British teenager to replace Ferrari's Carlos Sainz at Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

By John Mercury March 9, 2024

Oliver Bearman has raced in qualifying for Ferrari on his competitive Formula One debut ahead of this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The British 18-year-old replaced Carlos Sainz at the last minute after the Spaniard was diagnosed with appendicitis, requiring surgery.

Bearman, who turns 19 in May, will become the youngest Briton to compete in a Formula One race at the Grand Prix.

Ferrari’s reserve driver qualified 11th and narrowly missed out on a place in the final qualifying session by just 0.036 seconds on Friday, just behind seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.

Speaking to Sky Sports, he said that he woke up on Friday ready to race in Formula Two as planned, “then I got chucked in the deep end for F1 FP3 and qualifying”.

He added: “Of course not the ideal situation and I feel sorry for Carlos and wish him the best but it’s a fantastic opportunity.

“A bit disappointed with everything but it was a fun day out there… 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 little bit disappointed with that.

“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 today.

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

“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.”

Ferrari's Oliver Bearman enters his car at the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia in Jeddah. Pic: AP
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The British teenager. Pic: AP

Ferrari teammate and main driver Charles Leclerc also praised the teenager after claiming his sixth successive top-two result in qualifying, saying: “On Ollie’s side, he has done an incredible job.

“With only one session in FP3 he was straight up to speed and comfortable with the car, so it’s good.

“I’m happy for him, obviously. It’s a very special day and the first race in Ferrari having only done one session I guess is even more special.

“I hope tomorrow we can both have a great race and score strong points for the team.”

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Pic: AP
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Pic: AP

Sainz out with appendicitis

Sainz, 29, was diagnosed with appendicitis and will “require surgery”, Ferrari said in a statement earlier on Friday.

He missed media rounds in Jeddah on Thursday but participated in two practice sessions later in the day.

Confirming he was out for the rest of the weekend, Ferrari said: “As from FP3 and for the rest of this weekend, he will be replaced by reserve driver Oliver Bearman. Oliver will therefore take no further part in this round of the Formula 2 Championship.

“The Ferrari family wishes Carlos a speedy recovery.”

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz in Saudi Arabia  on 6 March.
Pic: Reuters
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Carlos Sainz. Pic: Reuters

Bearman, from Chelmsford, Essex, has been part of the Ferrari Driver Academy since 2021.

Before the decision was made for Bearman to replace Sainz, he secured pole position in F2 qualifying in Saudi Arabia on Thursday.

Previously, he drove for Haas during practice sessions in Mexico and Abu Dhabi last season.

The teenager finished sixth in his debut F2 campaign last year, winning three feature races and one sprint race.

Oliver Bearman finished 11th in his first Formula One race. Pic: AP
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Pic: AP

Ferrari's Oliver Bearman before practice
Pic: Reuters
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Pic: Reuters

Sainz’s future at Ferrari looks uncertain, with Hamilton joining the team for the 2025 season.

The Spaniard finished on the podium in third in the first race of the season in Bahrain last weekend, while Leclerc, 26, finished fourth.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen – the reigning F1 champion – won last weekend’s race in Bahrain and is in pole position for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

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