Coming into round six of eight in the 2021 FIA Formula Two Championship, Russian driver Robert Shwartzman is 36 points away from Championship leader and Prema teammate Oscar Piastri. He is 3rd in the standings and will be looking to dominate on the weekend that sees both Formula 2 and 3 travel to 22-year-old’s native Russia and to the Sochi Autodrom.
By Tyler Foster
“It’s been a challenging season so far. It’s not been easy at all. We’ve had some ups and downs. There were a lot of things to learn this year. Now the focus is just to do the best job possible in these last three rounds, especially this one because it is a special one for me. I’ll be on max attack and hopefully I will have a good result.”
The Ferrari Junior struggled last year at Sochi in Formula 2, failing to finish in the points in either race. He will be looking to give the home fans more to cheer about this time round but was asked whether the pressure of expectation and home support have affected his preparations.
“I can’t really say that I’m fully relaxed. This weekend is more special than the other ones for obvious reasons. I’ll just try to enjoy these races as much as possible. You need to find the motivation and I have really good motivation for this weekend. I generally want to focus more on what I can do and what I can show on the car, instead of worrying about everything else. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow, hopefully it’s going to be good weather and we can have some fun. I really want to do well here and make my fans happy and satisfied. I’m not nervous, I’m feeling positive.”
While speaking to selected media including F1 Feeder Series on Thursday, Shwartzman was asked what his thoughts were on the proposed decision for Igora Drive to replace Sochi as the host for the Russian Grand Prix from 2023 and whether, as an ambassador for Russian motorsport, this was a positive move for the future.
“For sure it is. I can’t say that Sochi is bad. I really like Sochi. I drove once at Igora and I like the track there as well. Personally, for me as I come from Saint Petersburg which is the city where Igora is, I definitely prefer Igora because it’s much more comfortable for me to logistically come there and visit. That’s definitely a plus for me. I think that both racetracks are really awesome. I think Igora is a good change because Sochi has been [used] for quite a while. I really hope that all the categories that come here will enjoy it. Hopefully we’ll see myself in the future have a go and race at my home track.”
Returning to the focus of this week, much talk has been had about the lack of progression of this year’s Formula 2 paddock into next season’s Formula 1 seats. Shwartzman was never truly on the cards to graduate to F1 over the course of this season but has maintained that “my mentality is still going to Formula 1, whatever it takes, even if I have to wait a year”.
“The Formula 2 season is not over. I’m still looking forward to the title [battle]. If I succeed [in winning the F2 Championship], I can’t stay in Formula 2 even if I really wanted to. That’s the target. I’ll always keep on working and doing everything I can for Formula 1. Even if it’s a little chance, I’ll still take it. I’m going to push myself to go to Formula 1. First, I do the best job I can in Formula 2 and then we discuss with Ferrari and SMP what the plans are going to be.”
“It’s not for me to decide. I try to do the best job I can and to prove that I’m worthy. I hope they see it. From my side, I need to focus more on F2 and if I’m going to get the chance to get the third seat I’ll be very happy. It’ll be an extra motivation for me. I need to be prepared just in case there is that chance of jumping into a Formula 1 car.”
Social media went into a frenzy about the weather conditions coming into the paddock at Sochi this weekend. Strong storms led to parts of the paddock becoming flooded in the mid-week, however the clear-up has allowed normality to prevail. The forecast for the weekend still shows high levels of rain throughout.
“I think the biggest challenge [this weekend] is the weather. It’s about how you adapt as quickly as possible to the conditions. If it is going to be a mixed race where you have both wet and dry, you need to also think well with strategy as it is more of a gamble.”
Shwartzman was asked whether these conditions could lead to a similar situation experienced at Spa-Francorchamps last month, however he denied that claim, “even if it rains normally there shouldn’t be any problems. I think it’s been overexaggerated.”
Qualifying for F2 will take place at 15:25 CEST (14:25 BST) on Friday afternoon.
The first sprint race will take place at 09:30 CEST (08:30 BST) on Saturday morning.
The second sprint race will take place at 15:45 CEST (14:45 BST) on Saturday afternoon.
The feature race will take place at 10:20 CEST (09:20 BST) on Sunday morning.
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