Former Toyota Racing Series champion Robert Shwartzman has found himself as a leading protagonist of a three-way Ferrari Academy fight for a promotion to Formula 1.
Shwartzman, who won the 2018 TRS championship with M2 Competition, graduated to Formula 2 at the start of the 2020 season with Prema where he leads the championship after 14 races.
The 20-year-old was one of the more impressive drivers in the 2018 TRS field. The only driver to finish in the top-five at every race, Shwartzman clinched the title through consistency and his mature racecraft amid a competitive season against the likes of Richard Verschoor and Marcus Armstrong.
The Ferrari Academy pool has certainly demonstrated plenty of promise in the junior formulae but now it seems one lucky driver may receive the golden ticket to F1 with one of Ferrari’s two support teams.
Shwartzman had a standout start to this year’s F2 campaign, scoring three podiums in the first five races which included back-to-back feature race wins at Austria and Hungary.
However, fearless rookie Callum Ilott has thrown a curveball the Russian’s way. After largely being overlooked by the Ferrari Academy when joining the F2 class, the young Brit has rapidly honed his racecraft over just a handful of races and is beckoning as a promising star of the future.
Like Shwartzman, Ilott also contested the TRS where he had a exceptional race results with ETEC Motorsport which included finishing fourth on three occasions, once at Hampton Downs and twice at Manfield.
The other driver in contention is Mick Schumacher who largely benefits from the nepotism of the Scuderia as he sports his famous surname despite boasting a mere sole race victory after two seasons in the game with Prema.
Thus, it could be that Shwartzman finds himself primed for a seat at either Alfa Romeo or Haas should a vacant seat open up should he stay atop of a hard-charging Ilott.
Alfa Romeo’s current driver pairing of Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi is on its last legs as the Finn eyes retirement after a celebrated tenure while Giovinazzi is yet to demonstrate any signs of potential of a promotion to a top team and has his seat at risk.
Meanwhile, Haas is yet to firm their driver line-up beyond the current season. With the team finding stable ground with the Concorde Agreement and inking their allegiance to the sport for several years it does offer a suitable platform for Ferrari to slot in one of two promising youngsters, something Haas team boss Guenther Steiner hasn’t shied away from
“I would say yes to that,” said Steiner when asked if the Ferrari young drivers look interesting.
“What I look more at is that if we want to bring something fresh in, then their talent pool right now is pretty good. There are a few others, but they are tied to other engine manufacturers, so our interest is less.
“The factory teams will keep their really good ones because they have invested in them. If we want a rookie, the best option is to take one from the Ferrari academy.”
Shwartzman could then become the third TRS champion to land a drive on the F1 grid, following on in the footsteps of Lance Stroll and Lando Norris.
While a drive at Alfa Romeo looks more likely than a seat at Haas, the young Russian will have to put his best foot forward to ensure he can trump Ilott and Schumacher when it matters most.
Unfortunately, at the opposite end of the spectrum, Kiwi Marcus Armstrong has been nothing more than a footnote for the Ferrari Academy in this year’s F2 season.
A troubled campaign dogged by reliability problems outside of his control means Armstrong will either look to jump ship to a more competitive team next year or stay on with ART and guide them out of their hole to keep the F1 paddock interested in his performances.