They do most of their shopping these days in Lausanne, Switzerland, where Emerson lives—or at least bases himself—for seven months of the year. "I spend the other five months in Brazil with my friends and family," he says. And while he has time for only peripheral attention to politics, he adds, "Since 1964 coup d'�tat, is much better in Brazil." And he smiles brightly.
It is a charming smile, a truly winning smile, illuminating Fittipaldi's acne-scarred face with a naive and boyish brilliance. Looking at that smile, which already adorns thousands of T shirts in Europe and South America over the slogan EMERSON WHO?, one seeks a metaphor to describe it—a Brazilian metaphor that might cover this man's sudden emergence from the Third World into the glamorous ionosphere of international road racing. In repose his face is small, dark, plain, even ugly, what with its acne pits and the prominent beak under a cascade of long, lank black hair. But the smile illuminates it, a smile not just of the teeth but of the eyes as well—a shy smile, perhaps, but also a strong smile, as if Emerson Fittipaldi were sharing a slightly risqu� joke with the world, a joke that redounds just a bit to his own discredit but a joke, nonetheless, that he feels the world must be told; perhaps the joke is that if you ever got into a car and tried to race against this slight, seemingly gentle young man in the mauve silk suit and the black tie and the dainty Gucci loafers that might well be ballet slippers for all their size, that if you tried to race this man, anywhere in the world, Third or otherwise, well, he'd simply gobble you up....
And, of course, that is the metaphor! The perfect Brazilian metaphor to describe this new racing star: Emerson Fittipaldi. The Saintly Piranha!
"Yes, the new government is very good, much good for country and much good for racing," Emerson continues. After all, he is a rich man's son, and now a rich man on his own. Brazil's right-wing regime would suit him. Then, too, he is a racing driver, a breed usually as conservative in politics as in life. Perhaps personal courage and a degree of insensitivity are inextricable in racing: it may be difficult to overcome the fear generated by the obvious perils of highspeed racing without an armor—plated ego, too tough to bleed for the weak and the poor.
Jackie Stewart has written of racing, or at least the "racing fever," as a disease—but then again living itself is a disease, or at least it is inevitably fatal, and who would care to be a perfectly healthy corpse? But such thinking is circular, unproductive, and anyway Emerson Fittipaldi certainly looks the picture of health, both physical and mental. He is holding the telephone after the conclusion of an interview in English. "Twelve-thirty, 11:05, 9:50," he says into the phone. "Yes, hello, airport, 9:35, thank you, Brillo, good morning." He flashes that great grin: he is practicing his English for future interviews.
"Yes," says Emerson, resuming a serious demeanor, "the government is very good for Brazil, very good for the automobile racing in Brazil. They build a new track at Brasilia. Next year we have first ever of Brazilian Grand Prix, full—scale championship race, points and everything."
And fittingly enough, a first ever, fullscale Brazilian champion to go with it. Emerson...Who? Emerson...Wow! Emerson the Saintly Piranha.