How 18-year-old Brit Bearman stole the F1 show in a Ferrari

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How 18-year-old Brit Bearman stole the F1 show in a Ferrari

With Red Bull dominating on track and making unwanted headlines off it, British teenager Oliver Bearman provided Formula 1 with a much-needed feel-good story as he stole the show at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Bearman’s sudden step up into the most desired seat in motor racing at the age of just 18 came as a result of someone else not feeling so good, with Carlos Sainz needing surgery for appendicitis on Friday.

Just a few hours before final practice, Bearman was informed he would get the opportunity to become the third youngest driver to feature in an F1 race.

The Ferrari Driver Academy product made a solid fist of qualifying, narrowly missing out on a place in Q3 to Lewis Hamilton as he took earned 11th on the grid.

The Essex-born driver, however, would more crucially get the better of Hamilton on Saturday in Jeddah, making light work of one of the most challenging tracks on the F1 calendar to finish seventh at the end of a demanding 50-lap contest.

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Highlights of the Saudi Arabian GP from Jeddah.

Yes, Ferrari had a good car, as Charles Leclerc proved by qualifying second and taking the final spot on the podium behind reigning world champion Max Verstappen and his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, but many things could have gone wrong.

As it was, Bearman showed a calmness defying his age and inexperience to hold off the charge of two of Britain’s biggest stars in Lando Norris and Hamilton in the closing stages.

Who is Oliver Bearman?

  • Bearman is from Chelmsford in Essex
  • The teenager joined the Ferrari Driver Academy in 2021
  • He won the 2021 Italian and ADAC (German) F4 titles
  • Bearman finished third in his rookie F3 campaign in 2022 behind the highly rated duo of Victor Martins and Zane Maloney
  • The Briton won four F2 races in his maiden season in 2023 on his way to sixth in the championship
  • He made his F1 weekend debut in first practice at the 2023 Mexico City GP and he season-ending Abu Dhabi GP
  • Bearman is the team-mate of exciting Mercedes junior Kimi Antonelli in F2 this year at Prema
  • He is now Ferrari’s youngest ever F1 driver
  • He became the third youngest driver to feature in an F1 race when he finished seventh in the Saudi GP

Bearman: It was over too quickly

Bearman’s remarkable maturity shone through as he dealt with a significantly larger set of media duties than he has ever been exposed to before following the race.

“Honestly it didn’t (feel like a dream), sorry to let you guys down,” he told Sky Sports F1.

“It was a great race and I loved every moment but the weekend was too short.

“It was over too quickly and I am now back down to earth and back down to reality but I think I did a good job out there today.”

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Oliver Bearman reflects on his Ferrari debut and gives an insight into the difference between F1 and F2.

Bearman had begun his weekend in Saudi Arabia driving in Formula 2, and had taken pole in qualifying for the feeder series feature race on Thursday before being called up by Ferrari.

“I don’t even know what happened in the race,” he reflected. “It’s weird to not watch an F1 race. It’s probably the first one race I haven’t watched for a long time. So I’ll have to go over it when I’m back home.”

Also strange for the youngster was the experience of sharing the track with Hamilton, who made his F1 debut when Bearman was just a one-year-old.

“I am quite young,” he said. “So that’s cool.

“I grew up watching these guys fighting and it was nice to, I didn’t fight with them, but nice to share the track with them. It was a pleasure to have their recognition.”

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Anthony Davidson takes a look at the best moments from Oliver Bearman’s debut race for Ferrari where he finished in an impressive seventh place.

Pushed on what it was like to beat seven-time world champion Hamilton, who will join Ferrari next year, Bearman was extremely modest.

“We also had a faster car, so that helps,” he said. “The car was flying today, so that obviously a big bonus.

“But I think we executed a clean race, no mistakes and that’s exactly what we were looking for, so I’m happy with my performance.”

Hamilton leads praise from F1 stars

As had been the case after Bearman’s display on Friday, significant praise came from the sport’s biggest names.

Hamilton, who was on hand to applaud and give Bearman a hug as he got out of his car at the end of the race, was effusive in his praise.

“I think the Ferrari, firstly, is looking very strong, obviously the closest to the Red Bulls,” the Mercedes driver said.

“But to be pulled out of your class and put straight into a Ferrari, a top team, and have to go straight into practice without long runs and all those sort of things, I think he did such a phenomenal job this weekend and it just shows that he’s really a bright future star.”

