Oliver Bearman impresses on his F1 debut with Ferrari

Oliver Bearman impresses on his F1 debut with Ferrari

Ferrari reserve driver Oliver Bearman said that “the stars have aligned” after making his F1 debut during qualifying for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Oliver Bearman participated in Friday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix qualifying at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, making history as the youngest British driver to race in Formula 1.

Bearman had only secured pole for the F2 feature race this weekend the day before he was made aware of the change in driver lineup on Saturday morning, after Carlos Sainz was diagnosed with appendicitis. The Spaniard had not attended the media day at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit before participating in FP1 and FP2 on Thursday.

After the call to action, Bearman has become the first British driver to line up for Ferrari since Eddie Irvine in 1999. He spoke about being able to make his debut for the Maranello-based outfit.

“The stars have aligned,” the 18-year old said. “It has been such a quick progression in my career.

“Two or three years ago I was in F4 still, I only did my first F1 test three or four months ago, so it has been a really quick progression and to make my F1 debut in Red.

“Hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come.”

Bearman qualified for his first Formula One session under the floodlights, having arrived in time for final practice. Despite making it past the first round, he was eliminated from the top ten pole shoot-out after losing by a mere 0.036 seconds at the end of the second round.

Asked if he had been given any warning of a potential stand-in appearance, he said: “No, I woke up this morning fully prepared and ready for my F2 race starting from P10.

“I got the call pretty late in the day, just a couple of hours before FP3 that I would be doing it – of course not the circumstances in which I would like to make my F1 debut and I wish the best to Carlos and I hope he recovers well, but nonetheless it’s a fantastic opportunity.

“I honestly didn’t have time to get nervous or overthink it because it was so late I literally had to focus straightaway on trying to get up to speed and catch up for lost time.

“Having missed out on Thursday made my life difficult, so I was pretty much flat out with the engineers trying to figure out everything and get up to speed as quickly as possible.”

Bearman recently sampled an older Ferrari F1 car during a test run by the Scuderia in addition to running in two Formula 1 practice sessions with Haas in 2023.

“He drove before the old car a couple of months ago and he did very well,” said team principal Frederic Vasseur. “Last year, he did two FP1 with Haas in Mexico and he did a good job on these two.

“For sure, it’s a different story when you have to jump into the car in Jeddah, FP3. It’s not an easy one.

“On the other hand, he did F2 yesterday, did very well because he won pole – I think it was good preparation.”

The majority of the drivers on the pit lane, notably Charles Leclerc, who drives for Ferrari, hailed Bearman’s performance. According to Leclerc, any racing driver’s debut race with Ferrari is a “very special day”.

“He’s done an incredible job, obviously, with only one session in FP3,” he said. “The first race in Ferrari having done only one session, I guess is even more special.

“He was straight up to speed and comfortable with the car, so it’s good – I’m happy for him, obviously. I hope that tomorrow we can have a great race, both of us and score good points for the team.”

Bearman would have eliminated Lewis Hamilton from the final round of qualifying if his last lap had gone better, something the seven-time world champion is aware of.

“He did an amazing job in practice,” said Hamilton. “To jump into a car in P3 and deliver the way he has is really, really impressive.”

Hamilton’s teammate George Russell also complimented Bearman.

“I’m really impressed by Ollie,” he said. “I watched him in F2, I remember watching his laps in Mexico last year in Haas, I thought he was driving really well.”

“He definitely exceeded my expectations because being thrown in, in FP3, is a challenge at the best of times, let alone on a circuit like this, so well done to him.”

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