Fittipaldi picks Checo to challenge Max

We caught up with Formula 1 legend and two-time world champion Emerson Fittipaldi before the French GP to get his thoughts on what we can expect at Circuit Paul Ricard.

F1 heads to Circuit Paul Ricard this weekend. What are your expectations from Ferrari and Red Bull?

"Paul Ricard circuit is a very special surface. Very special type of asphalt and you have some off-canvas corners. Difficult to get the right apex. It looks a simple track but it's not so simple."

"But in my opinion if you look at this year's average, Ferrari has been the fastest car, on average, on every different circuit."

"Paul Ricard is quite a different circuit. My opinion, Ferrari is going to be faster than Red Bull."

"For Ferrari to be stronger, they have to be reliable. They need to finish the race. But when they finish, they're strong."

"I'm sure both Max Verstappen and Checo Perez will be strong contenders and I go even further. In my opinion, Checo Perez, he is growing, he's getting more self-confidence. he's getting stronger and stronger on every Grand Prix. If his mindset this weekend is fixed to win, he has the talent, he has the speed to win."

"I think he's going to give a hard time to Max from now on. I have this feeling because he's extremely self-confident now. He knows he has the talent, the speed and he's not anymore a shadow to Max. He's reality. He's there. He's a contender, he's strong."

"I think for the Red Bull team it is good to have two drivers at this level. In my opinion, Helmut Marko never expected Sergio to come to this high level of driving and performance. I think it could be very interesting, from now to the end of the year, the competition inside the Red Bull team."

"This is my belief and this is my opinion that Checo Perez will be running strong. Very strong and I think this is going to create some friction because of his performance. Not that Max is slowing down. Max is an extremely talented driver. He's the world champion. He's leading the championship. But Checo is there. He's there and he's strong."

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What makes Red Bull so good as a team, in your opinion?

"What makes Red Bull so good is because they never expected Checo Perez to come to this level."

"Now that Checo is there and it is a very strong team because two drivers are running very strong."

"Before, they have Max and a second driver. Now Checo is there and I think he makes it a very strong team."

"And for sure, Adrian Newey's genius ability of designing a car, to use the maximum performance of the new rules this year. Honda has tremendous power now. It is a combination of circumstances that make Red Bull very, very strong."

Looking at Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton’s recent results, do you think he’s finally back in contention? How do you see him and George Russell doing at the French GP?

"Mercedes has the capacity, the technology, has the people behind to be again, very competitive. They're showing grand prix by grand prix, that they're getting better and better."

"I think, to me, they should be running strong. Both drivers, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton."

"Lewis is extremely talented. He's a racer, he's always very good in the race. He knows he can perform, he knows so much about driving. Possibly more than anybody else there."

"His experience, his talent, when you put it all together, he'll be very strong. And he's showing it in the last few grands prix."

What do you have to say about Mick Schumacher’s improvement in recent races? Expectations from him at the French GP?

"I was very happy to see Mick Schumacher's last races. I can imagine the pressure this kid has. Mick has tremendous pressure, the Schumacher name. From the day he started karting to now, he has tremendous pressure."

"It looks to me that he has achieved the next level of driving now. He's running so much stronger. So much stronger. I'm very happy for Mick and the Schumacher name."

"Similar to Checo Perez, he's much more confident now. He knows he can do it, he can be there, he can be strong."

"The team now is good. The team is behind him. They must be very happy to see him running strong."

"I think from all the surprise teams this year, Haas has been amazing. They are running a very strong, very strong team, to surprise everybody."

"That's great. Great for Denmark. Great for the Schumacher name."

"I think it's great to see two talents running so strong and have the opportunity to show their talents. Because it has always been difficult (for both). For Magnussen, with his father's name as well." 

"Mick can run very strong there. The Ferrari engines, the cars, they should be running strong there. They need a lot of acceleration, a lot of torque, a lot of traction. I think it could be very good for Haas."

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