What stood out in Bearman’s needlessly apologetic Ferrari debut


At the end of his Formula 1 qualifying debut, having been eliminated from the second segment in Saudi Arabia, Ollie Bearman apologised to his Ferrari team.

He needn’t have said sorry, and in reply his race engineer Riccardo Adami was quick to point out he had done a good job in a “super difficult” session with “a lot of stress”.

Bearman may have fallen short of the top 10 shootout but if this represents failure then it was a heroic one.

In the circumstances – 18 years old, a mid-weekend replacement for Carlos Sainz, never driven this car before, on a painfully difficult and high-speed street track – Ferrari was keen to ease expectations and avoid any targets.

“If he’s able to do a clean one and so on, I will be more than happy,” team boss Fred Vasseur said before qualifying.

The session was not entirely clean, it must be said, but that was not entirely Bearman’s doing.

His final run in Q1 was compromised by Fernando Alonso jumping ahead of him at the last corner, which Ferrari could perhaps done a better job of assisting Bearman with. Then his first flying lap in Q2 was interrupted by a red flag for Nico Hulkenberg’s stopped Haas.

A second attempt in Q2 was called off after an error in sector one – nothing massive, just a recurring theme through qualifying of Bearman starting to struggle with the entry to the track’s most blind and awkward corners. A little understeer, a little too wide at the apex. And the lap was gone.

It looked like, well, exactly what it was – an inexperienced driver grappling with a disjointed session, and not quite threading it together when everything was on the limit.

When Bearman finally got a lap on the board at the end of Q2 it was solid but unspectacular, although that at least left clear room for improvement on his last run after a cool-down lap. With the best already taken out of the tyres, though, Bearman was up against it.

He still gave it a damn good go. Missing out on a Q3 berth by less than a half tenth, lapping just half a second shy of Charles Leclerc, and finishing six tenths from pacesetter Max Verstappen was – by any measure – a very good result. With the session threatening to get away from him, he did very well to stay calm and deliver a good lap at the death.

“The main loss was that I did the lap on lap two,” Bearman said. “My first lap was a bit scruffy in Sector 3 and I lost a lot of time there.

“The tyres aren’t in the best window for lap two so that’s my mistake. And I felt like my lap two was pretty decent.

“The gaps are so close. I see little pinches of time here and that but that’s how it is. It’s fine margins here.”

He was, unsurprisingly, “a bit disappointed” with the end result. Was this the maximum on offer? Probably not. If Bearman had extracted everything out of the session he could have been in Q3 and probably grabbed eighth on the grid.

But that was far from the requirement. It would have been extraordinary, really, so getting this close was a fine effort that puts him in a good position to move forward and score points in the grand prix.

And ultimately, a fairer interpretation of what Vasseur hoped for from Bearman is a session without drama or incident. “Don’t be a hero,” Bearman said he had been told. And he followed the advice.

Bearman did not look out of place, he was never ragged, and his pace (or potential) didn’t ever seem to be the issue. He didn’t seem overawed either. He even said: “I didn’t have time to think about the gravity of the situation. Maybe that was a good thing.”

Put another way: F1 is really, really difficult. Especially if you are young, inexperienced, new to a car, and thrown into a qualifying session with just a disrupted one-hour practice session to prepare, on a track that demands confidence and precision.

Bearman proved about as up to the task as any driver could. His progress was never likely to be linear, so some minor missteps were to be expected. Tripping up now and then on qualifying laps, after managing a grand total of one simulation in practice, was no crime at all.

That his final effort was very, very fractionally not enough to make Q3 is merely incidental to a high quality, F1-ready performance. Now he has a great opportunity to underline tomorrow – if he continues a sharp trajectory and retains the clear head that has made this extremely encouraging start possible.

“That’s my goal,” he said of the race. “No mistakes. Build it up.

“Get to the end, avoid any carnage and build up some experience for myself and hopefully bring back some points at the end.”



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