Ollie Bearman cuts a relaxed figure on stage at the Autosport International Show, taking in the small crowd gathered to hear the 17-year-old who could be Britain’s next Formula 1 star.
A superstar in junior formulas and associated with the most famous team in motorsport, he could be just a year away from graduating to F1. But Bearman‘s not thinking about that, he’s just thinking about the next race up – his Formula 2 debut in March in Bahrain.
Despite his easygoing figure, it’s clear that’s where he’d really rather be. Appearing on stage alongside Luke Browning – himself a rising star – Bearman‘s cordial and friendly but remains reserved throughout, and avoids looking any further into the future than he has to.
When asked by Total-Motorsport.com if the dream is to be gearing up for his F1 debut this time next year, Bearman replies: “If the stars align that’s what I would like but I don’t want to aim too high and not be disappointed, so that’s why I just want to do as well as I can. The championship is a massive whirlwind, you can’t really predict anything.
“Anything can go wrong out of your control so I just enter the season with the same aims as I had in F3 last year which is keep improving, keep working, keep getting better and never stop.”
Who is Ollie Bearman?
After Lando Norris, George Russell and London-born-and-raised Alex Albon graduated to F1 in 2019, it took a while for new British talent to replace them in the junior formula ranks. But Bearman leads a new generation of drivers representing sporting the union jack also including Williams junior driver Zak O’Sullivan, Red Bull‘s Jonny Edgar, Christian Mansell and Browning.
Bearman‘s the pick of the bunch though. He won Italian and German F4 in 2021, becoming the first driver to win two F4 series in a season, which earned him a 2022 FIA F3 seat and a place in the Ferrari Driver Academy.
Bearman‘s exploits continued in F3, as he finished third in his debut season – better than Russell or Charles Leclerc managed – and secured a second successive promotion, this time to F2.
That result also secured the all-important FIA Super Licence required for F1 teams to consider him – once he turns 18 in May 2023.
Even more impressive than the face-value F3 result was the way he recovered from three pointless finishes on the bounce in his first four races to only finish outside the top five on three more occasions over the rest of the season.
Finishing just seven points off winner and second-year F3 driver Victor Martins, there’s a case of ‘what might have been’, but the Brit said it was all about improving every time he stepped into his Prema:
“I think step one is to not make the same mistake twice and I felt like I didn’t do that last year,” Bearman added. “Rookie mistakes are things you can’t really avoid, I’m a rookie so there’s some things that you won’t know but my goal is just keep improving.
“Yes I had a slow start last year but it was an uphill climb from F4 to F3, F3 to F2 is a bit more the usual step so I think I can hopefully start a lot better.
“To be honest that decision’s not 100% on me, I’m not the guy making the decisions at the end but of course it was the goal to go straight to F3. As a driver you want to go as fast as you can up the ranks, and luckily it paid off.
“Not many people do that big step, and even less do it successfully so yeah it was a challenge, I’m happy I would say it paid off and now I’m in a good position looking at this year.”
One to watch in 2023
Bearman sticks with powerhouse Prema for his step up this season, which bodes well given how he adapted to F3 with the team.
It’s unusual – though not unheard of – to go straight from F4 to F3 but the team has plenty of experience of helping drivers including Leclerc and Oscar Piastri enjoy successful F2 campaigns after just one year in F3.
A bigger question mark is what Ferrari have planned for him. When Total-Motorsport.com asked him if they planned to get him running time in an F1 car in 2023, Bearman said: “That’d be perfect, they haven’t indicated anything.
“I think it’s better like that, just let me focus on F2 and if I do good enough then I’ll end up in a better place but I’d rather focus on F2 rather than look somewhere else and not focus on the F2 championship.”
Considering his precocious talent, it’s maybe a surprise there’s not more of a concrete plan in place, but if he can deliver on that talent then there’s no doubt he’ll be pushing for F1 experience sooner rather than later.
He’s up against some highly-rated drivers in F2 but has the speed, mindset, team and backing to be successful so remember the name: Ollie Bearman.