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240030-scuderia-ferrari-saudi-arabia-gp-qualifying-report_e1c43200-ef4c-462c-b41c- oliver bearman f1 rookie

Ferrari rookie Bearman begins Formula 1 in record-breaking style

240030-scuderia-ferrari-saudi-arabia-gp-qualifying-report_e1c43200-ef4c-462c-b41c- oliver bearman f1 rookie

Teenager Oliver Bearman started Friday focused on FP1 and Qualifying for the 2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and today will be Formula 1’s 776th driver, and Ferrari’s youngest-ever rookie.

Along the way, the 18-year-old nearly out-qualified fellow Briton and seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton and replaced McLaren’s Lando Norris in the record books as his country’s youngest F1 driver.

As he said after Saudi Arabian Grand Prix qualifying, he had woken up fully prepared for Formula Two and was ‘chucked in the deep end” for what will be by far the longest race of his career.

Despite his phone going crazy after securing an impressive 11th place on the starting grid, Ferrari’s first rookie since Italian Arturo Merzario in 1972 still found room for disappointment.

Bearman said after Jeddah Qualifying on Friday: “At the moment not so proud, the racer in me knows that the car was quick enough to be in Q3, so a little bit disappointed with that. But I know that when I look back in a couple of days I’ll be quite proud of what I’ve managed to do today.”

Young Bearman got the call a couple of hours before final practice when race regular Carlos Sainz was diagnosed with appendicitis that needed surgery.

He recalled: “I honestly didn’t have time to get nervous or over-think it because it was so late that I literally had to focus straight away on trying to get up to speed and trying to catch up on lost time. I didn’t have time to think about the gravity of the situation. Maybe that was a good thing.”

Vasseur: It’s not an easy one

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In an instant, Formula 2 was forgotten: “The goal of F2 is to get to F1 so I get this opportunity, there’s no way I’m going to let it go. If I do a good weekend here in F1 it shows a lot more than winning the feature race and doing pole in F2.”

Ferrari team boss Fred Vasseur said Bearman had impressed in testing an older F1 car and also in practice with Haas last year: “But for sure, it’s a different story (today) and when you have to jump into the car in Jeddah FP3, it’s not an easy one.

“He did Formula 2 on Thursday, he did very well because he did pole position and I think it was also somehow a good preparation,” added the Frenchman.

Alonso: It’s crazy

Ferrari rookie Bearman begins Formula 1 in record-breaking style

With father David watching from the team garage, Bearman skimmed the walls but kept out of trouble and his performance drew plaudits around the paddock.

“He has done an incredible job,” said teammate Charles Leclerc, who qualified second fastest. “He got into a car that he didn’t know, on such a challenging track like it is in Jeddah, and straight away in FP3 he was on it. It was good to see and I’m sure that it’s a very, very special weekend for him.”

Twice F1 world champion and oldest driver on the grid Fernando Alonso, a former Ferrari driver, was also impressed.

The 42-year-old Spaniard won his first title in the year of Bearman’s birth (2005) and was actually standing on his home grand prix podium on the day the Briton was born.

Alonso said: “It’s crazy. It’s a nice thing. He is a great driver. Very talented. This is not the easiest track to make your debut but he did fantastically well today. I think he will have a strong race tomorrow. So I wish him the best.” (Writing by Alan Baldwin)