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Sebastian Vettel: Oliver Bearman reveals 'special' message sent by four-time world champion ahead of F1 debut

"To know that he was watching me put a bit of pressure, but it was a nice pressure," says Ferrari super sub Oliver Bearman after receiving a message from Ferrari's former star driver ahead of his unexpected F1 debut in Jeddah

Image: Oliver Bearman (left) and Sebastian Vettel, who drove for Ferrari from 2015 to 2020

Oliver Bearman says receiving a "really special" message from four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel increased the pressure he was feeling ahead of making his Formula 1 debut at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The 18-year-old British driver was called up as a late stand-in for Ferrari after Carlos Sainz was diagnosed with appendicitis on the morning of qualifying in Jeddah.

After qualifying 11th having had just an hour of practice in the SF-23, Bearman produced a hugely impressive performance to finish seventh in the race, earning widespread praise and establishing himself as a contender for a seat on the 2025 grid.

Reflecting on his experience, Bearman revealed that he was most excited by a message from former Ferrari driver Vettel, who has been linked with a return to the sport on several occasions since retiring at the end of 2022.

"I did get a lot of congratulations and also good luck messages before the race," Bearman said.

"My favourite one was from Sebastian Vettel. I'm a huge fan of his since the early days. Up until he retired I was always rooting for Seb, so to get a message from him was really special.

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Liam Lawson discusses Oliver Bearman's impressive F1 debut with Ferrari at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. You can listen to the latest episode of the Sky Sports F1 Podcast now.

"To know that he was watching me put a bit of pressure, but it was a nice pressure."

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Bearman received in-person congratulations from another of the sport's greats, with seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton helping his compatriot out the car having finished two places behind the teenager on track.

"And I got a hug from Lewis after the race," Bearman added. "That was nice that he kind of recognised the race for me and was a proud moment."

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Lewis Hamilton and George Russell congratulate debutant Oliver Bearman after an impressive seventh place in the Ferrari.

How Sainz guided Bearman through debut race

Sainz, who is expected to recover in time for the Australian Grand Prix next weekend, remarkably made it to the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, just a day after undergoing surgery, to watch the race from the Ferrari garage.

Bearman has now revealed the crucial role the Spaniard, along with team-mate Charles Leclerc, played in helping him through his debut, which made him the third youngest driver to compete in an F1 race.

"It was great to work with F1 drivers," Bearman said. "It's great to see the level that they perform at, that they work at, it's something that I strive to be able to do.

Carlos Sainz returns to the Jeddah paddock a day after surgery for appendicitis
Image: Carlos Sainz returned to the Jeddah paddock a day after surgery for appendicitis

"To get the tips from Charles during the weekend, especially in qualifying but even before the race.

"And Carlos during the race, he was pretty much guiding me through it through what he saw in the data and was feeding it to my engineer.

"It was fantastic and really helped me speed up the learning process and I got up to speed a lot quicker because of that. It was amazing."

Bearman makes statement for F2 drivers

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Take a look at the best moments from reserve driver Oliver Bearman’s debut race weekend for Ferrari where he stole the show finishing in a brilliant seventh place.

Bearman had taken pole position in Formula 2 qualifying on Thursday in Jeddah before being called up by Ferrari, with the F1 opportunity costing him the chance to score major points in the feeder series.

While there may have been some envy among Bearman's peers at the opportunity he was given, most will have been happy to see him deliver due to the positive reflection he has provided of the standard of driving in F2.

More than half of the current F1 grid are out of contract at the end of the season, and several F2 drivers will be eyeing potential 2025 seats.

"The junior categories have prepared me really well to make the step into F1," Bearman said. "First of all, I've been to all the tracks, so that was one less thing to learn. I think a new track and a new car would have been a little bit more difficult.

"And also, it shows that the top guys in F2 and F3 can jump into F1 and be competitive, because the level is very high in the junior categories and they're all teaching you the same things.

"So I think it's a testament to F2 and F3 that I was able to jump straight into F1 and be competitive."

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