Oliver Bearman, Ferrari, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2024

Bearman proved he’s ready for full-time seat says Ferrari Driver Academy head

Formula 1

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Oliver Bearman’s “intelligent” drive to seventh place on his debut proved he’s ready for a full-time Formula 1 seat, says the head of Ferrari’s young driver programme.

Ferrari Driver Academy head Jock Clear said team principal Frederic Vasseur’s decision to put the 18-year-old in one of their cars last weekend showed the team had high expectations of him.

“I was convinced before that and I think the fact that Fred was brave enough to put him in this car this weekend, under the circumstances, speaks volumes for what we’ve seen of him already,” Clear told the official F1 channel.

Bearman’s debut in place of the unwell Carlos Sainz Jnr went “better than we could have expected” said Clear, “but when the decision was made, I suppose this is what we expected.”

Jock Clear, Oliver Bearman, Baku, 2023
Clear has coached Bearman in Formula 2
“I don’t want to belittle or diminish the achievement, we really, really are over the moon with everything, but we sort of put him there thinking, ‘I think he can do this’. And he’s absolutely vindicated that choice.”

Asked whether Bearman had shown he was ready for a full-time seat next year, Clear said: “I think so.”

By the time Sainz realised he would not be able to participate in the weekend, Bearman had already missed the opportunity to drive in the first two practice sessions on Thursday.

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“We saw Carlos on Wednesday evening, we were all at the same restaurant, he was happy, he was enjoying a meal,” Clear explained. “On Thursday he came in and said he didn’t feel well. He came in late, didn’t feel well, but felt up to at least doing free practice one and free practice two.

Oliver Bearman, Ferrari, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2024
Bearman did 40 laps of Jeddah before the 50-lap race
“We’ve been in this situation before: A bit of a dodgy tummy, if they drive the car, adrenaline takes over and then in the evening they get better and we wholly expected Friday he’d be pretty much fit again. Obviously he’d probably be on the back foot a bit because he wasn’t fully up to speed on Thursday.

“But we didn’t see any of this coming to the extent where we would have said to Ollie: ‘Get yourself ready, you’re really going to drive this car’. Even on Thursday morning, Carlos was ringing and saying, ‘look, I’m coming in, I’ll drive and I’ll see how I go’. So he was probably thinking ‘please let me drive it’ but realistically it wasn’t until Friday morning that it was clear that now we’ve got to get him in.”

Clear said Bearman’s performance was especially impressive considering he only participated in a single practice session, which was disrupted by a red flag.

“I couldn’t have hoped for a better weekend for Ollie. If you’d written the script you would have balked a bit at the final result, you’d have said ‘let’s be realistic’.

“If you brought him to a grand prix and said, two weeks ago, you’re going to do the grand prix in in Saudi, mentally he gets prepared for it. We can do some things. We can practice some starts.

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“But when you drop him in on Friday morning, one free practice session and then you’re into qualifying against the big boys, that’s ominous. That’s very, very, intimidating for anybody.”

The team took pains to avoid overwhelming Bearman. “There’s so much information available, there’s so much work to do in an F1 car. We’ve kept it simple.

Start, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2024
Clear praised Bearman for avoiding trouble at the start
“Matteo [Togninalli], the chief engineer, [said] from the get-go, ‘just keep it simple for Ollie, there’s lots of information available but let’s not overload him, let’s just let him get up to speed’. And what you see is what we knew he was capable of. But, boy, I didn’t expect that under these circumstances.”

Bearman’s debut came at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, the second-fastest circuit on the F1 calendar, where close barriers mean mistakes usually result in crashes.

“A lot of the seasoned F1 drivers are saying this track is a scary, super-fast track and those walls are quite close to you,” Clear acknowledged. “That’s intimidating in itself.”

Despite that, Bearman resisted the temptation to push too hard. “The pressure on him in Q2, obviously you’ve sort of locked up on your first set, you’ve now got a second set to try and get through to Q3. That’s when it shows that this is a different level. That was the point where it got a bit messy but he did a great job to put it P11 anyway, that was beyond our expectations.”

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Clear believes Bearman’s qualities as a driver make him particularly well-suited to F1. “I’ve often said about Oliver, he will get better and better the closer he gets to F1 because F1 recognises real intelligence. Really thinking drivers, drivers that can think their way around situations really shine in F1.

“Ollie is super-sharp, super-clever and I think that’s what he’s demonstrated this weekend. We know he’s quick, we’ve seen him in our car. We know that he can drive a car fast. But the way he’s approached the weekend, the way he approached the race step-by-step.

Oliver Bearman, Ferrari, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2024
He set his fastest lap on the final tour
“You’ve got to get out of the gate, off the grid. You’ve got to get round turn one-two alongside some fairly feisty opposition who are going to get their elbows out. He did that cleanly. We said if he comes around the first lap with all four wheels still on, we’re really happy. He did that. He was still in P11, so he held his position off the grid.

“From then on he just grew into the race. You have to recognise every lap of the race was another 10% experience for Ollie in this car. So by the time he’d done half the race he’d doubled his experience in this car. So he was learning super-fast. But he never overstretched himself.”

His performance in the race, particularly when being chased by Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris in the final laps, demonstrated Bearman’s maturity, said Clear.

“The thing I’m most proud of from him is that it’s very easy – especially when Charles is a bit ahead of you and you know this car will go quicker, there’s a bit more potential – just to overstretch yourself and make a mistake. And those last 10 laps with Lando and Lewis bearing down on you with a new set of soft tyres, you think ‘this is where he’s just going to lock up into turn one, it’s all going to get messy’.

“But he didn’t. He just kept the rhythm, he kept going and actually got quicker and quicker towards the end of the race. And I think his best lap was on the penultimate lap.

“So he’s just a really intelligent drive and that’s what I’m really proud of because that is always been his strength and that’s going to get better and better. That’s going to pay off more and more as he gets to F1 and he starts to settle into what is an intelligent drivers’ sport.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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6 comments on “Bearman proved he’s ready for full-time seat says Ferrari Driver Academy head”

  1. Maybe he is but at Ferrari there are no seat so a other team must pick him up. And it must be a Ferrari approved team so no Mercedes, Red Bull or Alpine supported teams.

  2. I’ve said before that teams should be given the option of fielding three cars BUT the third car has to be driven by a rookie.

    This would give new talent an opportunity every year and put pressure on the (many) F1 drivers that struggle to justify their presence in the sport.

    You could even add a separate rookie sprint race to the weekend.

    1. Mmm, brings me back to the early years of f1, where 3, if not more cars were allowed per team, for example one of the most dominant cars of all times was the 1961 ferrari (should still be the most dominant unless this red bull eclipsed it) and it had von trips, phil hill and ginther.

    2. How about a rule saying 1 driver cannot drive more than 18 races

  3. it certainly shows that there can be very compelling arguments made to get these younger drivers in a car on the grid instead of holding on to older drivers looking to rejuvenate their careers like the umpteenth reboot of a movie.

  4. Seems like yet another good rookie showing being overhyped.
    De Vries and Vandoorne did nothing of note during their short carrers in F1, despite having shown promissing debuts.
    Besides, did everyone forget about Lawson already?

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