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Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris, and George Russell pay homage to Oliver Bearman who successfully stepped in to take Carlos Sainz’s seat by securing P7 at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Leclerc, known for his daring approach to racing, was even wowed by Bearman’s instant fearlessness.

“Amazing, amazing. I think everybody has seen how talented he is,” Leclerc said.

“He has been incredible. I remember on Friday watching the first three laps of Ollie in the garage and I was like, ‘oh my god’. He was very close to the walls and pushing like crazy and he has been at ease with the car from the beginning.

“He has done an incredible job and he should be extremely proud of himself. To score points in his first F1 race, starting 11 and gaining positions is a huge effort.

“So congratulations to him, he has got a bright future ahead of him and he should get a chance in Formula 1 as soon as possible.”

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Max Verstappen was impressed by the performance of debutant Oliver Bearman as the youngster deputised for Carlos Sainz in the Ferrari.

Another of Britain’s core of F1 stars, George Russell, is also expecting to be competing against Bearman again before long.

“Amazing job. I think for anybody coming in, to jump in the car P3 on a circuit like this, really challenging, I’m really impressed,” the Mercedes driver said.

“I haven’t followed his career too much in all honesty, a little bit last year in F2, but I remember watching his laps in Mexico last year for Haas and I was impressed with how he was driving.

“To come straight out of the box this weekend was a really impressive job. I expect to see him on the grid next year or the year after.”

Ferrari boss Vasseur’s expectations exceeded

While impressing other drivers is important, to achieve his desire of getting a permanent F1 seat, the most important eyes on Bearman in Jeddah were those of the team bosses.

For Bearman’s development, the most crucial individual is Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur, who could potentially influence another team to take on the 18-year-old in the short term.

“Yes (he exceeded my expectations),” Vasseur told Sky Sports F1. “I didn’t have a plan before as you can imagine when I asked Ollie to jump into the car on Friday.

“He did very well yesterday, taking it step by step in practice then a very strong qualifying because he missed Q3 by a couple of hundredths.

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Ferrari’s Oliver Bearman narrowly misses out on Q3 after being edged out by Lewis Hamilton on his F1 debut.

“Today I was a bit scared because of the start and the pit stops but he was very solid and he didn’t do a single mistake in the race and was able to speed up at the end when we told him Norris and Hamilton were behind him.

“It is a fantastic job. It was amazing on the management. The race is one thing, but management. From the beginning of the event, he was very solid.”

Vasseur said after the race that he is “optimistic” over Sainz, who remarkably came to the track to watch from the Ferrari garage on Saturday, will be ready to race in Australia in two weeks’ time.

Bearman’s promotion to F1 this weekend meant he lost ground in the F2 championship, which Vasseur insists must be his main focus for the rest of 2024.

“At least with Ollie we know we have a good reserve,” the Frenchman added. “For Carlos, he needs to have a good recovery and a good rest.

“The most important thing is the result of today will be behind us in a couple of weeks and he needs to be focused on the F2 and the challenge ahead of him.

“This weekend will have cost him a lot because he was supposed to start on pole in F2.

“It means to come back into the championship will be a challenge but he will have the chance to do some P1’s this year.”

Sky Sports pundits impressed by ‘punchy’ drive

Former W Series driver, and Sky Sports F1 pundit, Naomi Schiff was another onlooker impressed by Bearman’s style.

“Incredible job from him,” Schiff said. “He didn’t set a foot wrong and was really punchy from the beginning.

“He showed race pace, aggression and wanting to get the most out of this day. A fantastic job.”

Bernie Collins, former head of race strategy at Aston Martin, and Sky Sports F1 pundit, appreciated the way the 18-year-old managed his race.

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Watch the dramatic start to the Saudi Arabian GP as Charles Leclerc battles Sergio Perez and Oliver Bearman tags Yuki Tsunoda.

“Fantastic drive from him,” Collins said. “To get through that pit stop under the Safety Car with a lot of pressure and a lot of cars in the pit lane

“He found it hard to get past Hulkenberg and that’s where a lot of his race time went.

“After that, lap on lap on his own, taking in information about the cars behind him, steady head and it’s hard to keep that focus for those 50 laps.

“I said a top 10 finish would be phenomenal and he’s overachieved on this result!”

Formula 1’s biggest ever season continues with the Australian Grand Prix from March 22-24, live on Sky Sports F1. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership – just £21 a month for 12 months. No contract, cancel anytime

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