Shwartzman set to drive for Ferrari in Zandvoort and Abu Dhabi

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Scuderia Ferrari reserve driver Robert Shwartzman is set to drive for the Italian team in the opening practice at this weekend's Dutch Grand Prix, taking over Carlos Sainz's car in the first 60-minute session.

Since the start of the 2022 F1 season, each Formula 1 team is obliged to run ‘young drivers’ in two practice sessions during the season which means that both race drivers of each team are required to hand over their cars to a driver who has completed less than three F1 races in his career.

Ahead of this weekend's Dutch Grand Prix, Ferrari have announced that their reserve driver Shwartzman will take over Carlos Sainz's car in the opening Zandvoort practice after having contested FP1 at last year’s United States and Abu Dhabi grands prix.

The Russo-Israeli driver joined the Ferrari Driver Academy in late 2017, days before the final round of the Formula Renault Eurocup in which he would end up finishing third.

He won the Toyota Racing Series and came third in FIA European Formula 3 in 2018, won the FIA F3 Championship in 2019, took four race wins as a Formula 2 rookie in 2020 and was runner-up in the series two years ago with another two wins.

Commenting on why the Italian team chose Zandvoort, Ferrari Team Principal Frederic Vasseur said: “Because it was the choice of the driver. I gave them the choice to do it, where they want to do it. I know that it is not an easy situation but Carlos… it’s not so easy to decide.

"Because for sure you can’t do it in Singapore, in Japan, in Las Vegas. Also, you have some Sprint events in Austin, Qatar, also that you can’t do it. Then you have the races with tyre allocation, a bit different, so it is also tricky to do it, meaning at the end of the day you don’t have so many options.”

Ferrari is yet to decide where Shwartzman will drive the car for the second time this year, but is is highly possible that he will step in for Charles Leclerc in the first practice at the season-closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Speaking about the challenges that his FP1 outings present, Shwartzman added: "I am very excited to be driving the SF-23 after having worked on its development in the simulator. Driving a Formula 1 car during a round of the World Championship is really special and something to be proud of, especially with Scuderia Ferrari, the team that has supported me throughout my career. Before the summer break, I did a half day’s testing to get used to being in the cockpit once again, as it’s been quite a while since I last drove a Formula 1 car.

"Even though it was in an SF21, which is very different from this year’s car and runs on 13 inch tyres, it was still very useful preparation for this Free Practice in Zandvoort. It will be interesting for me to compare the SF-23 with last year’s F1-75 which I drove twice, at last year’s United States and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix.

"From my side, I will do my best to help the team as much as possible by completing the work plan which aims to get the most out of the car both in terms of set-up work as well as gathering data that can be useful to the team for the second part of the season. In fact, the development programme going on behind the scenes in Maranello needs as much data as possible to move forward at an even faster rate.

Zandvoort that is set to host this weekend's Dutch Grand Prix is a new territory for Shwarzman as he only drove on the tight and twisty circuit once and even that had happened before the track was modified for Formula One's return to the Dutch venue.

"Zandvoort is one of the most challenging tracks on the calendar and I’ve only once driven it for real, before the layout was modified, so it will seem very new to me. From driving it on the simulator, I can say it is very demanding, with steeply banked corners, different lines and it’s also very tough on the car which is pushed to the limit in many areas. Although it’s quite complex, it’s also a very interesting track to drive so I expect to be able to enjoy myself a lot this coming Friday," Shwartzman concluded.