Ferrari driver has no issue turning his back on Russia to reach F1

Robert Shwartzman drove for Ferrari during FP1 at the US Grand Prix and will likely do so again at Abu Dhabi.

Robert Shwartzman is perhaps the highest rated member of the Ferrari Driver Academy, with the Maranello-based side appearing to have full faith in the Israeli driver.

The 2021 Formula 2 runner-up drove for Ferrari during FP1 last weekend at the Circuit of the Americas and is set to drive the F1-75 again in FP1 at the season finale at the Yas Marina Circuit, with it likely he’ll repeat his role again next season.

Shwartzman has faced a mainly quiet yet equally challenging year, as the 23-year-old decided to change his nationality from Russian to Israeli.

By birth, he is Israeli, after being born in Tel Aviv; however, after moving to Russia when he was three, he went on to get a Russian racing licence rather than an Israeli one.

READ: Alfa Romeo react to Audi partnering with Sauber

The Russo-Israeli managed to claim an Israeli racing licence at the start of the season after the FIA brought in a ban on Russian drivers, following the conflict in Ukraine.

Russian drivers were only allowed to race in FIA championships if they signed a document denouncing their country, something many opted not to do.

It was, therefore, easier for the former SMP Racing driver to return to his native country and claim an Isareli licence, meaning he now races under their flag, rather than Russia’s.

“I was born there, in Tel Aviv,” Shwartzman said.

Article continues below

“My father’s family is from Israel, he was also Israeli. I spent the first three years of my life in Tel Aviv, then my family moved to Russia. When I started karting, my father decided that we would get a Russian license because we lived in Russia.

“I have always had an Israeli passport. And when the situation between Russia and Ukraine worsened, I decided to apply for a racing license from Israel.

“In the end, I want to be a racer and my main goal is Formula 1.”

Shwartzman acted quickly to switch his licence, after knowing that the longer he left it the less driving he’d complete.

“After the FIA made the decisions that they had made, I needed to make sure I was available for work as soon as possible if Ferrari needed to put me behind the wheel,” added Shwartzman.

“We acted quickly so as not to miss our opportunities.”

The 2019 F3 World Champion was set to compete in F2 again this season, before Russian side SMP Racing were forced to withdraw from the championship.

Whilst Shwartzman drove for Prema, he was backed by Ferrari and SMP, after having a long relationship with them.

SMP actually withdrew from all FIA championships, with the company’s owner, Boris Rotenberg, having been sanctioned by the West.

Shwartzman has closed any ties to the programme but is still extremely grateful for “their support”.

“This chapter is closed,” said Shwartzman when asked about SMP.

“I certainly would not have been able to achieve all this and be here now without their support, but this year I – let’s say – started walking on my own and now all my sports activities depend on Ferrari.”

Many have tipped Shwartzman for a future in F1, with some having wanted Haas to take the Israeli into consideration.

The 23-year-old is certainly one for the future, especially given how much he’s liked by Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto.

READ: Sergio Perez claims Max Verstappen is a gossip king

Shwartzman actually performed very well during his FP1 appearance at COTA last weekend, where he would’ve been close to the top 10 had he not been blocked in the final corner by Max Verstappen.

His best bet at a full-time seat appears to be in 2024, something he’s targeting due to not having a “backup plan”.

“Honestly, I don’t have a backup plan if it doesn’t work out with Formula 1,” he said.