Robert Shwartzman may have taken the Championship lead with his third win of the season in the Spa Sprint Race, but says his focus was firmly on the race, and the race alone. He explained that one of the most pleasing aspects of that morning was the fact he “finally” started well.
The Russian pulled away strongly from fourth place, getting up to third off the line, before patiently waiting behind Roy Nissany and Dan Ticktum who exchanged positions twice in the opening lap. The front pair’s battle ended in a collision, which handed Shwartzman the lead.
“I got a good launch,” said Shwartzman. “I didn't want to take much risk fighting with the guys in front. After, I saw they were quite aggressive with each other, and to be honest I didn't want to be involved.
“I was trying to save the tyres a bit in the first lap, and was generally not pushing hard because there was no DRS. I just took it a bit easy with them, and in the end they touched. They had a collision in Turn 6, I think. I used that as an opportunity to get past both of them and managed to stay around the outside of Dan (Ticktum) in Turn 7.”
Shwartzman had taken the lead, but a Safety Car period to remove Nissany’s Trident machine from the circuit meant that he needed make another strong getaway. From there, the Russian concentrated on putting “everything together” and bringing the victory home.
He continued: “My target was to have a good restart so (Ticktum) couldn't use the slipstream to pass me back, and just to have a good pace. At the end, the pace was really good, with the fastest lap time.
“Throughout the whole race I had really good pace, and finally the car had a really good balance. We worked really hard as a team, always searching for issues because every time something wasn't going in the way I wanted it to. We had a debrief yesterday and we finally managed to put everything together, and the result can show that.”
Shwartzman took the lead in the Drivers’ Championship with his win in Spa, but it remains incredibly tight at the top. Ilott is only 10 points behind, with Yuki Tsunoda just 11 further back, and Mick Schumacher another five.
The standings have been shuffled with every round that passes, so the Russian is well aware that things could change at any given time.
His focus remains on consistency more than anything. Regular high points finishes will take priority over the odd victory and he knows that as well as anyone, having used the tactic to win the Formula 3 Championship last season.
“There's a lot of competitive drivers, everything is moving all around,” he continued. “Therefore, I'm not really focused on the standings, even though it's a good position. I'm just mainly focused on the same way to work really hard, to prepare the car well for me so we can achieve good results, and actually pick up even better points.
“To always be up in the top five positions every race. Do good Qualifying... Basically, that's the key. We've had a lot of unlucky moments this year. We lost a lot of points, especially in both Silverstone races. There were a few more races where we could have gained even more points.”
The competitiveness of the field is what makes the wins even more meaningful. Eight different drivers have already taken victory this season, from just 14 races, and Shwartzman is relishing the fight.
“That's why this Championship is so interesting.” he said. “Everybody has their own moments, the good and the bad. It's very important to minimise the bad moments and have as many good moments as possible.
“I'm also slowly getting used to the car, especially the Qualifying pace, which is really good and giving me confidence. The step we made in the race (on Sunday), with the tyre management, was also quite positive.
“We need to just analyse with the team what's good and what's bad, not to make mistakes in the future, and just deliver good results. That is the key.”