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Oliver Bearman: Lewis Hamilton impressed by British teenager on Ferrari debut at Saudi Arabian GP

Oliver Bearman became the third youngest driver in F1 history as he made his Ferrari debut by replacing Carlos Sainz, who has undergone successful surgery for appendicitis; watch Bearman's full race debut in the Saudi Arabian GP live on Sky Sports F1 at 5pm on Saturday

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Lewis Hamilton, Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen all praised the performance of debutant Oliver Bearman as the 18-year-old deputised for Ferrari's Carlos Sainz.

Lewis Hamilton was impressed by Oliver Bearman's "mega" performance after the 18-year-old Brit made his Formula 1 qualifying debut for Ferrari at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Bearman replaced Carlos Sainz at short notice as the Spaniard underwent successful surgery having been diagnosed with appendicitis on Friday morning.

The teenager had just the one-hour third practice session to get used to the Ferrari before qualifying, in which he delivered a strong showing as he finished 11th, missing out on a place in Q3 by three hundredths of a second at the hands of Hamilton.

Hamilton, who is leaving Mercedes to join Ferrari next season, said: "He nearly took me out!"

"He did such a great job.

"To jump in for FP3 without any practice and deliver like he has... mega, mega. Really impressed and it shows just what a talent he is. Also, the car looks really good and he has obviously got confidence straight away."

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Bearman narrowly missed out on Q3 after being edged out by Lewis Hamilton on his F1 debut.

Bearman, who turns 19 in May, is now Ferrari's youngest ever F1 driver and Britain's youngest driver. Only Max Verstappen and Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll made their full F1 debut at a younger age.

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"I was 22 [on debut]," seven-time world champion Hamilton added. "At 18 I was in F3 and I was nowhere near ready for F1 at 18 but the times are different.

"If I had come in at 18, my career might not look how it has so I am glad I waited.

"But Max came early and others have done. Me having waited, that's why I had 12 consecutive podiums in the first 12 races of my career, so I am glad I got that base."

Who is Oliver Bearman?

  • Bearman is from Chelmsford in Essex
  • The teenager joined the Ferrari Driver Academy in 2021
  • He won the 2021 Italian and ADAC (German) F4 titles
  • Bearman finished third in his rookie F3 campaign in 2022 behind the highly rated duo of Victor Martins and Zane Maloney
  • The Briton won four F2 races in his maiden season in 2023 on his way to sixth in the championship
  • He made his F1 weekend debut in first practice at the 2023 Mexico City GP and he season-ending Abu Dhabi GP
  • Bearman is the team-mate of exciting Mercedes junior Kimi Antonelli in F2 this year at Prema
  • He is now Ferrari's youngest ever F1 driver

Verstappen praises Bearman for 'incredible job'

Verstappen, who eased to pole position as he continued a faultless start to his quest for a fourth successive drivers' title, was also impressed by Bearman's efforts.

"It's super hard to jump in on a track like this and I think what he has done has been very, very impressive," the Red Bull driver said.

"Like, you know, I was watching his first few laps in FP3, because that's where you can judge if someone is a bit comfortable or not in the car. And by lap two, lap three, I was like, 'ok, that's a strong start. I like to see that."

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Bearman gets a first look at himself in a Ferrari after making an impressive debut in qualifying as a stand-in for Sainz.

"To be P11, I think only at the time six tenths off pole, that is more than I think you could have asked from him. So for sure, he's done an incredible job.

"And I hope, of course, he also enjoyed it a little bit out there because it's quite stressful when you come into a new team, basically, a new car and without any experience on this track. So hopefully he's happy with himself, also, not that he says, 'I didn't make it to Q3' or whatever, because I think everyone within the paddock has seen that he did a great job."

Bearman's team-mate for the weekend Charles Leclerc produced a brilliant lap to join Verstappen on the front row of the grid for Saturday's race, but also approved of the Brit's effort.

"It's definitely one of the most difficult tracks on the calendar, for sure," Leclerc said. "Being a street track and so fast as well. But he handled it perfectly.

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Bearman took to the track for the first time as a Ferrari driver in final practice.

