Wolff delivers verdict on new Mercedes rival

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Toto Wolff feels it is “very impressive” to see Oliver Bearman make his Formula 1 debut as he replaces Carlos Sainz at Ferrari in Saudi Arabia.

Sainz missed media day on Wednesday after feeling ill but drove in both practice sessions on Thursday before being diagnosed with appendicitis on Friday in Jeddah.

He has undergone surgery and will be replaced by Ferrari’s junior driver Bearman for the remainder of the weekend as he makes his F1 debut.

Bearman had claimed pole position for the F2 feature race but will take no further part in that series this weekend, as he finished 10th in final practice for the Grand Prix – his first time driving the 2024 Ferrari.

The 18-year-old Briton is set to become the third youngest driver to ever start a Grand Prix – behind Max Verstappen and Lance Stroll – and Wolff feels his progression shines a healthy light on the junior categories.

“The young kids that come in, their level of performance is very high,” Wolff told Sky Sports F1 after Bearman’s FP3 outing.

“It is getting so competitive from go-karting to the junior formulas and to put a kid out of F2 in a Ferrari without any sessions and be competitive – I don’t think he even had his engine switched on properly for the last run – so it is is very impressive to see and very encouraging for the next generation.

“There is pressure [on Bearman], you’re driving a Ferrari, but the expectations are very low, and if you’ve been given that breathing room, I think he can be very competitive.”

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