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Bearman’s rivals hope his F1 debut will demonstrate quality of F2 grid

by Ida Wood

Photo: Formula Motorsport Ltd

Formula 1 looked set for a rookie-free 2024, but that changed this weekend when Ferrari called upon its reserve driver Ollie Bearman to make his debut.

Bearman will race in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as a substitute for Carlos Sainz Jr after he had appendix surgery mid-event, and it means he has withdrawn from the supporting Formula 2 races.

The last three F2 champions have not gone straight to F1, and until Bearman’s surprise call-up there were no drivers from F2’s 2023 grid graduating to F1.

While Bearman’s rivals would have loved to have been in his position, they are also encouraged by the fact an F1 team has been willing to call up an F2 driver at late notice and hope that if Bearman performs well in his debut race it will reflect well on F2’s field.

“I think it’s super nice for him. He can be very proud of himself,” said Trident’s Richard Verschoor. “This opportunity didn’t come out of nowhere. He did a very good job. He’s very young. He’s a talent for sure and I wish him best of luck.”

MP Motorsport’s Dennis Hauger added: “I think there’s no better place for him to do his debut, he is quick around here.”

Before getting his call-up, the 18-year-old Bearman had taken pole in F2 qualifying and had spoken about his high level of confidence with the Jeddah circuit.

Paul Aron, who is an F2 rookie with Hitech GP, jokingly thanked Bearman for withdrawing as it meant he gained a grid spot.

“I get along with Ollie well. So I’m obviously wishing him the best. In some regard he is representing the F2 grid on the F1 grid now. So I think all of us are wishing him the best of luck, but I think all of us are also a bit jealous that he got the chance. But I guess if you do a good job, everyone’s time should come, and now it’s Ollie’s time. So I think we should all support him.”

He followed up by saying: “If you’re a racing driver you should be ready for any opportunity. It’s obviously great that Ollie has the chance, but I think it shouldn’t also take the light off of the other guys on the F2 grid.

“There’s still a lot of talent here, and it’s always great for somebody to be able to make the step up, but everybody here is trying to do their best. And I think there’s many drivers who are ready for the step up and they’re experienced and if they had the chance they would do a good job. Let’s see how Ollie does, hopefully our words are true and he does a good job and represents us well.”

Verschoor and Hauger agreed, with the former saying “there should be more opportunities for those young drivers” at the very front in F2, and the latter reinforcing “it’s important to let the young guns have a go” for the health of F1 and F2 as series.