Our verdict on Bearman’s outstanding F1 debut and his future

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Ollie Bearman made a sensational Formula 1 debut at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, earning plaudits from the current grid and giving Ferrari plenty to think about for the future.

But just how good was Bearman and what does this race mean for his F1 prospects?

Here’s what our writers think:

Scott Mitchell-Malm

What an outstanding performance that was from Bearman. I can’t speak highly enough of it.

Was it rough at times? Yes, of course it was. He’s 18, just starting his second Formula 2 season, and has been thrown in a Ferrari mid-weekend. Starting a race and managing the lap one madness is a lot to get to grips with. Then there were some obvious moments of race management to improve too.

But honestly, it’s small details. Nothing he did screwed his race. Everything he did around the understandable issues made his race. The tyre management and the pace improvement through that long second stint was absolutely game-changing for him.

A very, very good result. More than could possibly have been expected of him.

Bearman’s return is a when, not an if

Ben Anderson

One of the most interesting things Bearman said after his whirlwind practice and qualifying day was about his discovery that F1 is what he called ‘driver limited’.

There’s not a fixed limit of grip and performance, like he’s used to in the one-make junior series. F1 is an ever-moving target, so it’s all about how far you can dare yourself to go.

Everyone talks about how F1 is so much about the car – and of course it is – but even a good car won’t do very much if the driver behind the wheel isn’t up to the job.

I thought it was very interesting that Max Verstappen, no less, watched Bearman’s very first laps in FP3 – to see how this new driver took to F1 in the sort of ludicrously difficult circumstances a driver like Verstappen thrives in. Verstappen was impressed immediately by the hustle Bearman showed. The driving was obviously a bit circumstantially scruffy – but Bearman looked like he belonged.

And the same was true in the race. Plenty of drivers have faltered when given a random big chance in a decent F1 car, but Bearman didn’t. OK, it was a Ferrari – probably the second-best car on the grid right now – but to extract the performance he did from it, with only one practice session to get used to it, and on that track, was very impressive.

Bearman’s return to F1 is a matter of when, not if.

Bearman’s proved teams were too cautious

Josh Suttill

The fact that the 2024 F1 season has no full-time rookies is a travesty and Bearman’s race is evidence of what the teams are missing out on with their conservatism.

Yes, there was no screaming finished article like Oscar Piastri at the end of the last F2 season. But Bearman had already proved he was F1-ready in his practice outings and earned three F2 feature race wins in his rookie year.

You simply don’t need to be the absolute finished article, especially if your potential F1 landing spot is towards the back of the grid with a Ferrari customer like Haas. The likes of non-F2 champions Lando Norris and Alex Albon did plenty of learning in their rookie years and haven’t ended up doing too badly thereafter.

Can Haas really say with confidence now that Bearman wouldn’t have been an upgrade on its current driver line-up? And you could have said that well before this weekend, not just with hindsight.

Similarly, other teams might be regretting their conservatism with F2 champion Theo Pourchaire’s early career in many ways echoing much of Bearman’s career thus far. Would he not have been an upgrade on a Zhou Guanyu or a Valtteri Bottas, a line-up that’s making you wonder what the true potential of that car really is?

And what of Liam Lawson? No place on the grid for him despite, if I’m being frank, showing far more in his stand-in appearances last year than say Logan Sargeant did in his entire rookie season.

I doubt they will, but F1 teams cannot make the same mistake for 2025 with Bearman and many other talented young drivers just itching for their chance.

The best proof of how Ferrari has changed

Matt Beer

(Finally) ditching Kimi Raikkonen for in-house protege Charles Leclerc five years ago was already a wonderful aberration in a Ferrari driver policy that had always felt like ‘just use our status to pinch a proven superstar from somewhere else and then find a number two for them’.

But even that was nowhere near as bold as throwing an 18-year-old F1 debutant in with just one practice session before qualifying, and then putting him on a super-aggressive race strategy based around an early charge on soft tyres.

And it paid off spectacularly. Definitely better than claiming force majeure and running a single car (as it could’ve done). Definitely better than slotting in an Antonio Giovinazzi-style option.

Bravo ‘Fred’s Ferrari’. Shame you haven’t got a full-time driver vacancy for a few years yet.

Bearman will be a reference for Mercedes too

Valentin Khorounzhiy

Bearman deserves all the plaudits – and probably a 2025 deal already on his table – but I think his drive will also indirectly serve to give Mercedes more confidence in its budding protege Andrea Kimi Antonelli, Bearman’s new F2 team-mate.

Antonelli, slightly younger than Bearman and obviously less F2-experienced, more or less went blow-for-blow with Bearman in the Bahrain season opener – it just didn’t really register as their Prema team struggled.

He was then just a couple of tenths off in Jeddah qualifying, before Bearman was withdrawn and Antonelli himself had a pretty ragged but generally pacey couple of races.

“This kid’s great,” Mercedes will have thought watching Bearman today. “So our kid’s pretty great, too,” it will have also thought.

“And he might be ready sooner than many think,” is a potential extrapolation, too.

Has this race cost Ferrari Bearman?

Jack Benyon

I wonder if this race might have made it tough for Ferrari to hold onto Bearman with its line-up set to the end of 2026.

If I’m Bearman or his management, I’m very interested in what this race has done for the market and very uninterested in say, for example, a Haas seat for two years until Lewis Hamilton decides to retire or leave Ferrari.

Bearman’s clearly ready to drive at this level now and why should he agree to condemning himself to an inferior team for two seasons?

Could Red Bull step in, for example?

I’ve been underwhelmed with Daniel Ricciardo versus Yuki Tsunoda but even if Tsunoda wins that battle – to add to the other team-mates he’s seen off or impressed against – he doesn’t look like he’ll ever get a chance in the top team. So you have to wonder if there’s a Plan-B to replace Sergio Perez.

None of Red Bull’s juniors are anywhere near as polished, quick or blatantly ready as Bearman, and Liam Lawson is impressive but his chance might have been and gone.

Red Bull could be just one team with its eyes well and truly open to Bearman’s potential and willing to sign him at any cost.

I’m sure others will have had their interests piqued too.

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