(L to R): Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 and Oliver Bearman (GBR) Ferrari Reserve Driver. Alamy Stock Photo
Great expectations

'A star is born' - Ferrari teenager hailed

Oliver Bearman finished an impressive seventh on his Formula One debut at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

FERRARI’S TEENAGE rookie Oliver Bearman finished an impressive seventh on his Formula One debut at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Saturday with former world champion Damon Hill proclaiming: “A star is born”.

The 18-year-old Briton was only told he was replacing appendicitis victim Carlos Sainz on Friday morning but drove with the cool aplomb of a seasoned campaigner to score points in his first outing –- and after only one practice session.

“Star is born now,” 1996 world champion Hill wrote on X.

“To jump in at such short notice, on a track as intimidating as Jeddah, in a Ferrari of all things, and hold up under immense pressure and keep it together… Wow.”

Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton, who finished ninth for Mercedes in a race won easily by three-time champion Max Verstappen ahead of his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, applauded his young compatriot from his cockpit on his slow-down lap.

Team bosses and rival drivers followed with warm words for Bearman who was not only the youngest driver in Ferrari’s F1 history, but the youngest Briton to race in the sport.

He was also the third youngest of all time behind Lance Stroll and Verstappen.

“I’m a little tired,” said Bearman. “As you can see, I don’t look my best! It was a fantastic race, pushing all the way. I was shocked at how fast we were pushing, getting quicker every lap.

“That was incredible, especially at the end when I had the two guys (Hamilton and Lando Norris of McLaren) bearing down on me. I couldn’t relax. I was always in my mirrors pushing flat out but it was a really exciting and fun race.”

He added: “The countdown seemed like it was going slower than normal. I think we managed it really well. They weren’t really catching behind and I felt like I had a bit in hand in case I needed it. I did my fastest lap on the last one.”

Hamilton and his Mercedes team-mate George Russell went across to congratulate Bearman at the end of the race, both hugging him as he climbed out of his car.

Bearman was only 18 months old when Hamilton made his F1 debut in 2007, aged 22, and when he was told he was behind him on a “push lap” he said “I was like ‘wow, I will get out of the way!’”

But he remained ahead at the end of the race.

“He completely deserves it,” said Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc who was third.

“He has done an incredible job. Even in practice, he was straight on the ace and in qualifying, he missed Q3 (the final shootout) by so little!

“Today, he has been incredible. Seventh in your first race in F1 having done only free practice in a new car is hugely impressive.

“I am sure he is extremely proud and everyone has noticed how talented he is. It is just a matter of time before he is here (established) in F1.”

– © AFP 2024

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