Oliver Bearman, Ferrari, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2024

Bearman calls Ferrari debut a “dream” but admits “I made a lot of mistakes”

Formula 1

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A proud Oliver Bearman said he realised a childhood dream by scoring points on his Formula 1 debut for Ferrari last weekend.

However the 18-year-old admitted there was ample room for improvement in his performance. He rose to finish seven in the race but qualified 11th, missing ther cut for the top 10 shoot-out by less than four hundredths of a second.

“From the outside it was a successful weekend,” said Bearman. “But I’m a perfectionist and I made a lot of mistakes – that I don’t blame myself for, obviously I kind of expected to make mistakes.

“But for example not making it to Q3, I should have made it to Q3. The car was fast enough, so that was my bad. It was a really scruffy Q2 session that meant I didn’t make it through, by the skin of my teeth.

Oliver Bearman, Ferrari, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2024
He didn’t hide his disappointment at Q2 elimination
“So that was unfortunate. But it’s all learnings that I’ll put into place next time. Hopefully there will be a next time.”

He also said he spent too long stuck behind Nico Hulkenberg’s Haas.

“During the race I lost quite a lot of time trying to overtake slower cars. Just not using my battery in the most efficient way because it’s new. I’ve never had to use the ERS in an offensive or defensive way.

“So it was the first time for me and I maybe wasn’t the best with it, especially with Nico, who did a great job of keeping me back. So I lost a lot of time, and I could have even finished one place higher, I think, if I managed to be a bit more efficient with my overtakes.”

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Oliver Bearman, Prema, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2024
Bearman claimed pole position in F2 but never got to start there
Bearman was preparing to take part in the Formula 2 sprint race on Friday when Ferrari told him he was needed to stand in for Carlos Sainz Jnr, who was unwell.

“On Friday I was having lunch, having done the pole in F2 [for the feature race], I was getting ready to start P10 in the sprint race and trying to figure out the best way to go about that when I got the call that I would be doing F1.

“It was quite a surprise and quite a happy surprise, of course. Not the circumstances that I wanted to make my debut, through the misfortune of someone else. But, still, it was a great opportunity.”

As Sainz had driven in the opening two days of practice on Thursday, Bearman one hour of running in the unfamiliar SF-24 before qualifying began.

“I just tried to get up to speed as quickly as possible. We managed to do a short race [simulation] run just to try and get a scan of the degradation. And for me also to get some more laps.

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“Then it was pretty much straight into qualifying, during the dark, big step in track temperature and grip. I was disappointed not to be in Q3. But anyway, I think it was a decent performance.

Lewis Hamilton, Oliver Bearman, Charles Leclerc, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2024
Hamilton and Leclerc gave Bearman their support
“At least Saturday in the race. I feel like I managed to prepare a lot better. We had a full day to do so rather than a couple of hours’ notice. Overall I was quite happy with how the race went.”

Bearman credited his team mate for the weekend, Charles Leclerc, and Sainz for helping him adapt to the car as quickly as he did.

“To get the tips from Charles during the weekend, especially in qualifying, but even before the race and Carlos during the race, he was pretty much guiding me through what he saw in the data and was feeding it to my engineer, it was fantastic. It really helped me speed up the learning process and I got up to speed a lot quicker because of them.”

However he found “going through all the procedures was quite easier than I expected” because of the preparation he has done at Ferrari since joining the Driver Academy two years ago. “We’ve practised them so many times on the simulator, which is a huge testament to the simulator at Ferrari because I was able to jump straight in the car and all of the switch changes that they asked me to do, I was able to do quite easily.

“So that shows that the hard work has been paying off back in the factory. The difficult side was, of course, the physical side. I expected it to be tough because already in F2 it was a physical track, so jumping up to F1, I was a bit scared. I just about managed to do it, but it was a big challenge.”

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He admitted the race was “pretty demanding physically” due to the sustained high cornering speeds drivers experience at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit. “I think there’s a few photos of my neck during the race, which struggled.

Oliver Bearman, Ferrari, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2024
High-speed Jeddah track took a toll on Bearman’s neck
“I would say I was F1-ready, but Jeddah is another step. It’s a tough track. It’s one of the highest lateral G[-force] tracks. You spend a lot of time in cornering and even the straights have little kinks in them that mean the pretty much the whole race or 50 laps, you’re struggling with the neck.

“So I did struggle, it was difficult, especially when I got out of the car. But the adrenaline helps me get through the race pretty easily and afterwards I felt the pain.”

