Oliver Bearman explains crazy turnaround of F1 debut with Ferrari

Oliver Bearman became the youngest British F1 driver in history and qualified 11th for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix for Ferrari

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Oliver Bearman explained the whirlwind of his elevation to Ferrari for his Formula 1 debut at the 2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after Carlos Sainz was a late withdrawal with appendicitis just hours before qualifying.

Bearman had barely more than a long lunch break to prepare for FP3 and then another few hours before his first F1 competitive session, as he qualified 11th on one of the most challenging circuits in the sport and was just 0.037 seconds away from reaching Q3.

It wasn’t all plain sailing for Bearman as he was under investigation twice in the session but avoided punishment both times and he’ll now prepare for his maiden grand prix instead of his original Saturday plans – starting the F2 feature race in pole position.

“I woke up this morning fully prepared and fully ready for my F2 race,” Bearman told the media in Jeddah. “I got the call pretty late on in the day, just a couple hours before FP3 that I would be doing it.

Oliver Bearman leaves the Ferrari garage for his first F1 qualifying session, at the 2024 Saudi Arabian GP | @ScuderiaFerrari / X.com
Oliver Bearman leaves the Ferrari garage for his first F1 qualifying session, at the 2024 Saudi Arabian GP | @ScuderiaFerrari / X.com

“I was just focused on what to look out for, what to do. I didn’t have time to think about the gravity of the situation, maybe that was a good thing.

“I honestly didn’t have time to get nervous or to overthink it because it was so late that I literally had to focus straightaway on trying to get up to speed and catch up for lost time. I was literally from the car to the engineers, back to the car – it’s been a really busy and flat out day.”

Bearman hasn’t spoken to parents after Ferrari call-up

Sainz was feeling ill even before he took to the track in Saudi Arabia, but took part in FP1 and FP2 before he was diagnosed with appendicitis and withdrawn from the rest of the weekend.

Bearman had been on standby on Thursday morning but after Sainz stayed put, the Brit instead took pole position in F2 and thought he’d be spending Friday attempting to fight up the grid in the sprint.

He gave it his all in F1 qualifying but understandably couldn’t quite hook up a clean lap on the 27-corner track, with his best effort coming on older tyres that likely proved the difference between survival and elimination in Q2.

“Having missed out on Thursday made my life a little bit more difficult, I’d say,” Bearman added. “So yeah, I was pretty much flat out with the engineers trying to figure out everything and get up to speed as quickly as possible.

“I think the main loss was that I did the best lap on lap two. My first lap was a bit scruffy in sector three. The tyres aren’t in the best window after lap 2. So that’s my mistake, and I felt my lap two was pretty decent.

“The gaps are so close, I see little pinches of time here and there but that’s how it is, fine margins”

Bearman will become the youngest Ferrari grand prix driver ever when the five lights go out on the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, and he’s also the youngest Brit to make his F1 debut – taking that mantle from Lando Norris.

“I think on Monday, I’ll feel it and I’ll be quite proud,” Bearman said. “At the moment, I’m just trying to maximise and bring the team some points because that’s my main goal. But I’m sure when I take a step back and pinch myself, I’ll be quite proud.

“Of course not the circumstances, I would like to make my F1 debut and I wish the best to Carlos and hopefully he recovers as well. But nonetheless, it’s a fantastic opportunity and hopefully tomorrow I can make the best of it.”

Adam Dickinson
Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for Total-Motorsport.com since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, and previously worked for Last-Lap.co.uk and FeederSeries.net in motorsport and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
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