Coming into this year, Russian Shwartzman was certainly not the title favourite in the new FIA Formula 3 Championship. But the rate at which he adapted to the new car and the consistency he showed across the year made him a clear and worthy champion.
The proof of how good a driver is in FIA F3 is in race one, as the second race is a reversed-grid encounter decided on the race-one result. The first race is a culmination of quick adaptation with only one practice session – usually on a track surface that will be totally different to the one they’re getting for qualifying, where success is usually decided by just two flying laps on the wilting Pirelli tyres.
In race ones this season, Shwartzman finished all eight in the top five, an incredible tally that is exactly double the number of his rapid team-mate, fellow Ferrari junior and series runner-up, Marcus Armstrong.
The big question at the start of the season was how quickly Shwartzman could adapt to the differing race weekends and degrading tyres, neither of which he experienced in European F3 the year before. His Prema Racing team didn’t have experience of GP3, on which the new FIA F3 car is based, putting all its drivers at an instant disadvantage. But in typical Prema fashion, the car was great from the word go and it wrapped up the teams’ title two rounds early.
“I had quite a good feeling with the team generally,” Shwartzman tells Autosport about the start of the year. “It was a new championship for me, first time in the F1 paddock with the new car. Also for the team, it’s something new.
“But I know Prema is really good at adapting to that sort of circumstances where it’s something new, they have really good preparation. So straight away from the test, we were more or less up there and when the season started we were already on a high.”
Shwartzman's adaptation and beating an absolutely rapid team-mate in Armstrong show his potential for the future, and his reward was a seat in Formula 2 next to Mick Schumacher for 2020. More quick adaptation there and there’s no reason the 20-year-old won’t be in F1 in a season or two’s time.