Shwartzman to drive for Ferrari in FP1 and ends 46 year long peculiarity
Ferrari’s announced that Robert Shwartzman will drive one of its Formula 1 cars in first practice at the United States Grand Prix next month marking the first time the team has ran more that 2 drivers in a race weekend since 1976.
Ferrari’s announcement that Robert Shwartzman will drive one of its Formula 1 cars in first practice at the United States Grand Prix next month marking the first time the team has ran an extra driver since the 2022 rules for young driver opportunities was introduced.
But it’s also a first of sorts for Ferrari.
The 22 year-old Russian is an official Ferrari test driver, a role in which he’s already driven for the team in the 2020 and 2021 young driver tests and for customer team HAAS, as well as carrying out F1 running in older Ferraris at the Fiorano testing track and significant simulator work.
He was born in TelAviv and has and doesn't have a Russian passport, meaning his career has not been impacted by the war in Ukraine this year. He is also due to drive for Ferrari again this year, whenever it does the second of the mandatory FP1 guest runs.
Shwartzman' junior racing career:
At the age of 6, Robert won his first big karting race in Lonato. Then he started taking the European and World championships, and only in 2013 he could not do it. In the final race, he was pushed, he flew off the track, returned, caught up and was knocked out again, not allowing him to win the race. And then there were Russian and Italian sponsors who promoted the young talent up the career ladder. At some point, Robert even had to miss a year of competitions, because he had already won all sorts of championships, and he was not old enough to enter Formula 4. In April 2020, his dad died of coronavirus. He left his son his flower business and the best memories of himself. That year, Robert finished fourth in the Formula 2 championship in his debut season. He devoted all his successes to his father.
Shwartzman was FIA F3 champion in 2019 and second to Prema teammate Oscar Piastri in 2021, so has a very respectable junior career, but is not currently thought likely to be in line for a race seat with any of Ferrari’s F1 teams next year though Mattia Binotto was advocating for him strongly last weekend. Robert's most memorable performance was the 2020 Formula 2 Hungarian Grand Prix, when Robert broke through from 11th position to victory. Using an alternative strategy, he and Mazepin managed to win back several positions thanks to a good pit stop, as well as overtaking on the track. Robert finished first with a margin of 17 seconds.
“Robert is a fantastic driver. I think he’s very fast, especially in an F1” said Binotto.
“There are drivers that maybe are a great in F3, F2 and then are not good enough in the F1. I think Robert is one of the opposites. He has been great certainly in F3, F2 but he’s very, very strong in F1 car. And so it’s a shame for him not having any seat at the moment. This season he has worked a lot at the simulator. He has worked a lot helping our team in developing the current car. As a driver he has improved, he has developed his own skills and today he’s a lot more mature, even than a year ago. And so I think he’s a driver that would deserve a seat."
Binotto also said, “We know it’s very difficult right now in this situation, but hopefully in the future that may happen.”
Unless Shwartzman moves to the top of the list for the likely HAAS vacancy, for now the biggest significance of his Austin Ferrari appearance will be experience.
F1' new rule regarding young drivers:
Since 2004 Formula 1 teams have been given opportunities to run younger drivers in practice sessions to gain them experience before making full race debuts.
In 2022 this was stepped up to state that all teams must now run a young driver, classified as someone with "two or fewer grands prix under their belt" during two free practice sessions this year.
It’s always put its proteges out in young driver tests, old car runs in Italy or given them to customers for FP1 instead. And every time Ferrari has needed to swap in a substitute driver, it has been able to do it between events rather than within a grand prix weekend.
Ferrari, Alpine, Haas and McLaren are the only teams that have not already run a young driver in an FP1 this year.
Last time Ferrari had more than 2 drivers:
You have to go right back to the 1976 Italian GP to find the last time Ferrari fielded more than two drivers during one race weekend.
That was when it kept Niki Lauda’s stand in Carlos Reutemann around for one more race after Lauda’s astounding return following his life threatening Nurburgring injuries six weeks earlier.
In that era three car entries were permitted so the full line up raced. Lauda was an incredible fourth and Reutemann only ninth, but the top Ferrari was Lauda’s regular team mate Clay Regazzoni in second.
There should have been another three car Ferrari entry in Canada the following year when the team gave 1978 signing Gilles Villeneuve an early debut. But recently crowned champion Lauda was heading for Brabham in ’78 anyway and quit Ferrari ahead of free practice following a row with the team, so only Reutemann and Villeneuve’s cars actually took to the track.
A delayed FP1 debut for Shwartzman:
The other curiosity is that Shwartzman’s debut in an F1 weekend comes two years after it was first planned.
Ferrari intended to give its leading three proteges Mick Schumacher, Shwartzman and Callum Ilott FP1 outings across HAAS and Alfa Romeo during the final part of the 2020 season.
But the fog that prevented any running on the Friday of the Eifel Grand Prix at the Nurburgring which should have been the scene of Schumacher and Ilott’s runs disrupted that plan. Ilott didn’t get any Friday slots until 2021, and Schumacher’s was moved to the Abu Dhabi Friday session that Shwartzman had been earmarked for.
Hurtful comments against Shwartzman:
A lot of angry and hateful comments have fallen on Robert over the past six months. He is accused of his nationality, for calling Russia his home. Fortunately, he has a large number of fans on his side, who instantly fill all the available seats with positive comments and do not give haters the opportunity to speak louder than them. The position of negativity in this situation is not appropriate, since Robert does not support the military operation and will most likely sign a document condemning the war before the start of practice. Robert is a F1 driver, not a politician. Most understand that he could not influence the government's decision, but still there are people who, in a fit of anger, are ready to give him death threats.