Published On: Fri, Mar 8th, 2024

Oliver Bearman ‘not proud’ of F1 debut despite Verstappen hailing him | F1 | Sport

Oliver Bearman enjoyed an impressive F1 qualifying debut in Saudi Arabia, coming within four thousandths of a second of knocking out Lewis Hamilton – but he declared he’s “not so proud” of his performance. The British teenager replaced Carlos Sainz for FP3 and qualifying on Friday, and will start 11th on the grid for his Grand Prix debut on Saturday.

Sainz was feeling unwell heading into the weekend and was diagnosed with appendicitis before swiftly undergoing successful surgery. Ferrari therefore called upon Bearman, who was made an official reserve driver for the team at the start of the season.

Assessing his first competitive F1 session, he said: “At the moment [I’m] not so proud. The racer in me knows that the car was quick enough to be in Q3, so a bit disappointed with that.

“But I think when I look back in a couple of days I’ll be quite proud of what I’ve managed to do today.” The 18-year-old had been set to start the Formula Two feature race from pole position after topping qualifying on Thursday.

Explaining the main challenges in stepping up from F2 machinery, Bearman explained: “I think especially the fact that the track is evolving so much. We do qualifying in F2 quite early on in the weekend so the track develops quite a lot.

“But the grip level is just incredible. After my first lap, I was shocked. In F2 you drive on the limit of the car. In F1, it’s the limit of the driver… it’s what the driver is prepared to do.

“That’s a great feeling but it takes some time to get used to, but super fun.” It wasn’t just the fans that were impressed by Bearman’s first qualifying as a Ferrari driver.

Sainz posted: “Underwent a smooth operation today and I’m feeling much better! Thank you for all your kind messages and to everyone that has looked after me these days here in Saudi, specially at the King Fahad Armed Forces Hospital. THANK YOU.

“Great Quali from @OllieBearman on his hasty debut (not easy at all) and from Lord Perceval (a.k.a. @Charles_Leclerc) Good luck for tomorrow @ScuderiaFerrari!”

Bearman’s new team-mate Charles Leclerc was also full of praise for the young Brit, who adapted well on one of the toughest circuits on the F1 calendar. As was pole-sitter and three-time world champion Max Verstappen.

The Dutch Red Bull driver said: “Super hard to jump in on a track like this. I think what he has done has been very, very impressive. I was watching his first laps in FP3 because that’s when you can judge if someone is comfortable or not in the car.

“By lap two or three, I thought it was a strong start. I like to see that. To be P11, only six-tenths off pole, that’s more than you could have asked from him. For sure he’s done an incredible job. I hope he enjoyed it out there because it’s quite stressful when you come into a new team basically, in a new car, without any experience, and on this track.

“Hopefully he’s happy with himself also and not saying, ‘Ah I didn’t make it to Q3’ or whatever. Because I think everyone in the paddock has seen that he did a great job.”

Bearman can enjoy his Grand Prix debut without the fear of unrealistic expectations. Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur refused to set targets for the teen ahead of Friday’s running in FP3.

With Ferrari once again boasting the second-fastest car on the grid, there will be plenty of opportunities for him to move forward and score his first points on Saturday.

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