SAO PAULO — Wilson Fittipaldi, a former Formula One driver credited with helping to improve the standard of the sport in Brazil, has died.

He was 80.

The Brazilian auto racing confederation said Fittipaldi, who was known by fans as “Wilsinho” and was the older brother of two-time F1 champion Emerson Fittipaldi, died Friday at a hospital in Sao Paulo.

“Wilsinho left us calmly and surrounded by all the love he deserved throughout his life,” the confederation said in a statement. “He gathered talent, a vision for the future and boldness to take Brazil to a never before imagined standard (in the sport).”

The former Brabham and Copersucar (Fittipaldi Automotive) driver was hospitalized on Christmas Day, which was also his birthday, after choking on food at home.

His wife Rita Fittipaldi told local media earlier in February that the incident led to cardiac arrest and later to a tracheostomy. He was put in intensive care at the Sancta Maggiore hospital in Sao Paulo on Jan. 16.

Wilson Fittipaldi raced two seasons for Brabham (1972-1973) and one for Copersucar, a Brazil-based team he helped found (1975) and which made waves by signing his brother Emerson for the latter half of his career.

Christian Fittipaldi, one of Wilson's children, also raced in F1 between 1992 and 1994, with his father often traveling with him to offer advice.

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