity to learn a lot.”
What role did the FDA play in your progression?
“It’s an honour for me to be part of this programme and there is no denying the importance of the help it has always given me. I’ve been part of this academy for a while now and I have always tried to follow the instructions and advice I’ve been given relating to all areas, benefiting from incredible experiences. I feel close bonds with everyone involved in the Ferrari Driver Academy and I want to start winning again as soon as possible, not just for myself, but also to repay those who have advised and supported me over the years. I hope I succeed as soon as possible.”