Ferrari’s Oliver Bearman makes dream debut at Saudi GP


British teenager Oliver Bearman savoured a dream debut for Ferrari on Saturday, making Formula One history and hailed as Driver of the Day as well as a talent for the future.

The Italian team’s youngest ever rookie, aged 18 years and 305 days, started 11th and finished seventh as a Saudi Arabian Grand Prix stand-in for appendicitis-stricken Spaniard Carlos Sainz.

When he took the chequered flag he had McLaren’s Lando Norris, previously Britain’s youngest ever driver, and Mercedes’ seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, the sport’s most successful, in his rear mirrors.

“I don’t even know what happened in the race,” he told reporters as praise for his efforts under the Jeddah Corniche floodlights echoed across the paddock. “It’s weird to not watch an F1 race.

“It’s probably the first F1 race I haven’t watched for a long time. I grew up watching these guys fighting, it was nice to share a track with them. It was a pleasure to have their recognition.”

The praise came from all quarters, with Ferrari team mate Charles Leclerc — who finished third — assuring reporters Bearman, the reserve who started the weekend thinking only about Formula Two, was just getting started.

“Today he’s been incredible,” he said. “It’s hugely impressive and I’m sure he’s extremely proud. Everybody has noticed how talented he is and I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before he’s in F1.”

Hamilton, who made his F1 debut in 2007 when Bearman was not yet two years old and finished ninth in Saturday’s race, was first to offer a handshake and an embrace as his compatriot stepped out of the Ferrari.

“He clearly deserves it and I’m sure we’ll see more of him again in the future,” said Norris, who also offered his congratulations to the 66th driver since the start of the championship in 1950 to score on his debut.

Ferrari boss Fred Vasseur said Bearman, who was doing his first start and pitstops in F1 after previously taking part only in practice, had not made a single mistake and was even able to speed up at the finish to see off Norris and Hamilton.

“From the beginning of the event he was very solid, very robust, good feedback, very calm on the radio,” he said.

Bearman said he had treated the start the same as any race and said, accurately but with some modesty, that having a fast car also helped.

“The car was flying today, so that’s obviously a big bonus, but I think we executed a clean race, no mistakes and that’s exactly what we were looking for. I’m happy with my performance,” he said.

He pointed out also that he now had more points in Formula One than Formula Two.

“I don’t know what else I can do because I don’t think I will be in F1 for the rest of the year,” he said. “So that was my goal to do a great showing this weekend. I think I did a decent job. That’s all I can do.

“I think I’ll have a nice, big dinner tonight. A big dessert as well. I think I earned that,” he added, recognising that a burger might be the more likely outcome with the team debrief scheduled to end at midnight.

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