Out of the cockpit, Bearman was most surprised by “the amount of admin that goes on” during a grand prix weekend. “There is so much media activities, so much more technical stuff than we have in F2.

“For a race at 8pm, I was already on-track at lunchtime to prepare. So the days are very, very long, full of hard work. That was a surprise, but a happy one.”

He was inundated with congratulatory messages after his debut, including from Formula 1 CEO (and former Ferrari team principal) Stefano Domenicali who “sent me a really nice message.”

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“And I got a hug from Lewis [Hamilton] as well after the race,” added Bearman, though he was especially thrilled to hear from one of his predecessors in Ferrari.

“My favourite one was from Sebastian Vettel. I’m a huge fan of his since the early days. I was even, up until he retired, I was always rooting for Seb so to get a message from him was really special. To know that he was kind of watching me put a bit of pressure but it was a nice pressure, as well.”

Bearman said it was “childhood dreams come true to make my debut in a Ferrari first of all. It’s an incredible achievement, and I’m very proud of that.

“Also, to become the youngest British driver is quite a statement as well. I was the third-youngest driver ever which is pretty awesome. I’m on the podium!”

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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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15 comments on “Bearman calls Ferrari debut a “dream” but admits “I made a lot of mistakes””

  1. Hopefully it will not be too much of a blow to his F2 championship chances.
    How many drivers having done such replacements actually ended up being full-time F1 drivers?
    We’re still to see people like Drugovitch or Lawson be handed a chance but more often than not it seems they’re just used and dropped as teams see fit.

    1. In terms of substitute drivers over the last few seasons, we’ve seen a single race for Aitken at Williams (now racing sportscars with no obvious future in single-seaters); two for Fittipaldi at Haas (still a reserve driver, but with an Indycar drive); and five for Lawson at AlphaTauri (maybe still in with a shout of a full-time drive next season, but there are other contenders). So far Nyck de Vries is the most recent rookie substitute driver who has progressed to a full-time race drive, and we all know how that went. Before that you’d probably have to go back to Brendon Hartley in 2017, although arguable whether he counts as a “substitute” at all since he was replacing a driver who left the team rather than one who was unable to race for whatever reason.

      Other recent substitutes have been experienced F1 drivers, including Kubica at Alfa Romeo and Hulkenberg at Racing Point/Aston Martin.

  2. Bearman was preparing to take part in the Formula 1 sprint race on Friday when Ferrari told him he was needed

    Sorry. Not trying to be nit-picky.

  3. He may have been rooting for Seb, but I’m positive he was rooting for Lewis more as a fellow Brit.

    1. Despite him stating the opposite?

      Not everyone bases their preferences on the flags plastered on the car. Often those flags have little to do with the person in the cockpit, as for whatever reason F1 drivers all tend to quickly develop a particular fondness for the weather in Monaco, France’s own little onshore Jersey.

      1. Yes, a friend of mine is dutch and made it clear some years ago: “just cause I’m dutch doesn’t mean verstappen is my favourite driver!”.

    2. I personally find nationalistic pride a major turn-off so you cannot make that claim.

    3. @jerejj Why do you keep insisting on commenting on every article even when your opinions are so stupid.

      The guy literally says Vettel is his hero, but noooo, there must be jingoism afoot.

  4. I see him in that car before the age of 20.

  5. Every mistake he made was completely forgivable given how little time he had in the car before the race.
    I was glued to my TV cheering him on, but also quietly cringing lap after lap, thinking he’d lose concentration or get tired and brush a wall, ending his race. Then he’d be unfairly known as the substitute driver who was thrown into the deep end and binned a Ferrari. Instead he absolutely nailed it. He should be proud. I’m sure the Ferrari team were.

  6. My money is on this guy being a force in F1 in the future. With very little practice he is already better then Stroll.

    1. Ouch, @yitzchak! That really does drive it home, doesn’t it. Stroll really isn’t good enough for F1.

  7. By lap 41 his neck clear gave out.

  8. Well done. The only mistake that counts is putting it in the wall. The track seems designed to bring out the safety car. Magnussen made a mockery of it. Hopefully this one is dropped once the new track is ready.

  9. I wanted him in F1 by this season and rate him highly, but his performance has been way over hyped. He really shouldn’t have finished more than a place lower at worst in that car. His age is an asset, not a handicap. Yes, he basically only had the smallest amount of practice in the SF24, but that is why none of us expected or faulted him for not being closer to CL.

    As we’ve seen with every current champion in F1 who had pre-season testing to come up to speed, they were up to 99% speed in their first race and that’s what should be expected of any rookie who we say is a future champion in the making.

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