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BEARMAN Oliver, Scuderia Ferrari SF-24, portrait during the Formula 1 STC Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2024, 2nd round of the 2024 Formula One World Championship from March 7 to 9, 2024 on the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - Photo Antonin Vincent / DPPI

Leclerc: Hats off to stand-in Bearman, incredible job

BEARMAN Oliver, Scuderia Ferrari SF-24, portrait during the Formula 1 STC Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2024, 2nd round of the 2024 Formula One World Championship from March 7 to 9, 2024 on the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - Photo Antonin Vincent / DPPI

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc reflected on second place in Qualifying for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, quick to praise debutant teammate teenager Oliver Bearman standing in for hospitalised Carlos Sainz.

Securing his seventh front row start in a row, the Scuderia Ferrari driver once again played second fiddle to Max Verstappen and Red Bull. Leclerc’s time was ultimately just over three tenths slower than that of the defending World Champion.

The Italian outfit entered the 2024 Formula 1 World Championship with a clear aim to fight for the Title, with Team Principal Frédéric Vasseur stating that the team’s focus remains on the current campaign despite a historical driver signing for Hamilton to the Maranello-based outfit being scheduled for 2025.

Leclerc’s usual teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. managed a podium finish at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix to cap off a promising start to the year for Ferrari. However, the Spaniard appeared to be suffering with some sort of illness into the following week and subsequently underwent surgery to remove an inflamed appendix before FP3 on Friday.

Unable to compete due to his poor condition, Sainz was replaced by 18-year-old Formula 2 and Ferrari Academy driver Oliver Bearman. The Briton adapted well to the SF-24, but was ultimately off the pace and wound up P11 in Qualifying.

Leclerc: I’m not fully satisfied with qualifying

leclerc ferrari f1

The Monegasque wasn’t fully satisfied with his fastest lap during Qualifying, and believed more time was on the table for him to close the significant gap to Verstappen out front.

Leclerc said: “I’m not fully satisfied with qualifying today and we will work on understanding the feeling I had during the sessions to be able to get all the potential out of the car in the future.”

While he wasn’t particularly happy with how the day panned out, Leclerc still had some warm words for stand-in teammate Bearman, who performed admirably considering his lack of experience in F1 machinery.

He added: “I wish Carlos all the best for a speedy recovery and congratulations to Ollie, who is extremely talented and he showed it today on his first Formula 1 qualifying.

“He’s done a lot of sim work which makes me happy to see that the prep he did back at the factory paid off as he was well prepared and extremely impressive today. I think between the two of us, we can bring home plenty of points,” added Leclerc.

Bearman himself was a little more critical of his performance, as he hoped to make it into the top 10 but ended up just short. The youngster stated: “It’s been a great day but it could have been even better… But it’s a great opportunity nevertheless.

“Now I’m ready to make the most of this opportunity tomorrow. I will focus on bringing the car home, although points would be nice. But it’s my first race on a really difficult track, so I can’t expect too much,” added F1’s 776th rookie.

Can Leclerc battle it out with Verstappen for the win? And can Bearman move up the order and score some points on his F1 debut? The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix commences at 17:00 GMT (20:00 local time) on Saturday March 9th.