Robert Shwartzman, 2019 FIA Formula 3 champion – how does that sound?
Sounds great! I mean, I still can’t believe we’ve achieved this. At the beginning of the season, I had dreams about it that it was possible to do it, but I wasn’t really sure because it was a new category for me and for my team so I had no idea where we would end up. From the first weekend in Barcelona however, I already felt the big power from my team. The target was to do a good result and make no mistakes. And yeah, finally we end up here today. Here’s a story: before this race today, I had quite a lot of pressure, and the last couple of nights, I only slept like two and half hours. It was tough [laughs]. Even though I didn’t want to think too much about the pressure, it was still on my mind. Now, I can sort of like relax and it feels great. I want to say thank you to the team, to SMP, to the FDA. They’ve supported me all these years. I think everybody in the team has done a huge job. I want to thank them all, my engineers, my mechanics and of course my dad who has been supporting me every step of the way. Without him, it would have been much more difficult for me to deliver a good job.
What does this title mean to you?
It means that the working process I’ve been doing in the past years has paid off. And it means that I have to keep doing this and go forward, and to improve myself: hard work pays off. Because when you start working, you’re not sure if you’re going to get results. People tell you to work hard and that you’ll get results from it. And when you don’t achieve anything, you start thinking “am I doing everything right?” Now, I can say it’s true, and we need to go forward. I think after this race, we will have a bit of time to relax, for me, but obviously I will start as early as possible to prepare for next season.
At the start of this season you were one of the favourites: did you feel any pressure from that?
I didn’t really feel like I was one of the favourites during the pre-season. We’re all very competitive so it was a question mark who was going to be really strong, or less strong. I didn’t really pay attention to that. My job and my thoughts were just to fight every race weekend and deliver the best results possible. So through the whole year, I had nice fights, I made also a few mistakes. I ended up with one DNF unfortunately. You know, it’s sort of a lesson for me. Now that we’ve ended here, it’s just great. At the beginning, I was only dreaming about it, but I didn’t think we could end up here.
Budapest has been your lowest point scoring round – with “only” 10 points. You also lost the championship lead briefly at Silverstone. Did that plant any doubt in your mind?
Yeah to be honest, I was worried about my title bet every race weekend because even though you do quite a good job, you still know there are a number of race weekends to go. There was pressure coming on that side. My mental state was to concentrate on each race weekend and get the better results as possible. I think that helped.
The competition has been fierce, and it mainly came from within your team. How did you manage that?
It’s quite tough to compete against your teammates in the championship because you are sort of mates but at the same time you’re fighting for the points. It feels a bit difficult, because you need to be careful about what you’re doing and what you’re saying. For example this weekend, they tried a bit to kick me out from my line basically. It’s quite normal: they had to push me. But I tried to take it easy, I tried not to listen to what they were saying and just do my job. Even though we were fighting for the championship, they are really good guys, really good mates. So we’ve had a lot of fun I think this year, even outside the race track.
Is there any race/round that you will always remember from this season?
Obviously this one is pretty memorable. I will remember for a long time how it feels. Otherwise, I really enjoyed Monza. We had a tough qualifying and we still managed to get through and take the win. That felt really great as well. Also, the race in Paul Ricard: I took a lot of risks in that race, but it paid off. Generally, there were a lot of good moments.
Winning in Sochi, on home soil. Does that feel like a dream scenario for you?
Maybe the last 3% to put a 100% satisfaction were if we could have won today. But, you know, you cannot be too greedy. You need to realise what the situation was and that we did not have enough pace to defend. I could have defended harder, but it seemed pointless. I’m happy with the result today and to take pole position on home soil, and to win the championship, and to take a podium is really great.
How do you plan on celebrating your title?
[Laughs] I just want to celebrate with the team, with the people who have been helping me and have been around me. Tomorrow is going to be the last race of the season. So now I have no pressure. We’ll see what the weather will be like. And tomorrow is just going to be about pushing, trying hard to get a podium and hopefully a win.
What’s next for the newly crowned F3 Champion?
I don’t know… I think the biggest chance, like 99%, is that I’m going to go to Formula 2. I’m really excited about that, but I don’t know with which team yet. I have no idea at the moment. Anyway, my target will be to deliver my best like this year. I have liked to work with PREMA Racing. They are talented guys. I have a good relationship with them, but you never know. I just hope for a good car and a good team and I’ll do my best like this year, to try and be in the same position next year.