OCTOBER 27, 2022

Nationality switch kept Shwartzman's F1 dream alive

Robert Shwartzman says switching up his nationality kept his Formula 1 dream alive.

Robert Shwartzman, United States GP 2022
© Ferrari

Robert Shwartzman says switching up his nationality kept his Formula 1 dream alive.

While fellow Russian Nikita Mazepin lost his Haas seat over the Ukraine conflict, Ferrari reserve Shwartzman reacted to the anti-Russian sanctions early this year by applying for an Israeli racing license.

The 23-year-old now wears an Israeli flag on his car and overalls.

"I was born there, in Tel Aviv," Shwartzman is quoted by sports.ru.

"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."

Mazepin and many other Russian athletes have decried the way that their sporting bodies handled the Ukraine conflict, but Shwartzman says his priority was keeping his F1 dream alive.

F1's governing body, the FIA, required Russian nationals to sign a document denouncing Russia's actions.

"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," said Shwartzman.

"We acted quickly so as not to miss our opportunities."

He admitted that he has severed all ties with SMP Racing, the Russian motorsport program owned by oligarch Boris Rotenberg, who was named specifically in western sanctions.

"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."

He made his official F1 debut with a practice session in Austin, and is now hoping for a race seat in the near future.

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