"As soon as he got with the engineers this morning, he had so much to understand in order for him to be ready.

"We didn't have much time to speak. The only thing I've told him when he came this morning, I was like, 'are you excited?' And he was like, 'I cannot wait'.

"I expected this answer, and it was good to see the excitement for him for his first race in Ferrari and again he's done a great job."

Bearman 'disappointed' after missing out on Q3

Despite the praise from the stars of the sport, Bearman was disappointed by his failure to maximise the performance of the Ferrari as he struggled to put together a clean flying lap in Q2.

"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," Bearman told Sky Sports F1.

"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. The goal was to do as many laps as possible, especially at night, I missed FP2 which is not ideal. That was the goal.

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Bearman reflects on his first F1 qualifying session with Sky Sports F1.

"The soft tyre lasts quite well, it's quite durable, so just tried to get as many laps in Q1. Q2 was a bit more messy, a few mistakes on my side, so that's where I'm disappointed."

Bearman's only previous F1 experience had come during two practice sessions for Haas last season, and he was wowed by the level of grip compared to Formula 2.

"The fact the track evolves so much. We did F2 qualifying quite early in the weekend and the track develops a lot. The grip level is just incredible. After my first lap, I was shocked," he said.

"In F2 you drive on the limit of the car. In F1, it's the limit of the driver and what the driver is prepared to do. That's a great feeling but it takes some time to get used to."

Can Bearman score points on debut?

Bearman, who has been part of the Ferrari Driver Academy since 2021, had taken pole position in Formula 2 on Thursday.

Leclerc's performance in qualifying, and his long run pace in practice, suggest Ferrari may have the strongest car after Red Bull, which should give Bearman the chance to claim points in his race debut, live at 5pm on Sky Sports F1.

    "I woke up preparing and mentally thinking about my F2 race then I got chucked in the deep end for F1 FP3 and qualifying," Bearman said.

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    The best of the action from qualifying at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

    "Of course not the ideal situation and I feel sorry for Carlos and wish him the best but it's a fantastic opportunity."

    Hamilton, who could find himself battling Bearman on track having qualified eighth, said the race will be a "massive challenge" for his compatriot.

    "He has not even done any long runs, he's obviously had experience of F2 but it will be a massive challenge," the Mercedes driver said.

    "I think he's ready, he looks in great shape and I think the car tended to be kind to the tyres in the last race.

    "He just needs to keep it cool and just enjoy it."

    Sky Sports F1 pundits asses Bearman's debut

    Sky Sports F1's Naomi Schiff:

    "He's really underestimating how much of a performance he put on today and that's just the fighter in these drivers. They want every little millimetre, no matter what the challenge is.

    "One of the biggest challenges for him in the race won't necessarily be the racing, the racing pedigree you already learn that in karting and that's second nature.

    "It's all the other things around it - the start procedure, the pit stop. All those things need to come together for the race to be good. Also physically, he's never driven a race that long in an F1 car.

    "The only words I would give him is 'go out there and enjoy it'. You never know when you will drive an F1 car, so go and enjoy it."

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    Naomi Schiff and Karun Chandhok discuss Bearman replacing Sainz.

    Sky Sports F1's Bernie Collins:

    "It's just incredible he's being self-critical of himself. That will stand him in good stead for the future.

    "It's going to be about building laps. The engineers will be going through what is the absolute thing he needs to know in the car.

    "We've had it a few times at Aston Martin with stand in drivers and it's about what switch positions can we get rid of, try and keep it to a minimum and keep it as simple as possible."

    Sky Sports F1's live Saudi Arabian GP schedule

    Saturday March 9

    • 12pm: F1 Academy Race 2
    • 1.20pm: F2 Feature Race
    • 3.30pm: Saudi Arabian GP build-up: Grand Prix Saturday
    • 7pm: Saudi Arabian GP reaction: Chequered flag
    • 9.30pm: Saudi Arabian GP highlights

    Watch the second round of the new F1 season - the Saudi Arabian GP - live on Sky Sports F1. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership for just £21 a month for 12 months

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