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Nine things you need to know about...Ferrari driver Oliver Bearman

Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing were dominant once again at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix - but this time there was another name hogging the headlines.

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz was ruled out of the race after being diagnosed with appendicitis, opening the door for Oliver Bearman to get his chance to shine in an F1 car.

The 18-year-old Brit, more commonly known as Ollie Bearman, finished seventh in his first ever F1 race, becoming the 68th driver to score points on debut.

Bearman only had one practice session on Friday afternoon before jumping into qualifying where he placed 11th, almost knocking Lewis Hamilton out of Q3.

Here, Planet Sport’s Ayla Vaughan picks out nine things you need to know about the latest British driver to break onto the F1 grid.

Ollie Bearman drives in F2 for Prema 

Bearman is currently team-mates with Andrea Kimi Antonelli at Prema Racing for the 2024 F2 season. Since he missed out on both F2 races in Saudi Arabia, he has more points in F1 than F2 at the moment after scoring no points at the opening races in Bahrain.

The historic Italian team is known in the scene for producing champions and future F1 drivers as most drivers on the grid have driven for the team at some point in their junior career.

Despite a bad start in Bahrain, Bearman qualified on pole for the F2 feature race in Saudi Arabia. Had he participated in those races I’m sure he would have at least secured a podium. Therefore, I have no doubt he will do well at the next races in Australia in a fortnight.

Bearman has won two junior championships

Bearman won the 2021 Italian and ADAC Formula 4 championships. Winning any junior championship garners attention from the world of F1, but winning two in a year is outstanding.

In the 2021 ADAC Formula 4 championship, he got five poles and won six races, out of a total of 18. He had an impressive showing as he was on the podium 10 times and his lowest result was sixth (besides his one retirement) out of 22 drivers, meaning he scored points all the time. 

In the 2021 Italian Formula 4 championship (one of the most competitive categories) he got eight poles and won 11 races, out of a total of 21. He performed even better, standing on the podium 15 times. He managed to win seven races in a row and scored 111 more points than the runner-up, which is no mean feat. 

An impressive rookie season in Formula 3 

He raced only one year in F3 and placed third in the 2022 season (out of 31 drivers), where he was one of the title contenders all the way to the last race of the season in Monza. This was his first time competing with Prema as he raced for the Dutch team Van Amersfoort Racing in 2021. 

He had an excellent rookie season, replacing the previous F3 champion Dennis Hauger at the Italian team. Despite not receiving as many wins and podiums as he did in 2021, Bearman was competitive and showed his emerging talent. 

Nonetheless, he still scored eight podiums and achieved one win, but his main problem started to emerge as he became inconsistent. He either received a high result or a low result, not often in the middle of the pack. However, he still impressed Prema enough to be promoted to F2 with the team the following year.

The jump up to Formula 2

In his first season of F2, Bearman continued to prove why he deserved to be racing in this feeder series as he finished sixth in the 2023 F2 season. He managed four wins in his rookie season, two of those being in Baku, which was quite an improvement from F3. He topped “every session of the weekend for the first time in modern F2 history” according to Feeder Series.

His performance at the Baku City Circuit was his standout moment of the season. He got pole with a broken steering wheel and right-rear suspension damage as he “experienced a moment of oversteer on a flying lap and tapped the concrete wall at the exit of Turn 2” according to Feeder Series

He also became the 11th driver to win both the sprint and feature race in a F2 race weekend, joining an exclusive list. He stayed clean in both races, which was his goal and key to his victories. He took advantage of the safety car in the sprint race, and then had an even stronger performance in the feature race.

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His first time driving in a practice session in F1

Bearman became a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy in 2021 and has worked alongside the Italian team ever since. He is also currently the reserve driver for Scuderia Ferrari and Haas in F1. 

The Brit completed his first practice in an F1 car for Haas in Mexico last year, as many junior drivers did. He will be driving in six free practice sessions for the American team this year, compared to just two last year.

Before racing for them, former Haas team boss Guenther Steiner said: “He’s had a stellar rookie season in Formula 2, four wins is testament to that, and as part of the Ferrari Driver Academy – we know his background preparation coming into these weekends will be first-rate,” he added, according to Motorsport

He ended his first practice session in Mexico in 15th, just three 10ths off Haas driver Nico Hulkenburg. Former director of engineering Ayao Komatsu (now team principal) said that he "didn't put a foot wrong." "I don't think we can fault him," said Komatsu. "But in terms of his feedback, it was a really good engagement with his engineers. Very, very good job. Very impressed,” he said, according to Motorsport.

Reactions to his debut in F1

In a recent YouTube video released by Formula 1, when asked if he could race alongside any F1 driver, he answered Charles Leclerc. This dream came true last Saturday after the last minute step up to F1 from F2, where he wowed fans, commentators and drivers alike. He proved this further by winning driver of the day, a fan voted award for the best driver of the race.

In an Instagram post (which has a whopping 732,000 likes so far), he thanked Leclerc for the tips he provided and Sainz for the driver coaching. Many drivers congratulated him in person or on social media, such as fellow British drivers George Russell, Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris.

Even the three-time world champion, Max Verstappen said: "I watched his first few laps in practice, because that is where you can judge if someone is comfortable in the car, and by lap two or three I thought 'that is a strong start', and to be 11th, and only six 10ths off pole at the time, is more than you could have asked for. He has done an incredible job."

Interesting records broken by his debut

Some stats you may have heard or read this week is that Bearman is the youngest ever British F1 driver, youngest ever Ferrari F1 driver, third youngest F1 driver ever and the first English driver for Ferrari since Nigel Mansell drove for the Prancing Horse in 1990 according to Autosport.

When I first heard these numbers I was impressed as a 21-year-old because it just shows how talented he is that Ferrari trusted him to drive a F1 car. The fact that drivers are getting younger and staying in the sport for longer are contrasting forces. Therefore, F1 teams will have to get the balance right between giving young drivers a chance, whilst also valuing the experience of an older driver.

His attitude as a racing driver

He has the attitude of some of the best F1 drivers in the world as his first words after the chequered flag were “not bad I think”, followed by what he would have changed, as seen in this YouTube video. He proceeded to thank the team for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and expressed how much he enjoyed the race.

This mentality is important as drivers need to always strive for more and explore areas of improvement. Drivers are often their own worst critic, so it is important that he has the support of the team to uplift and compliment him.

Some facts about the Brit’s personal life

Bearman has his own YouTube channel where he posts short vlog-style content, aptly titled ‘The Bear Necessities’. His most recent videos this year show him buying perfume (a passion of his) and exploring a music shop (where he wanted to buy a record player). This has allowed fans like me to get an insight into his personal life as he builds his own brand.

In some more lighthearted news, in another YouTube video, he answers questions both about racing and him as a person. I learned that his favourite film is Shawshank Redemption and his favourite TV show is Breaking Bad, with Prison Break being a close second. 

To unwind he plays video games with his 14-year-old brother, namely Fortnite. His racing inspiration is Michael Schumacher as he was impressed with how he won five consecutive titles with Ferrari from 2000-2004 and transformed the team.

READ MORE: Frederic Vasseur: Ferrari should have Carlos Sainz available for Australian GP

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