Bearman’s Ferrari bow, Zhou crashes: What happened in Saudi F1 FP3

Formula 1’s final practice session at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix featured a frantic five-minute qualifying simulation after a hefty Zhou Guanyu crash shortened the running.

The majority of the focus of FP3 in Jeddah was on Ferrari protege Ollie Bearman, who is standing in for an appendicitis-stricken Carlos Sainz in Saudi Arabia.

FP3 is Bearman’s only track time with the Ferrari SF-24 before he tackles his first F1 qualifying session later today.

His own session was largely drama-free and while he did lose some running because of Zhou’s red flag-inducing shunt, he managed to get one qualifying simulation in at the end of FP3, setting the 10th-fastest time with that.

How Bearman handled FP3

Scott Mitchell-Malm

A red-flagged FP3 would have been the worst-case scenario for Bearman and Ferrari before the session.

Fortunately, either side of the interruption, he managed to complete the bulk of the programme designed to give him a quick-fire introduction to the SF-24 ahead of his first ever F1 qualifying session and his grand prix debut on Saturday.

And what’s more, Bearman completed that work in an impressive fashion. Not only was he quickly up to speed, but he showed a keen eye for the little things that make a difference, raising small issues like an open radio and dash delta reset, and asking for a slightly higher engine mode than normal after finishing his quali sim, so he could push hard on what would have been the ‘cool down’ lap and get half-a-lap or so extra to judge the car on soft tyres.

Bearman started FP3 with three push laps on the medium tyres, a run that started understandably cautiously but rapidly improved. He found two seconds on the second lap and the third was already quite competitive and even briefly put him fastest.

The middle part of his session was devoted to a long run on the same medium tyres, on which he was urged to find a rhythm. That seemed to be achieved with a consistently improving run that started in the mid-1m33s and ended with two laps a second quicker than that.

Zhou’s shunt denied Bearman a clean, multi-lap run on softs for his qualifying simulations, but he did at least get one in. And it turned out to be a useful test, as the track was busy and time was of the essence. This was more representative than just running some push-cool-push sequence on the softs at his relative leisure.

Bearman handled that well, surviving a slightly wide line through Turns 22/23 that had him up on the exit kerb, and was within a second of pacesetter Max Verstappen and importantly Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc.

Replicate that performance in qualifying and it means Bearman will have progressed to Q3 and be in a strong position to score points on his debut. It might not sound like much for a Ferrari driver but in the circumstances, it would be a good foundation – although given his progression through FP3, and a sharp eye for detail, Bearman will probably think even more than that is on the table.

Zhou’s crash

With just under 20 minutes of the session remaining, Zhou lost control of his Sauber through the high-speed Turn 7/8 section and his car whacked into the barriers.

That caused an immediate red flag and significant damage to Zhou’s C44, putting him at risk of missing qualifying later on Friday with a lengthy repair job ahead for his Sauber team.

His car was removed and the damaged barriers were checked. It enabled a restart to FP3 with five minutes on the clock.

Verstappen leads the way

Max Verstappen’s Red Bull was quickest prior to the red flag on a 1m28.412s, the fastest lap of the weekend at that point. He was seven tenths quicker than Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari.

Even Verstappen couldn’t beat that benchmark with his final lap after the red flag but others did at least reduce his advantage.

Leclerc was the fastest of his rivals, ending the session 0.196s off Verstappen.

Sergio Perez, on pole in Jeddah in each of the last two years, moved himself up to third but was 0.494s adrift of team-mate Verstappen.

George Russell was fourth quickest for Mercedes ahead of Lando Norris and the Aston Martins, led by Fernando Alonso.

McLaren’s Oscar Piastri was eighth-quickest ahead of Lewis Hamilton – who complained of bouncing aboard his W15 – and Bearman, who completed the top 10.


Leave a Comment