F1's Legends of Tomorrow - Part 4: Robert Shwartzman
The Russian driver shows tremendous potential and he should get the chance to showcase it in Formula 1.
If you missed last week's third part to this series, find it here:
Born in St. Petersburg, Shwartzman has risen up through the various categories fairly quickly since he started in Italian Formula 4 back in 2014. After coming third in a few different championships, including the FIA Formula 3 European Championship, Shwartzman won the Toyota Racing Series back in 2018. Together, these results helped propel him into his debut Formula 3 season where he raced for PREMA.
On his debut in Catalunya, he won the Feature race and went on to win twice more that season - at Paul Ricard and Monza. He only retired once and had a season low finishing position of eighth which occurred at the Sprint Race at Monza. With so many other strong finishes that season, several of which were on the podium, Shwartzman ended up winning the Formula 3 Driver's Championship on his first go.
Consequently, he was promoted into Formula 2 for 2020 where he currently races for PREMA - nice driver's program they have there. After seven rounds this season so far, he's won three races and been on the podium two other times from strong results. Whilst some races like those in Silverstone and Catalunya didn't go his way, he's been able to bounce back from those and had ended up leading the Championship going into the final few rounds of the season.
Whilst there are two other main rivals for the Championship (Illot and Tsunoda), it's not a big stretch of the imagination to see him also winning the Formula 2 Championship in his debut year. He's shown great skill behind the wheel which any Formula 1 team looking for a driver will be eager to hone. There are still a few options on the table for the F1 grid for 2021, such as Haas and Alfa Romeo - the latter of which would be where my money is at if he does get a seat for next year.
The issue is that if he does win, he is unable to compete in Formula 2 again next year. He could end up going down the same path as Nyck de Vries and racing in Formula E. Whilst there's nothing wrong with this, I'm sure de Vries would have preferred to go racing in Formula 1 this year instead - runner up Nicholas Latifi got to at any rate which must hurt a little bit. So if Shwartzman wins, he'll want to keep his momentum of success going and find himself a seat in F1 for 2021. If he doesn't, 2022 seems almost certain for him.
It's proven the case in the past that you don't need to win the Formula 2 Championship to get into Formula 1 and maybe not winning it this year, by whatever margin, would be best for Shwartzman to ensure he gets a proper go at F1 in 2022. Alongside this, one of the F1 teams could make him their reserve driver and allow him to drive in the car for a few practise sessions next year as an alternative path into Formula 1.
Clearly a good driver, his on track battles haven't always proven to be successful (look at his clash with Schumacher in Silverstone for example) but when he's on form - and he is most of the time - there's a not a big chance of people beating him to the chequered flag. He even won the Sprint Race at Spa recently with an eleven second gap - in a Formula 2 car!
But what do you think? Does Shwartzman deserve a spot in Formula 1 and if so, which team would you put him in and when?