Apart from being the youngest World Champion after Fernando Alonso, Emerson Fittipaldi who won his first title at the age 25, went on to win his second just two years later. Born to Wilson Fittipaldi, a prominent Brazilian motorsport journalist and radio commentator, ‘Emmo’, and his older brother Wilson soon became enthusiastic supporters of motorsport. Named after American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson, their father was reluctant to finance the participation of his boys. He eventually did not have to as the Fittipaldi boys became quite successful entrepreneurs while still being teenagers, with a custom car accessory business and then the Fittipaldi karts. They raced using their own karts, and Emerson, was more successful at it than his brother. He became the Brazilian kart champion at the age of 18 and in 1967, the Fitipaldis graduated to constructing Volkswagen-powered Formula Vee single seaters. Emerson even drove one of these cars to the Brazilian championship.
Due to his gaining success, Emerson stopped pursuing his mechanical engineering degree and decided to test his luck abroad. In 1969, Emerson reached England, without knowing the language he went and bought himself a Formula Ford. He was an instant success, and graduation to Formula Three also produced similar results, resulting in a Lotus Formula Two contract for 1970. Proving his mettle in F2, Emerson was soon offered a long term contract by Colin Chapman, Lotus boos, who then eased Emerson into his Formula One team by the end of the 1970 season.
He was meant to be an understudy to Lotus drivers Jochen Rindt and John Miles, as Chapman felt that Emerson’s rise had been too fast. After making his Formula One debut in the 1970 British Grand Prix, Emerson came in fourth in Germany and is Austria run was also noteworthy. Tragedy struck when during the practice session for the Italian Grand Prix, Jochen Rindt was killed. Emerson who had just suffered a crash earlier that day, was unhurt but badly shaken, and his remaining team mate John Miles was so affected by Jochen’s death that he left Formula One racing forever. So now it was up to Emerson to lead Team Lotus.
What followed was an unbelievable turn of events, with Emerson winning the United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, bringing up team morale and ensuring that the 1970 driving title would be posthumously awarded to Rindt. The next season was marred by a road accident in France, in which though both Emerson and his wife Maria Helena were only lightly injured, the impact on Emerson’s confidence was much deeper.