Oliver Bearman, Ferrari, 2024

Bearman’s F1 debut will surprise even him – but he always looked the real deal

Formula 1

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Exactly two months shy of his 19th birthday, Ferrari junior driver Oliver Bearman will attempt to qualify for his debut grand prix today in Saudi Arabia.

The 18-year-old woke up on Friday morning looking forward to starting the F2 sprint race from tenth position after securing pole position in qualifying for Saturday’s feature race. However, those plans have now drastically changed.

With Carlos Sainz Jnr hospitalised due to appendicitis, Ferrari have summoned their junior driver to step in and make an unexpected grand prix debut at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit. In doing so, Bearman will become the first driver to debut with the Scuderia since Arturo Merzario in the 1972 British Grand Prix.

Despite his youth, Bearman has amassed an impressive CV in single-seaters since moving into F4 in 2020. The then-15-year-old competed in the Italian and German F4 championship alongside current F2 rivals such as Jak Crawford – qualifying on the front row at his first attempt in single-seaters and winning once race in each series.

Oliver Bearman, Prema, Zandvoort, 2022
Ferrari promoted Bearman to F3 after double F4 title win
Bearman returned to the two same championships the next year with the Van Amersfoort team and dominated, taking the titles in both with 17 combined victories. That impressive 2021 season caught the eye of Ferrari, who signed him to their academy for 2022, enabling him to step up into Formula 3 for the 2022 season.

Moving to Prema, Bearman had a strong debut season in F3. He finished third in the drivers’ standings behind champion Victor Martins and Zane Maloney, having had an outside shot at taking the title heading into the final race of the season in Monza. He finished on the podium on eight occasions and took his first win in the category in the sprint race at Spa-Francorchamps,

His strong first season of F3 was good enough to convince Ferrari he deserved an immediate promotion to F2 for 2023. The youngest driver in the field, aged only 17 at the start of the season, Bearman appeared every bit a driver whose future lies in Formula 1. He too four wins, including a dominant weekend in Baku where he took pole position and a double race victory, as well as two other feature race poles over the season.

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Bearman completed his debut season in Formula 2 with a sixth place finish in the standings, the second-best finishing rookie behind Martins. He remained with Prema for a second season in 2024, but a poor start to the championship for the team with the new F2 2024 chassis in Bahrain saw him come away from the weekend without a single point. However, Bearman appeared to have bounced back in the best way possible in Jeddah when he secured pole position for the feature race.

Oliver Bearman, Haas, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2023
He made his practice debut for Haas in Mexico last year
Although his F1 debut has come sooner than expected, Bearman already has valuable experience in the cockpit of F1 cars. He made two Friday practice appearances for Haas in Mexico and Abu Dhabi at the end of the 2023 season, later saying he had no doubts that he could compete in the world championship after sampling Formula 1.

Bearman also had the opportunity to test a 2021 Ferrari SF-21 at the team’s Fiorano test track in October and also tested a ground effect F1 car earlier this year when he drove the team’s SF-75 from 2022 at the same venue in January. He is due to make six more first practice outings with Haas later in 2024.

Nonetheless, he was banking on having more time to prepare for his race debut. “The FP1s aren’t for a while, so I’ve still got time to focus on F2, which is of course, my main commitment,” Bearman said yesterday.

“Eventually I have to do the FPs but it’s a fantastic opportunity. I hope to make the most of it and see it as a positive. More laps on track where we get very limited track time, I get quite a few laps more, so I aim to make the most of that, even if it’s a different car.”

Despite missing out on the opportunity to start this weekend’s F2 feature race from his pole position, Bearman has a far more precious opportunity to prove that he deserves a place on the grand prix grid full time in 2024.

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Oliver Bearman, Ferrari, Fiorano, 2023
Bearman’s first F1 test for Ferrari was at Fiorano last year

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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10 comments on “Bearman’s F1 debut will surprise even him – but he always looked the real deal”

  1. Can you make a third article about it, I’m unsure I understood who will replace Sainz in Jeddah ?

    1. On F1Fanatic there always has to be:
      1. The initial article sharing the news
      2. Another article to explore that news
      3. Another article to give an update on the news
      4. Another article about the old news pretending it’s a new piece of news

      1. Can’t wait for the almost day old bombshell that Audi has taken 100% ownership of Sauber

        1. When did that happen?

  2. I’m glad for the background piece, I’m sure like many others I’m not up to speed on Bearman’s path to his F1 debut. Good luck to him! With so many seats available next year he might even earn one.

    1. Agreed-he was not on my radar.
      He ran very well in P3 and was NOT the guy in the wall!
      Something extra to liven things up tomorrow.

  3. this is silly but…
    I kind of hope the commentators pronounce his name as Bear Man

    It’ll make him sound like a super hero.

    Best of luck to him, he couldn’t have picked a harder place to make a debut. Except MAYBE Monaco.

    1. Bare man? surely not. The windchill factor alone will,… oh, BEAR MAN.

  4. Even with like, half the grid being involved in accidents during the Sprint Race, Bearman’s domination in Baku last year is something else.
    But Giovinazzi literally did the same in 2016 and we all know how his career panned out.

    My only hope right now is that Ferrari play their cards right with Bearman. I still maintain that being locked out of a race seat anywhere for two years, not just from F1, helped killed Gio’s momentum. Super glad Italian Jesus finally got his comeuppance in last year’s Le Mans though.

  5. Thank you for the insightful update! It’s great to hear some positive news on the racing front. Let’s go !

Comments are closed.