The first of four rookies in with a shout of winning the Formula 2 title, Robert Shwartzman’s debut season has so far surpassed expectations, as he’s battled with his more experienced rivals from the Ferrari Driver Academy.
The Russian racer - who led the standings earlier in the season – has dropped back ever so slightly in recent weeks, after two pointless rounds in a row seriously hampered his chances of fighting for the crown.
Sitting 51 points behind current leader and PREMA Racing teammate Mick Schumacher, Shwarztman has a lot to do in the final two rounds if he is to overturn the deficit, but it can’t be ruled out. At very least, he should have his eye on Callum Ilott, 29 points better off, in second place.
AN EMPHATIC START
There are a few moments that could be chosen as Shwartzman’s highlight of the season, but in the end, it’s got to be his second win of the season, at Budapest. His maiden win may have meant more, and it also handed him first place in the Drivers’ Championship, but his second was spectacular.
Having endured a tough Qualifying session, the 21-year-old lunged from 11th to sixth off the line to instantly give himself a chance on an afternoon when few would have fancied his chances.
From here, it was all about the tyres. Shwartzman had braved the alternate strategy and it paid off with the Russian placed on sparkling new soft tyres, while the rest of the grid were using heavily degraded mediums.
Fighting up to second with two laps to go, the 21-year-old coolly dispatched of his teammate Schumacher and fired off into the distance, extending his lead of the Championship at the time to 22 points.
THE LAST TWO ROUNDS
Shwartzman’s start to the season was phenomenal, it included three podiums and two fourth place finishes in the opening six races, but things have been a bit more hit and miss since then. He struggled to get to grips with Silverstone, scoring just once in the four races at the British circuit, when he took P8.
Things picked up again after this as he took another podium and a third win of the year in the Spa Sprint Race, but it’s the last two rounds of the season which have really hampered him. Shwartzman scored zero points for two rounds in a row, as his teammate, Schumacher, solidified his grip on the Championship.
Those around him all scored strongly as well. Callum Ilott, Yuki Tsunoda, Christian Lundgaard and Nikita Mazepin all took home decent points from at least one of the two rounds. Even more frustratingly, Shwarztman was left with a near two-month gap to mull over the results, without a chance to make amends.
He’ll finally get that opportunity in Bahrain and he’ll need to make it count.
FROM THE GRID
“I want to do the best job as possible and get as many points as possible.” Said Shwartzman. “This will be my first time actually racing in Bahrain as I have never been there for a race, just the pre-season collective tests so it will be kind of new to me and I really want to enjoy the last two rounds of the Formula 2 Championship.
“I would really like to finish the season happy that we have done a good job and satisfied about the speed and performance. That’s the main goal for Bahrain.
“It’s very difficult as we lost a lot of points in the last three rounds which doesn’t help our chances for the title. We are quite far behind even if it is still mathematically open, but you never know what’s going to happen, maybe we’ll have a good chance to recover some positions.
“I’m still positive and believing in our chances but we need to do our best and see how the situation unfolds at the end."