Pietro Fittipaldi crowned 2017 World Series V8 champion with a race to spare
Pietro Fittipaldi, grandson of two-time Formula 1 champion Emerson, has claimed the 2017 World Series Formula V8 3.5 title in the season-finale in Bahrain.
Heading into the weekend, the Brazilian was one of the four contenders for the title - being joined by the SMP pair of Matevos Isaakyan & Egor Orudzhev and Fortec's Alfonso Celis Jr.
With Orudzhev out of the weekend due to illness, the three contenders started their title bid at the Bahrain International Circuit, with Isaakyan claiming pole for Race 1. Fittipaldi was second, with Celis just ninth.
However, a post-race penalty dropped the Brazilian to fourth, handing Isaakyan an advantage going into the race. But problems to the Russian's car on the formation lap, forced him to dive into the pits for the mechanics to work on the car.
This put Fittipaldi in the driving seat, as the 21-year-old driver made a perfect start to slot himself in second - gaining two places off the line - behind the race leader, AVF's Henrique Chaves.
The Brazilian stayed on the rear of Chaves for the beginning part of the 23-lap race, but once it was certain that Isaakyan is out of the race - despite the Russian joining five laps down - Fittipaldi was told he could still win the title by finishing in second.
In the end, Portugal's Chaves took a historic win on his World Series debut, but by finishing second, Fittipaldi secured the 2017 title with a race to spare - after taking six wins and three podiums throughout the season.
With one race to go, the Brazilian has a total of 241 points from the 17 races, while Isaakyan after finishing 10th has 214 to his name, with Force India development driver Celis on 200, after his sixth place finish.
This is Fittipaldi's fourth title and his first major single-seater championship win, after he took the 2011 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, followed by the 2014 Protyre Formula Renault Championship and the 2015/16 MRF Challenge winter series.
By winning the title, Fittipaldi will now take part in the post-World Endurance Championship season's 'Rookie' test, where he will get to drive the title-winning Porsche 919 Hybrid LMP1 car on Sunday in Bahrain.
Fittipaldi's championship win comes at a time when F1 is set to have no Brazilian driver on the grid in 2018, with Felipe Massa choosing to retire. Last weekend during the Brazil Grand Prix, Emerson said Pietro could be the next Brazilian to represent in F1, with no immediate successor in the frame.
Along with Fittipaldi, the other contenders with a likely shot at F1 seems to be Sergio Sette Camara, who currently races in the FIA F2 Championship, while Bruno Baptista is in the GP3 Series and Pedro Piquet has recently concluded his second year in the European F3.
Meanwhile, the organisers of the World Series also announced that 2017 will be its last year as a championship, since it hasn't gathered enough teams to be able to run in 2018. The series has seen a drastic fall ever since Renault backed out from being its sponsors.